Green Building/Healthy Homes

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The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has created the Green Building/Healthy Homes Initiative with generous support from the Home Depot Foundation. The initiative is a comprehensive program of capacity building grants, training, and technical assistance activities to promote the incorporation of a “greener” approach to affordable rural housing development. One of the centerpieces of HAC’s approach to promoting the use of green building techniques is that it is not an “all or nothing” endeavor. When carefully planned, selected, and implemented, even modest measures can result in significant conservation of resources. Green building is also uniquely local. Because climates, customs, availability of materials, and preferences vary so much throughout rural America, green building measures that are effective in some areas may not be appropriate for others.

The Green Building/Healthy Homes Initiative is designed to support these local variations and to promote the effective use of green building and healthy homes technologies in affordable rural housing.

The components of the initiative are:

Green Fund Capacity Grants

The Green Fund provided capacity building grants to a mix of novice and experienced nonprofit housing development organizations. The grantees will demonstrate the use of green techniques in varying degrees throughout the housing development process including land planning and site development to preserve the natural environment; energy efficient design; selection and use of materials promoting recycling, reuse, waste reduction, and a healthy indoor living environment; and water conservation.

Training and Technical Assistance Program

A training program on green building/healthy homes is being conducted in several venues. Roundtable sessions encourage the participation of practitioners and provide peer-learning opportunities. HAC has incorporated a green building track of workshops in its Rural Housing Conferences since 2004. The workshops introduce green building concepts to a wide audience. Intensive training workshops will train rural practitioners on how to get started with integrating green techniques in housing programs.

The Housing Assistance Council held a round table discussion on Green Building in Rural Communities in Holyoke, Massachusetts on August 11, 2008. At the roundtable, regional experts emphasized the overall impacts of implementing green building practices. Twenty-two people participated in the discussion from nine states and the District of Columbia.

Also in 2008, HAC brought together some of its rural housing partners to mentor each other on green building techniques. Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation in Las Cruces, New Mexico and Tierra Madre in Sunland Park, New Mexico provided mentoring to peer exchange trainees from FUTURO Communities, Colorado Housing, Inc., and Habitat for Humanity of Alamogordo.

Access materials from the HAC's 2010 Building Green Symposium in Washington, DC.

A variety of resources are currently available on the web to help you get familiar with green building/healthy homes technology.

Information and Publications

  • A brief introduction and summary about affordable green building in rural communities is provided in HAC's information sheet on the subject.
  • Multifamily Housing: This resource provides links to articles on developing green affordable multifamily housing.
  • A special green building issue of HAC's magazine Rural Voices, was published in fall 2008. It focuses on recent trends in green affordable building and highlights some of the nonprofit rural organizations that have integrated sustainable design elements into their affordable housing projects. Click here to access a pdf of the issue.
  • HAC's green building report, Affordable Green Building in Rural Communities, explains how community organizations succeed in developing affordable green housing despite unique rural challenges. Based on a roundtable discussion that included national green building organizations, local rural housing developers with a history of green building, funders, and other green building stakeholders, HAC's report describes successful affordable green developments around the country.
  • Building Affordable ENERGY STAR® Qualified Homes. This guide serves as a tool for rural nonprofit organizations building ENERGY STAR qualified homes, outlining the basic steps, providing advice from home energy raters, and sharing best practices from affordable housing developers in the field.