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Northwoods Habitat for Humanity is Partner in Sustainable Building pick

Northwoods Habitat for Humanity of Bemidji has been selected to participate in Partners in Sustainable Building, a national green building initiative of The Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity International.

The $30 million green building program will provide funds and resources over a five-year period to help Habitat affiliates build 5,000 homes that meet Energy Star guidelines or a nationally recognized green building standard. These features incorporate the use of energy-efficient equipment and water-conserving fixtures and help ensure good indoor air quality.

Northwoods Habitat for Humanity is one of 123 Habitat affiliates across 45 states that were selected to participate in the first year of the national rollout that begins at the end of August. Northwoods Habitat will be granted $3,000 for each home built to Energy Star standards and up to $5,000 for each home built to a higher green standard.

Northwoods Habitat and the other 122 affiliates were chosen through a grant process and, combined, will build nearly 1,500 sustainable homes in 2009 and 2010 alone. The grant process is annual, which gives other Habitat affiliates the opportunity to participate in the program as well.

"We are using this opportunity to 'build green' on the Women Build house," said Geri Hickerson, executive director of Northwoods Habitat for Humanity.

"We have passed the first hurdle with an inspection last month, and anticipate the home will meet the guidelines for an Energy Star rating," Hickerson said.

Partners in Sustainable Building was established last year through a pilot program with 30 Habitat affiliates across a variety of climates in rural and urban areas in the United States. Habitat built more than 260 sustainable homes that met a green building standard during the pilot. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, benefits or features of homes built to this standard include:

- Up to 50 percent less energy use than their conventional counterparts

- Reductions of up to a third in indoor water consumption because of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances

- Incorporation of durable materials lowering maintenance costs over the life of the structure, making homes more affordable for longer

- Approximately 11 tons less carbon and greenhouse gas emissions per household annually, the equivalent of taking 250 cars off the road

The pilot program demonstrated that the upfront costs of building green are modest and can be recouped through savings on utility and energy costs over the course of a home's mortgage. For instance, during the pilot phase of the program, an additional $2,000 in energy saving features were added to Habitat houses. Early results show energy savings between 15 to 30 percent. In fact, in some of the PSB homes already built to LEED Platinum standards, energy savings of almost 50 percent are being seen.

To inspire and educate additional affiliate participation, eight Habitat State Support Organizations, which provide services to 440 affiliates, will also receive grant money to add staff and host training sessions for Habitat affiliates to learn how to build to nationally recognized green standards.

Partners in Sustainable Building is the first partnership between The Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity at the national level in the United States.

The Home Depot Foundation was created in 2002 to further the community building goals of The Home Depot. The foundation is dedicated to building affordable homes for working families that are healthy to live in and affordable to own.

Northwoods Habitat for Humanity builds houses in Beltrami and Clearwater counties through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials. Habitat for Humanity partners with families in need to build simple, decent affordable housing. The houses are sold to partner families at no profit and are financed with no-interest mortgages. Habitat is not a giveaway program. In addition to making a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, homeowner families invest hundreds of hours sweat equity into building their houses and those of others.

Northwoods Habitat has built and renovated 34 homes in local communities since its inception in 1990.