Parsons students Obinna Elechi and Glenn Fujimura on a build with Habitat for Humanity in July.
For the last twenty years, Habitat for Humanity of Washington DC has been doing great things for low income families living in the Nation’s capitol. More than 100 houses have been built in an effort to eliminate poverty housing and to contribute to the lives of our citizens by giving them a simple, decent place to live.
As progressive as our efforts were twenty years ago, our houses used windows that offered minimal protection against the elements, contained walls with R factors that would not be considered very efficient today, and contained appliances that, by today’s standards, were energy wasters. Today we recognize that there is more Habitat for Humanity of Washington DC can offer its homeowners in the way of housing that is not only affordable to build, but also affordable to maintain.
We have taken initial steps, as our knowledge of energy efficiency has increased, to “think green” when designing and building homes. For instance, we started paying attention to our use of off-gassing products like decking glues, wall paints, and carpets. Additionally, we moved to a Sanyo ductless mini-split heating and cooling system in order to ensure that inside air is changed out with outside air in a carefully calculated manner, offering a cleaner alternative at a lower cost to the homeowner. However, while these examples of DC Habitat’s steps towards more responsible building techniques are commendable, it’s not enough. And we want to do more. And thus, we are extremely excited to be a part of an incredible partnership called Building Positive.
The Building Positive venture with Parsons The New School for Design, Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy, and Stevens Institute of Technology brings Habitat for Humanity of Washington DC and the city’s seventh ward the opportunity to work with innovators of housing design, energy conservation, and urban policy design concepts in a way that will take our efforts to a whole new level. With their “out of the box” thinking, we can begin to dream of a scenario, two years from today, where a brand-new duplex home offers two low-income DC families an opportunity to live in a comfortable home where they pay no utilities, they breath clean air, and the rain water that falls on their home is used to grow vegetables that protect the house and help sustain the family.
But the dream doesn’t really end there. The real opportunity comes several years from now when this Parsons-Habitat house becomes the standard that Habitat for Humanity’s throughout the U.S. use to build their own environmentally responsible homes.