BOH Middle Class Housing Advocacy – by Nancy Welsh
Nancy discusses how Builders of Hope is helping to rebuild the American Middle Class and our economy through the reuse and rehabilitation of our existing inventory. Read more about how she views the determination of what is middle class, how the housing crisis has affected them and how BOH is determined to help in the rehabilition of homes to improve the future of middle class housing.
Through our work rehabilitating rescued homes using Extreme Green construction criteria, Builders of Hopes has launched an effort to create a comprehensive approach to home recycling. The result is a proven and affordable model borne from partnerships with green builders, energy experts and universities to push the limits to create a green and affordable home from those slated for demolition.
Living and Learning Lab
Partnering with Duke University, Builders of Hope launched a living learning lab with the goal of creating affordable renovated homes using green building principles. The Nicholas School of the Environment and Pratt School of Engineering are spearheading this ongoing project in Durham, North Carolina to test and assess the Extreme Green Rehabilitation process to see which environmental upgrades – such as energy efficiency or water conservation – deliver the most impact and provide homeowners or landlords the greatest savings. This experiment also seeks to disprove the premise that only a privileged minority can afford an efficient and environmentally sound home.
Builders of Hope acquired six homes through an agreement with the City of Durham for the living learning lab. The shotgun style Rock Street homes are virtually identical. Because the houses each have the same orientation and climatic conditions, university researchers can scrutinize the effects of utilizing various materials and variables. Duke students began the experiments in the fall of 2010. Additional partners in the living learning lab include the historic restoration builder Trinity Design/Build and sustainable urban planners Civitech.
Students live in the homes, monitoring the effectiveness of different Extreme Green Rehabilitation criteria and measuring the advantages gained from these construction methods. The research will provide real, on-the-ground contributions to advance green rehabilitation of homes.
Verifying Extreme Green
An study by NC State University founf that Extreme Green Rehabilitation has been proven to be nearly twice as energy efficient as building a new home with traditional stick-built construction techniques.
Additionally, the North Carolina Solar Center’s Healthy Built Homes Program serves as an independent verifier for Builders of Hope. These programs certify that homes meet green guidelines – including energy and water use reduction strategies, renewable energy use, protection of land and reduction of pollution and waste during construction and throughout the life of the home.
Independent verification results in guaranteed heating and cooling costs in Builders of Hope homes. For example, in 2010 a 1,100 square foot home in Raleigh would have a guaranteed maximum utility bill of $45 per month. In the circumstance that the bill is higher than this, the third party certifier pays for the cost overrun and identifies and repairs any problems that caused the higher bill.
Advanced Energy, a Raleigh, North Carolina energy certifier, has worked with Builders of Hope on this aspect of home construction. As Krista Egger of Advanced Energy says, “The affordable housing population is most vulnerable to rising utility costs. The less they have to spend on utilities, the more they can spend on health care, food and other necessities.”
These program gains have been key in creating green home guidelines for rescued and renovated homes – guidelines that are different from stick-built construction. Through these programs and the living learning lab, Builders of Hope is creating comfortable, healthy and affordable places to live while furthering the cutting edge Extreme Green Rehabilitation criteria.
Bridging the Digital Divide
In partnership with One Economy and AT&T, Builders of Hope builds internet connectivity into its communities. Internet connectivity at home increases a child’s ability to research and prepare schoolwork, keep up with current events and earn better grades in school. For adults, connectivity offers opportunities to research employment pursue higher education, access resources for healthcare and be involved in their children’s school work. Additionally, homeowners receive free home computers upon closing and an engineered mesh for wireless internet connectivity.
A single mother of two young children who lives in BarringtonVillage, a Builders of Hope community in Raleigh, NC, received a donated computer and internet access at closing. The enterprising young woman – who worked at a call center all day – immediately signed up for online MBA courses, which she took at home. Without the computer and internet connection, she would have never been able to work towards her degree.
Through its partnership with the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill, Builders of Hope oversees student-led consulting projects that the organization needs to tackle. For example, students suggest methods to track and monitor projects and provide analysis to determine the best use for a donated property.