Industry LEED-er: Charlotte Habitat for Humanity melds training, community projects

On the job: Habitat Charlotte and Bould LLC partnered to create a training program, Everbuild-PRO, that provides on-the-job experience as a way to help communities help themselves. Photo by Sarah Beth Mulet 

Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte is committed to green building and environmental sustainability throughout the organization. From new construction practices and weatherization services to recycling and renewable energy, Habitat Charlotte is rapidly embracing the renewable technologies to better the lives of our homeowners and our environment.

Several years ago, Habitat Charlotte began building System Vision-certified homes, an energy and comfort guarantee program for affordable housing offered by Advanced Energy. The program has enjoyed success and improved homeowner comfort.

However, the affiliate desired to achieve a more widely recognized green-building standard, so in 2010 it tackled its first LEED for Homes project and received Silver certification without additional expense on the project. Habitat Charlotte used that as a pilot home and, as of January 2012, has committed to LEED for Homes on all new construction, which will include approximately 30 new homes per year.

Each of Habitat Charlotte’s new construction homes has received Silver certification to date, and one LEED Registered home is pending Platinum certification, thanks to a gift of five solar photovoltaic panels from a generous donor.

With its commitment to education, Habitat Charlotte now partners with Bould LLC to offer a LEED project experience program called EverbuildPRO. In 2009, the Green Building Certification Institute began requiring that green-building professionals have project experience on a LEED Certified building to become LEED Accredited Professionals. Recognizing that it is often difficult for aspiring professionals to gain the experience, EverbuildPRO developed in order to minimize this barrier while simultaneously serving the affordable-housing community.

The 50-hour course, over a four-month building project, provides students with on-site construction experience, LEED-documentation assignments and classroom instruction. Students have an opportunity to engage in and understand the LEED for Homes process from the preliminary rating through the final on-site inspection. Students are eligible to sit for any of the LEED AP specialty exams upon completion of the course.

Habitat Charlotte is currently teaching its second full class of EverbuildPRO, and hopes to offer project experience at least once per quarter. Currently, the cost is $600 for full-time students and $800 for professionals; the revenue is split between Habitat Charlotte and Bould LLC, making it a fundraiser to support the LEED initiatives of Habitat Charlotte while simultaneously offering a great opportunity for aspiring professionals.

Other green initiatives

Homeowner education: Habitat Charlotte teaches a homeowner class about conserving energy and the benefits of the efficient homes it builds.

Existing homes: Through its rehab, weatherization and critical home repair programs, Habitat Charlotte is also committed to improving existing and owner occupied homes. Each home that goes through the program is weatherized according to BPI guidelines with an entry and exit audit including blower door testing.

Recycling: Habitat Charlotte recycles more than 100 tons of scrap metal, wire and appliances each month and removes up to 75 pounds of refrigerants from air conditioning units and refrigerators. The proceeds of all metal recycling efforts in 2011 was $268,000, enough to build four new LEED Habitat Charlotte homes.

Future initiatives: A solar PV farm at the Wendover Road ReStore, solar PV on new construction homes, biofuel use in its ReStore and Construction fleets, and other technologies as they become available to the affiliate.

Sarah Beth Mulet serves as Habitat Charlotte’s sustainability coordinator, managing the LEED for Homes and EverbuildPRO programs. She holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and Spanish from Queens University of Charlotte, and a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina.