For those of you who regularly follow my Tweets and this blog, you know that The Home Depot Foundation is focused on bringing the benefits of healthy, affordable housing to working families. And you know that we’ve actually increased our funding initiatives over the last couple of years while many foundations have had to cut back. Why? Because housing has been at the crux of much of the country’s economic woes, and so we feel there is no better time to be focused on how to build and maintain healthy, affordable homes for families. The studies are clear: healthy homes generate higher resale values, and the communities they form see lower crime rates and greater neighborhood involvement. In addition, studies show that children growing up in healthy homes are less likely to suffer from respiratory problems, and are more likely to succeed in school.
That’s why I’m so excited today to announce the new affiliates that are part of our Partners in Sustainable Building Program (PSB) with Habitat for Humanity International. PSB is a five-year $30 million green building initiative that will help build 5,000 green homes nationwide. More than 135 Habitat affiliates across 42 states will be granted $3,000 for each home built to Energy Star standards and up to $5,000 for each home built to a higher green standard. The selected Habitat affiliates are expected to build 2,400 homes in 2010-2011. You can read more about the specifics of our initiative in today’s press release.
I’m so proud of this initiative, because it’s having a real impact on families’ health and their ability to save money each month. For instance, in St. Louis, Missouri a homeowner saved so much in utility bills that she was able to purchase everything her children needed for the new school year, an annual expense she could not previously afford. And in Grayson County Texas after months of 100+ degree temperatures, a homeowner reported that her highest electric bill was only $100. These kinds of savings are real and can often mean the difference between making the ends meet each month or not.
When we started down this housing path, many were skeptical that we could help non-profits build homes that were “green” and affordable. I think that’s because when people hear the term “green building,” most think of really expensive homes covered with solar panels, bamboo floors, or metal exteriors that make them look like spaceships. In other words, homes that most people wouldn’t want to live in or can’t afford to build.
But our definition of a “green building” is different. For us, a “green building” is simply one built with environmentally friendly materials such as nontoxic insulation, caulk and paint, and that uses water-saving faucets and energy-efficient appliances. And since our primary goal is to provide homes for working families, we want these “green” homes to be affordable to own and maintain over the long term.
The basic math is pretty clear. According to a survey by Habitat for Humanity, building to Energy Star standards adds less than $2,000 to the cost of a home. And building to these standards will save homeowners an average of $6,000 on heating, air conditioning, and water in the first six years alone, according to the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star statistics.
And that’s just the math of the building costs. That doesn’t count how smart maintenance of the home continues to save homeowners money each month. From CFL and LED lighting to programmable thermostats, homeowners will continue to make money off operating their home in a healthy, energy-efficient way.
Every time I talk about how much money homeowners are saving through our green-building partnerships with Habitat and other housing organizations, I wonder why we all aren’t focused on green homes. If homebuyers with the least to spend are realizing these kinds of benefits, why aren’t we all doing the same? Why are we all leaving money on the table by not paying attention to how efficiently our homes are running?
To learn more about how you can reap these same benefits in your own home, check out this list of tips. You’ll find that green building isn’t just about making your home healthier…it’s about putting green back into your pocket!