Habitat for Humanity Kent County LEEDs Affordable Green Housing Movement in MI

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Grab your hard hats folks, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is creating an explosion. An affordable green housing explosion that is. Recently named a finalist for a Governor’s Energy Excellence Award for Best Communication/Education Program. The Governor’s Energy Excellence Award honors Michigan organizations and individuals for their commitment to responsible energy production and consumption.

Habitat Kent is a Christian nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable homes in the greater Grand Rapids area.  The business model enables them to build affordable homes by engaging volunteers and implementing efficient building practices into their work. “We have between 4,000 – 5,000 volunteers every year,” said Brandyn Deckinga, director of construction at Habitat Kent. “Forming strong partnerships with organizations and volunteers is what helps us build affordable housing for the community.”  

Partnering with educational groups such as Grand Rapids Public School (GRPS) and Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to provide the next generation workforce with hands on experience.  Together they have built a combined 36 homes in Kent County. In the past year Habitat Kent has helped communicate, instruct and train 31 GRPS students and over 50 GRCC students. “That’s 80 students last year who specifically worked on a house, received training in construction and learned ways to be energy efficient” said Deckinga.

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The staff at Habitat Kent is excited to be one of the finalists for a 2016 Governor’s Energy Excellence Award. In 2015 the Michigan Battle of the Building’s Awards and Recognition Program took home the honors for Best Communication/Education Program.  “We look forward to August 11th when the 2016 winner will be announced in Lansing,” said Cheri Holman, executive director of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) West Michigan Chapter.  “Congratulations to all the finalists for executing outstanding programs that encourage us all to be better stewards of our resources.” Other finalists include City of Holland and Muskegon County Department of Veterans Affairs.

Along with volunteer work, choosing sustainable building options enables Habitat Kent to build affordable homes. By implementing things like energy efficient wall assemblies that include DOW’s XPS continuous insulation, paying attention to detail with air sealing, using EnergyStar appliances, LED lighting, installing Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV’s), and low flow plumbing fixtures Habitat Kent is able to reach their low cost goals.

Habitat Kent has excelled across the leaderboard when it comes to sustainable building.  They were recently recognized for building the first v4 LEED certified house in Michigan. The LEED v4 certification is the newest version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

Among 25 honorees, Habitat Kent was also recognized by the USGBC as a 2015 Power Builder. To be considered a Power Builder, organizations must have obtained LEED certification on 90 percent or more of their homes or units. Habitat Kent’s team has certified 142 homes to LEED standards in Kent County, 10 of which were v4 certified and more than 70 are EnergyStar certified.

Also noteworthy, Habitat or Humanity is a founding member of the Grand Rapids 2030 District. A groundbreaking, private and public led building district focused on fostering a sustainable, efficient, thriving downtown Grand Rapids.

Habitat Kent aspires to build LEED certified buildings. Currently they have 6 homes in progress, 4 of which will be underway in the next month and all aiming for LEED v4 certification. “We have plans for a multifamily unit coming in 2017 that we would like to build net zero energy ready,” said Deckinga. “It will be a challenging project but we’re ready for it!”

There really is no place like home. With the help of Habitat Kent, many homeowners are able to live affordably in high efficient homes that will last a lifetime.

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