Habitat for Humanity has established a standard that, by 2013, all Habitat homes in the United States will have, at minimum, an Energy Star rating. Many Habitat affiliates already build to that standard — and beyond. Habitat programs across the United States and around the world emphasize durable construction techniques and energy efficiency, creating healthy homes and communities that are less expensive to operate, more durable and that conserve resources. Click through to see seven innovative and sustainable Habitat projects.
Habitat for Humanity Washington, D.C.
The first Passive House in the District of Columbia, the Empowerhouse won first place in the affordability category of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon and received a 2012 Mayor’s Sustainability Award. In its permanent location in D.C.’s Deanwood neighborhood, the Habitat house forms part of a carbon-neutral duplex with rooftop gardens and rainwater harvesting systems. Each unit produces the energy it uses. Habitat Washington, D.C. already has broken ground on six more homes that will employ Empowerhouse technologies and design elements. Learn more about the partnership behind this award-winning home here.
Saving Habitat homeowners 30 to 40 percent on utility bills
Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver
Like many of their Habitat peers, Habitat Metro Denver uses compact fluorescent lightbulbs and Energy Star-rated appliances. The affiliate also uses 90-percent-efficient furnaces, low-flow toilets and tankless hot water heaters, which heat water faster than traditional ones and take up less space. Crawlspaces are insulated and mechanically vented, so there’s no exterior vent to leak cool air from the home. Floor vents are placed in the four corners of the home, allowing cool air to settle down into the crawlspace, where a fan slowly vents it outside, preventing the crawlspace from getting musty or moldy. Habitat Metro Denver staff members estimate that these sorts of innovations help homeowners like the Ghazal family save 30 to 40 percent on utility bills. Read more about Habitat Denver’s methods here.
House of the Immediate Future
Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County
This sustainable home demonstrates that affordable housing can be beautiful. Designed by the Miller Hull Partnership and built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers, the House of the Immediate Future incorporates recycled and reclaimed materials and emphasizes design and construction techniques that minimize energy consumption and waste. A solar array makes the house net-zero, radiant heating and extra insulation translate into low energy use, and a cistern and rainwater harvesting system provide all the water the homeowners need.
Around the world
These solar panels are being installed on the roof of a Habitat house in Milwaukee’s Park West neighborhood. The house and several others in the distressed neighborhood are part of Habitat’s national Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, an effort to improving housing condition by providing services that enhance the overall quality of life across struggling neighborhoods. NRI programs include new, energy-efficient house construction; rehabilitation of vacant and foreclosed properties; home repairs; and weatherization. Beyond NRI efforts, partnerships make solar power a possibility for many Habitat houses around the world, from Salt Lake City to Oakland to Ofunato, Japan.
United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Northern Ireland
A Habitat supporter built this greenhouse almost entirely from used materials purchased from the Habitat Kansas City ReStore. Habitat ReStores are resale outlets that accept donations of building materials, home goods, furniture and appliances and sell them to the public at a fraction of the retail price. In 2012, Habitat ReStore resale outlets diverted more than 200,000 tons of used building materials from U.S. landfills last year and raised more than $76 million to help build and renovate more affordable homes.
Habitat for Humanity Macedonia
In many of the European and Central Asian countries where Habitat works, energy efficiency is a growing focus. Official data, for example, shows that the small Balkan country of Macedonia spends four times more energy per capita than developed countries in the region. Almost 40 percent of its energy goes towards heating. Habitat believes that improving residential energy efficiency can limit waste, cut costs and improve living standards for low-income families. Habitat Macedonia, supported by a USAID grant, has begun energy-efficient renovations like the one pictured here, upgrading apartment blocks and tracking energy use and savings to help inform future innovations in the region.
St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity
The 18 Habitat houses and community center currently under construction in River Falls, Wisconsin, adhere to a sustainable and integrated community design. The village incorporates Passive House principles, solar power and radiant heating, cisterns and rain barrels, edible landscapes and community gardens, all on the edge of a pre-existing neighborhood and in close proximity to public transportation. See a slideshow of work underway here.
Shala Carlson is the editor of Habitat World, the flagship print and online publication of Habitat for Humanity International.