August 28, 2008


Habitat building its first ‘green’ home

Volunteers using environment-friendly construction methods at Tompkins Street site


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer  
From right, Habitat for Humanity homeowner Les Fetterly and volunteer Herb Susman of Ithaca staple mesh used for insulation on to studs Wednesday while working on a Habitat for Humanity house on Tompkins Street. 

Staff Reporter

Seven trash bags sat outside the porch of the yellow Habitat for Humanity house being built at 165 Tompkins St., and the volunteers felt good about the minimal amount of waste.
Normally, a construction site would yield more than 4 tons of garbage.
The house is the first Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland Counties has built using environment-friendly methods, said Habitat board member Andrea Rankin.
“We wanted to save money on the house’s heating bills,” Rankin said. “We also were thinking globally at how we could help the environment.”
To save materials, a Cornell University class researched ways to buy recycled building supplies, such as insulation made from recycled newspaper. Volunteers building the house eliminated scrap wood by purchasing a prebuilt house frame. Whenever possible, volunteers recycle boxes and plastic containers.
“It’s all about paying attention to the little things,” Rankin said, pointing out how the site provides a water container, rather than supplying individual bottles of water.
The house will also contain energy-efficient appliances to reduce gasoline and electricity use.
“With the price of everything these days, it’s going to be great,” said Les Fetterly of Virgil, who will move into the three-bedroom house with his wife and three children.
The Cortland County Community Action Program helped secure a high-efficiency furnace and donated insulation for the house.
CAPCO helps weatherize low-income homes, and this is the first time it has worked on a construction project, said Max Sammons, CAPCO’s energy services director.
“Working in this kind of an environment is different and kind of nice,” Sammons said. “It’s cleaner, and there’s no clutter, and there’s no dust to worry about in installing insulation.”
Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland Counties has built 13 houses in the last 20 years.
Recently, the state Habitat for Humanity required 25 percent of all houses to be built using similar green methods, and when the next Habitat for Humanity House is built in Ithaca, Rankin plans to use the same environment-friendly methods in that building.
Excavation started on the house in March, and more than 300 volunteers hope to finish the project before Christmas.
“Most energy-efficient homes are a lot more expensive,” she said, “but even people with lower incomes deserve to save on energy bills.”


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