Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cover III: Efficiency on the Cheap

Paul Glassbrenner, Greeley Wyatt and Frank Lemanski work on a Salem Avenue Habitat for Humanity renovation project.

Environmentally friendly, solid construction doesn’t necessarily require a lot of green. Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley is demonstrating that it doesn’t take a fat wallet to achieve high standards of efficiency.

The non-profit builder of housing for low-income families has completed four homes that meet EarthCraft standards.

“The drive for us was that we can build a better product without it costing that much more,” says Katharine Gray, an architect and Habitat’s project manager. “We probably spend [an extra] $3,000 to $4,000 per house” and the homeowner reaps the benefits every month in terms of dramatically lower utility costs.

Following the lead of Habitat for Humanity International, the Roanoke and Bedford chapters are two that have committed to higher standards of construction.

“One of the biggest things we do is focus on the envelope of the home. A lot involves controlling air flow,” Gray says. “The windows are higher grade—that’s one area where you do have to spend the money. And, since we seal the homes so tightly, we have to have an air system that brings air in periodically.”

Habitat uses spray foam between the ceiling and the floor above, and caulks every crevice around doors, windows, outlets and wall plates. In typical construction, this is an expensive, labor-intensive endeavor. “Part of the way we can afford to do this is because we have teams of volunteers who provide the service,” Gray explains.

—Alison Weaver

(Dan Smith photo.)

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