Taking it up a notch
Habitat for Humanity goes "all green" with souped-up solar home and a massivebike ride
After moving into his new home in northeast Houston, Abdimalik Abu now saves about $150 dollars on his monthly electricity bills compared to his neighbors. Even in the dead of summer, he never paid more than $80.
Built by Houston Habitat for Humanity, Abu’s home marks the local chapter’s first project to go “all green.” While it includes the energy-efficient features standard on all Habitat houses — high-end insulation, Energy Star appliances, as well as efficient window systems and roofing materials — the Abu family home is equipped with a 10-panel solar unit for electricity and a dedicated solar-powered water heater.
“It’s also great to see your own work, to live in a house you helped build yourself,” Abu said. “One of our neighbors had a problem with their air conditioning and I was able to fix it for them.”
“The Abu home is a great demo project with a 30 to 50 percent reduction in energy-use compared to the national average,” said Doug Garrison, chairman of the board for Houston Habitat for Humanity. “Utility savings makes housing more affordable. Every dollar saved can go elsewhere — towards a mortgage or food, for example.”
Since 1987, Houston Habitat for Humanity has built nearly 900 affordable homes for working low-income Houstonians. As with all qualified Habitat homebuyers, Abu agreed to a no-interest mortgage and a contribution of 300 hours of “sweat equity” in lieu of a down payment.
“It’s also great to see your own work, to live in a house you helped build yourself,” Abu told CultureMap. “One of our neighbors had a problem with their air conditioning and I was able to fix it for them.”
Completed in December of last year, the home also makes use of healthy interior materials such as non-toxic paint provided by New Living and recycled cabinetry from Houston Habitat ReStore, a home improvement reseller that offering building materials at deeply discounted prices.
“Even inside, it’s like being in fresh air everyday,” Abu said.
Green Mountain Energy, who donated the home’s solar water heaters through its customer donation program called the Sun Club, joined with Houston Habitat last year to help equip three other building projects in the Abus’ neighborhood.
Through $5 individual donations from its customers, the Sun Club has given more than 30 solar aids to Houston-area institutions and non-profits, including the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto, Workshop Houston, and the Chinquapin School in eastern Harris Country. A $140,000-dollar project at the University of Houston will be completed this November, all from donations.
“We have extremely committed customers,” said Tony Napolillo, Green Mountain’s senior communications specialist. “They don’t see coal power, which makes up most of Texas’ energy, as a sustainable option for the future. They want to encourage other types of non-polluting energy sources.”
Pedal Power Too
This Saturday morning at 8:30, Houston Habitat also hosts its Bike to Build event, a family-friendly bike ride to help raise funds for affordable housing throughout the city. The route begins and ends at Discovery Green, looping though the Heights with 10 and 20-mile options. Co-chaired by state representative Carol Alvarado and state senator Rodney Ellis, the event is expected to bring more than 600 cyclists.
A post-ride party immediate follows the trek, complete with live entertainment and activities.