Eco-Affordable Housing: FAS Helps Habitat Build Green

  • The Building Technologies Program at FAS is releasing the High Performance Building Guide for Habitat for Humanity Affiliates
  • This report provides practical guidelines, resources, and advice to improve the quality of affordable housing while minimizing cost
  • Check the guide out here.

High performance housing has long been the privilege of the high-end residential market.  Higher up front costs are driven by such expenses as better HVAC systems, superior engineering and construction, innovative and sustainable materials, and a suite of green technologies.

But these homes have benefits needed and deserved not just by those capable of affording a high-end home, but by all consumers; they are healthier and safer for residents, use fewer resources, produce less waste, and take into consideration the inhabitants’ specific needs. And over the lifecycle of the house, the total cost (defined as initial costs + operating costs) of high performance homes are frequently less expensive than an average house.  Improved materials,  engineering, and construction can yield lower costs, less maintenance, and healthier residents.

Habitat for Humanity International is a major player in the affordable housing market, building and financing decent, safe, affordable homes for low-income families who in turn, contribute their own labor (sweat equity) to the construction of their house.  Over the past  year FAS has teamed up with several excellent Habitat affiliates and partners from Seattle and Tacoma, Washington; Denver, Colorado; Washington, DC; Danville, Virginia; Orlando, Florida, and New York, New York to create a High Performance Building Guide for Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

This practical guide to energy efficient, green construction provides a practical road map and affiliate case studies to aid Habitat affiliates in constructing high performing houses.  Based on the principles of whole building design–the guide covers the full building process from finding green partners and training staff and volunteers, to design, construction management, and verification and reporting.

The guide is divided into 16 key element or steps, each of which is essential to building a higher performing house that uses safer, healthier, and more efficient materials, techniques, and processes.

Each of the 16 sections includes:

  • recommendations on and priorities for improving  building practice and decision making;
  • an overview of the benefits to improving performance for that element;
  • design guidelines and specifications;
  • building process and evaluation guidelines and specifications;
  • explanations of the available tools and their uses; and
  • lists of resources available to achieve project goals.

This green building guide was written for Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and funded by the Department of Energy’s Building Technology Program.

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