Going green saves green for Habitat

Habitat for Humanity leaders throughout the region say
instituting cost-saving measures has made the houses they build greener.

Habitat for Humanity leaders throughout the region say
instituting cost-saving measures has made the houses they build greener.

The region’s Habitat organizations have yet to build a house
that meets the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) standards, but their projects are heading in that
direction, representatives said.

Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area has a
green committee that is made up of community volunteers. The committee recently
decided it wants the organization to start building houses that meet one of the
Green Building Council’s LEED construction

classifications, said Eve Wachhaus, the organization’s
executive director.

The group already installs energy-efficient Whirlpool Energy
Star stoves and ovens in the houses it constructs for low-income families. The
appliances save homeowners money and are environmentally friendly, Wachhaus

The organization uses recycled materials to construct houses
whenever possible, and recycled furniture is usually restored and placed inside
Habitat’s Harrisburg

Last year, the group recycled materials from a retirement
community in Cumberland
County, where several
housing units were razed, said John Neuman, construction manager for Harrisburg
Habitat. Habitat recovered thousands of feet of moldings from the units, he

Neuman uses oriented strand board, which is wood pressed
together with wood chips, as much as possible. He takes leftover two-by-fours
and two-by-sixes that are donated from other construction sites to cut costs.
Two-by-sixes frame the walls in the houses he builds. The bigger lumber leaves
more space for insulation and cuts heating costs for residents in the winter,
he said.

Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area builds
six to 12 houses a year. Neuman tries to incorporate natural ventilation to cut
energy costs in the summer, too, he said.

“We try to look for savings as much as possible,” Neuman
said. “We don’t install air conditioning, and we use high-performance windows.
We try to put two windows in each room.”

York Habitat for Humanity uses recycled lumber from
Re-Stor-York, a Habitat for Humanity business that sells donated construction
materials, including windows and doors, said Francesca Spero, the group’s
executive director.

York Habitat for Humanity uses energy-efficient appliances.
It recently installed an electric heat pump in one of the houses the group
built, but it has turned out to cost more than natural gas, she said. The group
hopes to build a LEED-certified house in the next year or two, Spero said.

“I would love to build LEED-rated homes down the road, but
we have to weigh the upfront costs,” Spero said.

Habitat for Humanity of Lebanon County installed tankless
water heaters in two new houses the organization built, and Pam Tricamo,
executive director, said the first one was installed a year and a half ago.

Unlike a traditional water heater, heated coils inside the
tankless water heater only heats water when it is flowing and cut energy use,
Tricamo said.

If the tankless water heaters save homeowners money, Habitat
for Humanity of Lebanon County could begin installing them in more houses, she

“We use energy-efficient windows, appliances and the maximum
amount of insulation, but to me that’s our standard practice,” Tricamo said.
“Sometimes, recycled materials are more expensive. We are a small affiliate,
and we haven’t had the personnel to study (green building). But we have begun
talking about it with our construction committee.”

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