EPA administrator lauds Durham Habitat homes

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Dec. 12, 2014 Alex Dixon

For the new residents of two Habitat for Humanity homes on Ashe Street, utility bills won’t be much of a burden.

Through energy efficient measures, heating and cooling bills at the homes won’t exceed $30 per month.

“Durham Habitat has been building green since before green building was cool,” said Blake Strayhorn, president of Habitat for Humanity of Durham. “Habitat knows that affordable housing is about more than the cost of the house. It’s about operating cost after the purchasing price, too.”

Habitat held a tour of the homes Friday morning, with attendees including Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;  Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who represents a portion of Durham;  and Durham Mayor Bill Bell.

The homes are ENERGY STAR certified, which means that they meet certain EPA criteria for energy efficiency.

Since ENERGY STAR launched about 20 years ago, McCarthy said, homeowners have saved more than $4 billion on utility bills.

“EPA runs that program because we know when you save money and buy that more efficient product, you’re actually being very helpful to the environment,” she said. “It is an environmental program because it reduces the pollution that’s created when you generate electricity and it reduces carbon pollution that fuels climate change.”

Bell said that Habitat’s work in the North East Central Durham area has been crucial to the city’s work on its initiative to reduce poverty reduction. Habitat has built 12 houses there.  

“We’re trying to keep people in the neighborhood,” he said, “not have people move out.”

The homes are also under a guarantee with Advanced Energy that the heating and cooling monthly bills for the will not exceed $29.54 and $25.88, respectively, said Keith Aldridge, Advanced Energy’s vice president for business development.

“There’s nothing more important when it comes to blighted communities and empowering families to be self sufficient than paying attention to the old subject of efficiency,” Butterfield said. “The benefits of energy efficiency are both environmental and economic…efficiency really, really matters.”

Sue Henderson, vice president for the U.S. and Canada for Habitat for Humanity International, said Habitat began building homes to ENERGY STAR standards in 1998.

And two-thirds of the affiliates around the country are building to this standard or to an even higher energy efficiency standard, she said, with homeowners paying at least 20 percent less on annual utility bills.

“Durham Habitat has been an absolute leader in energy efficient (building,)” she said. 

Habitat Success Stories

“Five years ago, a tree fell on my house and caused all but one room to leak. I used all my funds, so I called Habitat for Humanity, which helped me build a new roof. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life, and I just want to thank everyone at Habitat. God bless you!" - Rita

Rita