This inspiring article from Solar Today is about a nonprofit, Builders of Hope. They do complete green retrofits to vacant or foreclosed homes, move them to clustered communities and sell them to low-income families at cost. Major development projects are underway in 10 communities and 6 cities.
by Richard Crume
What can be done with the tens of thousands of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed houses found in virtually every community across America?
Builders of Hope is turning these houses into energy efficient, affordable homes.
Says Founder and CEO Nancy Welsh, "We have a greater number of houses sitting vacant than we have for decades, and at the same time, more families are in need of decent, reasonably priced housing than ever before. My goal is to transform these vacant houses into affordable, comfortable green homes in safe communities while creating jobs for local builders and the construction industry."
Americans demolish about 225,000 houses every year, often making room for new housing subdivisions, commercial developments or roadway construction. On average, each demolition results in about 35,000 pounds of debris, representing up to 30% of landfill content in many communities. The US is also experiencing an epidemic of foreclosures and many homes sit vacant for months.
By rehabilitating old, vacant houses, typically built between 1930-1960, and selling or renting them at affordable prices, Builders of Hope is helping to revitalize neighborhoods and prevent the destruction of perfectly good structures.
On average, 65% of most structures can be reused or salvaged, including valuable features such as hardwood floors and crown molding.
Retrofitting Green and Energy Lean
Under its Extreme Green Remodeling program, Builders of Hope obtains vacant houses and relocates them to new, clustered communities, where the homes are completely refurbished using the latest green materials and practices:
- ceiling fans and exterior ventilation
- spray foam insulation
- efficient lighting
- low-e windows
- sealed crawl spaces
- low-flow plumbing fixtures
- Energy Star appliances and water heaters
- energy efficient heating and cooling systems
- low volatile organic building materials and sealants
- rain barrels and drought tolerant landscaping
- non-toxic tile and wood flooring, glues and paints
Other improvements typically include replacing wiring, plumbing, siding and roofing. An educational program helps new occupants understand how good habits, like cutting back the heating or air conditioning when away from home, can reduce energy costs.
Each rehabilitated home is obtained a low or no cost from a bank, city redevelopment program, highway construction site or individual property owner, and Builders of Hope picks up the cost of moving the house to its new location. Once rehabilitated, the houses are sold at cost to families earning less than 80% of the average median income.
Through its Upcycle program, Builders of Hope partners with banks, lenders and local governments to acquire and rehabilitate foreclosed and vacant rental properties, which are then made available to working-class Americans at affordable rents.