This morning, I enjoyed a breath of fresh air from an unlikely source: a Home Depot press release. The Home Depot Foundation revealed last week that it is adding $30 million to its Partners in Sustainable Building (PSB) program to fund the construction of green Habitat for Humanity homes. PSB will provide funding and green building resources and training for the construction of an anticipated 5,000 EPA-certified sustainable Habit homes (1,500 homes in 2009 and 2010 alone). To me, this is the ultimate picture of businesses, economics, and sustainability coming together – to the benefit of lower income Americans. I also believe the long-term effect will be to dispel many myths about the feasibility and financial benefit of green building.
The $30 million pledge followed the April 2008 PSB pilot, which involved the construction of 260 green Habitat houses. Since their construction, these homes have already used 50 percent less energy and 33 percent less water (indoors) and created approximately 11 tons less CO2 emissions per house than traditional households. They also incorporate durable, relatively inexpensive building materials, thereby trimming homeowners’ maintenance costs. The owners of these pilot homes are already experiencing marked financial relief, according to a Habitat for Humanity press release. With results like these, it appears the Home Depot Foundation is remaining true to its mission: to build “affordable homes for working families that are healthy to live in and affordable to own, [and to encourage] developers to incorporate responsible design and use durable materials to ensure that homes are more energy and water efficient, [and] have good indoor air quality.” Sounds like LEED-compatibility at its best.
In upcoming operations, each PSB-sponsored home will receive $3,000 to help it reach Energy Star status, and houses that meet “higher green standards” will receive a subsidy of $5,000. The program will also directly train 120 Habitat affiliates (in 45 selected states) in green building practices so that those affiliates may train others.
The program is intended to make a strong point: sustainable building techniques are neither difficult nor a luxury – the initial investment of building green can be modest and recovered through long-term savings on energy and water bills.
A quick Google search of the phrase “will building sustainable habitat for humanity homes have any economic benefit” is revealing. A number of green blogs, green building, city directories, and other independent websites are abuzz about the PSB-Habitat projects; I am not alone in my musings. And given the quickness with which the pilot PSB program produced doubt-dispelling evidence as to its success, we probably won’t have to wait long to see the effects of the larger program on individual families as well as communities.