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Dave Olson, Published November 08 2013

Habitat for Humanity is LEED-ing the way

FARGO – The latest Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity home is a study in how to boost the energy efficiency of a home while reducing the environmental impacts of its construction.

Even before the house went up this summer on a vacant lot at 418 22nd St. S., in Fargo, concrete remnants of the previous basement were sent away to be pulverized and used for road building.

The new basement is made of insulated concrete with 2½ inches of insulating foam on the inside and outside of foundation walls.

The walls of the home have thick R21 insulation in them and a layer of spray foam insulation is sandwiched between the main floor and basement.

Ceilings on the main floor are backed with layers of spray foam insulation as well as fiberglass insulation, providing for a very high insulation rating of R50.

In addition to its emphasis on energy efficiency, the project also focused on reducing exposure to toxins in building products, said Rob Rich, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter.

When completed, the structure will be the first Habitat home to receive LEED certification, which stands for “leader in energy and environmental design.”

LEED is a rating system for green building that was developed and administered by a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders. A LEED designation is coveted by builders aiming to market to green-minded buyers.

Habitat for Humanity sought LEED certification for the house because organizations helping fund the project felt it was important and because it will benefit Carlos and Angela Salinas, who will soon move into the house with their five children, Rich said.

“We’re hoping for at least 30 percent better efficiency, as far as what energy costs will run them on an annual basis,” Rich said.

Green and clean

In addition to the emphasis on insulation, the house incorporates numerous green features, including bamboo flooring, which Rich described as an eco-friendly, fast-growing renewable resource.

Attention was also paid to the types of adhesives and other chemicals used in the project in order to minimize exposure to toxins, said Rich, who added that the yard will be covered by drought-resistant grasses and plants to reduce water requirements. The area immediately adjacent to the house will be blanketed with mulch to further minimize lawn maintenance.

To the extent possible, the packaging left over from building materials and appliances is being recycled.

“It seems like everything comes wrapped in cardboard; we recycle all of that,” Rich said.

Judd Graham, one of the volunteers who worked on the home this past summer, said the experience was enjoyable.

“I’m not necessarily the handiest person, but it’s fun to participate and swing a hammer a little bit,” said Graham, who serves on the local Habitat for Humanity chapter’s board and is market president for Wells Fargo, which has supported Habitat projects nationwide since 1993 through the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation.

“We want to support the communities we do business in. Giving back is important to us,” Graham said.

Rich said the house will soon be ready for the Salinas family, who first applied for a Habitat home about four years ago.

“We need a permanent, safe, and affordable home,” Angela Salinas told Habitat for Humanity, which posted her comments on the agency’s website.

“Carlos Jr.’s sensory problem will improve once he is in a consistent home … adaption is difficult for him,” she said referring to her 4-year-old son.

“Habitat has given our family something that we would not be able to have any other way – a brand new house,” Angela Salinas said.

When it comes to future Habitat homes, Rich said the agency will do its best to incorporate many of the elements that went into making the LEED home energy efficient and ecofriendly.

“Thinking about our environmental footprint is a big thing,” Rich said.

Home facts

A new Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity home at 418 22nd St. S., in Fargo is the 47th home built by the agency since 1991.

Here are some more facts about the house:

• The rambler-style home has about 1,600 square feet of space split between the main floor and basement.

• It has six bedrooms and two bathrooms.

• The cost to Habitat for Humanity to build the house is estimated at $133,000. Corporate sponsors and donations pay for the building materials.

• Volunteers, including the partner family who will live in the home, built the house. The free labor keeps the overall cost of the home low.

• The partner family will cover the cost of the home through a zero-percentage mortgage paid over 30 years.

How to help

• What: Give to the Max Day, an online giving event supporting a number of nonprofits, including Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity.

• When: Thursday, Nov. 14

• How: To donate, visit www.GiveMN.org and search for Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555