Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits Energyrefuge.com, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and Elpis.org, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade....
Building Sustainability One House at a Time
Currently in American there are over one million houses slated for demolition, which would send 35 billion pounds of debris to landfills, or around 35,000 pounds of debris per house to landfills across the country. Considering how much trash we already produce, that really doesn't sound environmentally sustainable.
But there's one organization trying to reduce these alarming figures. Builders of Hope, an organization that works to provide affordable, sustainable housing, believes these doomed properties offer an opportunity to address other issues currently facing the US, including a broken affordable housing system and construction-related landfill debris. It believes that these houses could become rehabbed, green affordable housing for sustainable communities.
The Raleigh, NC-based organization says its Extreme Green Rehabilitation model impacts the environment half as much as building homes using traditional new home construction methods, according to a North Carolina University Study.
"Home recycling and our 'Extreme Green Rehabilitation' model are not only economically viable solutions to the affordable housing crisis, they are critical components to the lasting sustainable revitalization efforts in any urban neighborhood," said Nancy Welsh, founder and CEO. "The study found that our methods of construction defer more than 19 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted per house. Just think how that adds up when you're rebuilding entire neighborhoods in states across the country."
The organization's process includes moving rescued houses into new, clustered communities designed with architectural continuity or leaving them as anchors to help revitalize existing neighborhoods.
"We have a greater number of houses sitting vacant than we've had in decades and more individuals and families in need of healthy affordable housing than ever before," added Welsh. "The success our communities is being nationally heralded as a universal solution to the housing crisis facing many of our nation's cities."
Welsh founded the organization back in 2006 when she realized the environmental impact of demolished homes (currently standing at 250,000 per year). Besides overburdening landfills, the practice contributes to the lack of safe, quality affordable housing, they say.
The majority of reclaimed homes were built in the 1930s and 1960s and their features include superior materials such as wood flooring, solid-surface countertops, crown molding and built-ins. Of the existing structure, an average of 65 per cent is saved and then outfitted with modern HVAC systems, plumbing, electrical work and siding. Builders of Hope also installs double-pane windows and new roofs, besides improving insulation to increase the structure's energy efficiency.
Other sustainable construction features include passive solar orientation, spray foam insulation, exterior ventilation, fluorescent lighting, low-E windows, low-flow plumbing fixtures, Energy Star appliances and water heater, low VOC materials and sealants, large front porches to reduce heating and cooling bills, rain barrels and drought tolerant landscaping.
In order to spread the word on its work, Builders of Hope is launching a book called Builders of Hope, penned by Wanda Urbanska, host-producer of Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska, a nationally syndicated public-television series advocating sustainable living. The organization has established affiliates in New Orleans and Dallas.
Image credit: Builders of Hope