Durham Builders Help Families Own Green Habitat Homes
Half of the 10 homes built in Durham, N.C. last month in a Habitat for Humanity Builder Blitz have been certified green by the Green Home Builders of the Triangle.
In a partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Durham and the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties (HBADOC) and the HBA of Raleigh/Wake County, the five homes were built in the 31-home Hope Crossing in East Durham, the state’s first affordable green residential community.
Features of the green community include solar-heated water, rain barrels, a retention pond, protection of the site’s natural resources, a playground, a picnic area, a garden and a perimeter walking path. Nineteen of the 31 homes are now occupied, and the remaining homes are expected to be completed within the coming year.
The Triangle certification guidelines are based on the NAHB Model Home Green Building Guidelines and were modified to accommodate local conditions, said HBADOC Executive Vice President Nick Tennyson.
For example, he said, North Carolina’s climate makes sealing crawl spaces a major contributor to indoor air quality and indoor moisture control, and points were added to recognize this construction technique.
Tennyson said that the NAHB Guidelines “are very comprehensive, and there is no question that they were adequately researched and prepared” and presented in a way that makes them useful to builders without a great deal of outside consultation or help.
He added that the higher prices of many green products didn’t pose a problem for the nonprofit effort because those construction materials were donated.
Durham’s Habitat chapter has been using energy-efficient and Energy Star-rated products for a few years and has been able to outfit some homes with solar panels with help from a state housing finance agency.
The Durham housing market is the most expensive in North Carolina, and while the city boasts the state’s highest per-capita income, it also has the region’s lowest homeownership rate.
The Habitat program makes loans affordable to families by providing no-interest financing in exchange for their contribution of labor to build homes for themselves and their neighbors.
Among the new residents of the Habitat homes is Tammy Bennett, who grew up in New York City in a family that never owned a home. When she moved to Durham with her son, Keithen, she vowed that he would never have to live in the unsafe conditions she confronted when she was growing up.
Before finding out that she qualified for a green Habitat home in Hope Crossing, Bennett spent the majority of her bank-teller paycheck on renting an apartment.
“It’s a dream come true for her,” says Roxanne Hall, the local Habitat’s special events and gifts-in-kind manager. Homeownership has provided a safe place for Bennett to raise her son, said Hall, and her home has direct access to the playground.
Bennett was at the job site every day before anyone else had arrived, Hall said, and she took a week of leave from her job to pass out food and drinks and take care of the builders, Hall said. At the end of the week, she assembled a beautiful collage of her photos of the construction process.
Keithen, who is now 11 years old, is participating in a student group program to raise $50,000 to build another Habitat home in the community.
Today, Hall often sees and chats with Bennett at the bank. “She’s a part of the Habitat family. It’s an amazing experience to be a part of,” she said.
Karima Powell, a single mother of three girls who moved from Brooklyn to North Carolina, joined the planning committee and coordinated community volunteers to build the playground after she was approved to buy a home in Hope Crossing.
Going a step further, Powell convinced her employer to sponsor a Habitat home for another family. Construction is scheduled to begin on that home on Aug. 16.
The Habitat partnership with local builders is a model for Habitat affiliates around the country, Hall said. The home builders association asks its builders for help, and they step up to the plate so that the homes can be built at no cost, she said.
For more information, e-mail Betsy Schroeder at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8068.
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