Sunday, September 18, 2011

General feature: Habitat works with local builder to go green for large family

See Original story here.

By Janet Brindle Reddick, Special to the News & Record
GREENSBORO – Architect Steve Johnson has designed several homes for Habitat for Humanity. Four of his plans have been used at least three times, many to create homes for Greensboro families.

But during their latest partnership, they needed to design a home for a larger family – and on a specific site that had its own limitations, all while keeping Habitat’s commitment to quality and to green building practices.

The house at the corner of McConnell and Dunbar streets will soon be home for a Montagnard family with seven children. So this building needed to be larger than a typical project. The trick was planning a space big enough for the needs of the family, without being out of character of the rest of the neighborhood.

“This is probably the first home where the site was an important factor in the design,” Johnson said. “We had to be consistent to the scale of the other homes.”

Johnson, a principal architect for Southern Evergreen in Summerfield, worked with Megan Ackerman, a 5th year senior at Auburn, on the designs for the home. When the home is finished sometime in February, the family will be able to move into a 1,700-square-foot, two-story home, with an open floor plan and a wrap-around porch. The Craftsman design matches the architecture of other existing homes. It is just across the street from the new Willow Oaks neighborhood. The master suite with lots of storage is on the first floor and four more bedrooms will be upstairs – all big enough for bunk beds.

“There was a little more planning on the front end,” said Phil Barbee, director of construction and land development for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro. “It is an older neighborhood, so we tried to pick up on the Craftsman flavor of the neighborhood.”

Barbee said this floor plan works for larger families, but it might also work for another growing client base – migrant families with multiple generations or extended families living in the same home. This plan can be used as a prototype for other Habitat groups elsewhere.

“I like this plan,” Barbee said, “and we hope to use it again.”

Besides the extra space, the appeal of the design is that it is so energy-efficient and will be built using green building techniques and green materials. But that approach was not unique to this home.

Barbee said Habitat homes have had energy-saving components since 2002. It just makes more sense for the homeowners to have more affordable energy bills.

The group took it to another level in 2008 during the Raising Roofs Builders Blitz, a biennial event with the Greensboro Builders Association. It was during that time that Southern Evergreen’s plans were used to build four homes that met NAHB Green Building-Gold standards.

And those sustainable building practices have carried through to projects today – including this home, which is also being built to that standard.

Some of the sustainable materials include:
• The foundation is made from North Carolina bricks, which only travel 300 miles to arrive at the site.
• The insulation is blown cellulose made of recycled newspaper.
• Light-colored shingles applied on foil-backed roof sheathings reflect the sun’s heat and keep the attic cooler.
• Plants used in landscaping are low-maintenance, drought-resistant and are planted in such a way to provide shade to the home in the summer and to allow sun in the winter.

The methods of construction they use matter as well. Builders now use closed crawl spaces and design a fresh air intake into the design. Framing techniques are used to allow for less material waste and greater efficiency.

Finally, homeowners are educated in the maintenance of the home, and the ways that they can make their homes most energy-efficient.

Habitat is leaving its green mark in the community in more than just the 350 homes that it has built in Greensboro. Johnson, who serves as a co-chair for the Greensboro Builders Association Remodelers Council, said that during the 2008 Builders Blitz, more than one of his colleagues told him that they learned a lot and that they had increased their awareness of sustainable building practices – which they are now using in their work today.

“We have seen some commercial, for-profit builders adopt some of these techniques,” Barbee said. “We are setting a new standard for low-income housing that’s above and beyond.”