Partnerships key to success in building green Habitat homes in Douglas CountyPartner is a word you hear a great deal around the Habitat for Humanity affiliate. That’s because partnership is key to what they do.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series following the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home. Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County (HFHDC) has been building using Minnesota Green Communities Criteria (MGCC) since 2007. Follow along to see how their green-building techniques make not only an environmental difference, but also play a key role in the overall affordability of a Habitat home.
Partner is a word you hear a great deal around the Habitat for Humanity affiliate. That’s because partnership is key to what they do.
Families partner with them to purchase their home through a no-profit mortgage. As part of this, they partner with the affiliate in building their home and the homes of others by performing 200 hours of sweat equity prior to purchasing their home. The affiliate also partners with the community – volunteers and individual donors make it possible to build homes more economically so that they remain affordable for the partner family.
In Douglas County, the Habitat affiliate is specially blessed to be a part of a community with a strong, involved and generous business community. This year HFHDC has had several very key partnerships in this area.
The first is the continuing partnership with the Thrivent Builds program, which helped fund a large portion of the home just completed in Carlos. The second partnership came in the form of a whole house sponsorship – Tim and Kathie Cullen and the Cullen’s Home Center team took on the commitment to fund and build the Habitat home just completed in Alexandria.
And, on the home newly under construction, the affiliate has been blessed again to have local businesses come together in sponsorship of a home. Led by Tom Schabel, CEO of Alexandria Extrusion Company, the affiliate has reached out to the manufacturing community for support. Three companies have committed, with the potential for several others to join in. The sponsors so far are Alexandria Extrusion Company, Douglas Machine and Pro-Tainer.
These sponsorships have helped the affiliate to increase the number of families it serves from two in 2010 to four in 2011.
Local subcontractors also play a key role in building – most sub contractors donate either some labor or materials in kind as part of their package. This support, as well as their timely and detailed work, is critical to a successful build.
A new partnership this year is centered around “green building.” Minnesota Spray-Foam Insulation of Albany/Brainerd/Alexandria is partnering with HFHDC in doing the insulation for the newest Habitat home. This partnership will be interesting, as it will provide a side-by-side comparison of traditional fiberglass insulation and spray foam insulation in identical floor plans located right next door to each other.
Insulation takes place on day six of a Habitat build. Traditionally, volunteers will work to seal up any areas where wires are going through the upper plate or come from the outside. They will then caulk any double studs so that there is not a pathway for air.
In a traditional fiberglass insulation application, great care is taken that there are no gaps and no depressions. Poly is put on, creating a vapor barrier. Low VOC caulking is applied on upper and lower plate and the junctions of the poly are taped for a tight seal.
Through the partnership with Minnesota Spray-Foam Insulation, Volunteer Construction Manager Dick Welder is excited to see if there is a significant increase in efficiency. “Testing has already proven that we do a good job using traditional fiberglass insulation,” Welder says. “It will be interesting to see how this product will contribute to our green building.”
The benefits of using spray foam include better sealing without the need of a vapor barrier, improved indoor air quality, moisture resistance, prevents mold and pest infestations, adds structural strength and of course reduces energy costs. The spray foam will also not sag or deteriorate and with professional installation should provide a more even and consistent coverage throughout the home.
A properly installed air barrier system can reduce air leakage by more than 80 percent and improve building energy efficiency by up to 40 percent. With traditionally installed fiberglass insulation, a R-19 rating may actually get only a R-17-R-13 rating once installed. The spray foam installation should yield a R-21 value on exterior walls and will hopefully result in a R44 value in the attic, along with the addition of blown-in cellulose. Also, the SPRAYTITE insulation and air barrier material does not emit any VOCs.
On day eight of the build, volunteers will be found up in the attic sealing any holes (usually around light fixtures, ventilation ducts and wire paths) with foam to complete the seal.
What does all of this work mean for the home owner? A healthy, energy efficient home with lower energy costs. This is one of the main goals of HFHDC “green” building – to ensure the long-term affordability of the homes for low-income homeowners. Efficient, durable, healthy homes save Habitat partner families money in lower utility bills, fewer necessary repairs and low-cost maintenance.
On average, Douglas County Habitat homeowners spend less than $400 per year on energy costs. Detailed and comprehensive air-sealing has resulted in less than three square inches of leakage area throughout an entire home built by HFHDC – this is a Habitat record. The affiliate is hoping that their partnership with Minnesota Spray-Foam will help them build upon this record, and looks forward to comparing the results between the two homes in the upcoming year.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County has been an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International since 1997 and has built 29 homes for sale to partner families throughout Douglas County, providing housing for 119 people. For information, call (320) 762-4255, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.hfhdouglascounty.org.