EarthCraft Site Visit & Summer Social

Yesterday we kicked off our June building science lecture with a site visit at a home recently EarthCraft certified by Bain-Waring Builders. We were joined by Tim Dunkum, Home Building Association of Richmond’s EarthCraft Builders Council Chair, as well as Mark Waring of Bain-Waring Builders. Mark, Tim, and Viridiant Executive Director KC Bleile welcomed attendees. After providing a little background information on our Building Science Lecture Series, the home, and the EarthCraft Builders Council, attendees were invited to visit stations throughout the home.

Home Details:

  • 11500 Grey Oaks Estates Run
  • EarthCraft Certified May 2017
  • HERS Index Score of 52
  • Conditioned crawlspace
  • R-5 structurally insulated sheathing (SIS)
  • High efficiency furnace
  • Tankless gas water heating
  • Tight building envelope & ductwork
  • 2.5 ACH50
  • Less than 6% total duct leakage
  • Less than 3% duct leakage to the outside

 

Attendees were able to view a diagnostic testing demonstration, learn about the home’s mechanical ventilation, talk to the home’s realtor Brittany Valentine, or check out the home’s energy monitoring system. Shout out to folks from Virginia Energy Efficiency Council who enjoyed the event and shared some photos from the testing demonstration! Everyone stuck around for the fun Summer Solstice Social immediately following the lecture.

Reconnecting You to Nature

On June 5th every year we celebrate World Environment Day. This is the United Nation’s main way to raise worldwide awareness and encourage action for the protection of our environment. Today we celebrate the natural environment and focus on issues that affect the global community and our posterity. Now more than ever it is important to recognize the environmental issues we must mitigate and take action.

This year’s theme is Connecting People to Nature. If you have the opportunity, go outside and be with nature. Appreciate the beautiful planet we inhabit. Think about the impact that nature has on your life and the impact that your life has on nature. Is it an even trade? We can all do more to protect and nurture the environment.

Here are a few ways to participate in the celebration:

  1. Picture all the places that matter – Share a photo or video of your favorite place in nature using #WorldEnvironmentDay or #WithNature and let us know why it is special to you. The United Nations headquarters might even feature your post at their headquarters!
  2. Ask your local government to act – Is there an environmental issue that you want your local officials to address? Get in touch with your elected representatives and ask them to take on that issue. Let them know these issues matter to their constituents.
  3. Travel smart – Leave the car at home and try a more sustainable mode of transportation like cycling, walking, public transportation, or carpooling.
  4. Buy local – Think about where your food and products come from. Make the choice to support look businesses and buy local produce.
  5. Green your home – Educate yourself on the small steps and bigger investments that you can make to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Take our Home Energy Pledge to receive a helpful checklist and guidebook.
  6. Support environmental organizations – Consider making a donation to Viridiant or another nonprofit that is committed to advancing sustainability. Volunteer with organizations like the Sierra Club or the National Parks Service.
  7. Every day matters – June 5th may be World Environment Day, but the movement doesn’t stop there. Take steps everyday to lower your resource waste, stay involved in the conversation, and keep reconnecting with nature!

Pay It Forward Approach to Affordable Housing Ownership

The Maggie Walker Community Land Trust (MWCLT) recently broke ground on its first single-family home, to be built on a vacant lot in North Church Hill. This nonprofit is working to create permanently affordable, single family homes for Richmond families using the Community Land Trust (CLT) model. The trust leases the land to an income-qualified homebuyer (making 50 to 115 percent of the area median income) for reduced or no lease payments. The buyer purchases the home and agrees to keep only half of the proceeds when they eventually sell. The remaining proceeds stay with the property to keep it affordable for the next qualified buyer. Homebuyers take homeownership classes from Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME).

Rendering of 1114 N. 26th Street (MWCLT).

The lot was purchased with support from Bon Secours Richmond Health System and Virginia Credit Union. The three bedroom home will be built by another local nonprofit, Project:Homes. The home will be EarthCraft certified through Viridiant. Our nonprofit is honored to be a part of the many organizations working to make this vacant lot into an affordable home for generations to come!

Read the full Richmond BizSense article covering the groundbreaking to learn more about the project, involved organizations, and upcoming affordable housing efforts in Church Hill.

VAEEC Guest Post: Study Shows Impact of EarthCraft Certified Affordable Housing

Guest Post by: Stuart Nuckols, Viridiant

Click to view full post.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard[1] ranks Virginia 31st in the country for Energy Efficient Programs and Policies. While this may be discouraging to organizations and businesses invested in making the Commonwealth more energy efficient, there is positive energy efficiency policy news to share.

In the last 10 years, Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) and Viridiant, formerly EarthCraft Virginia, have made tremendous progress to successfully implement energy efficiency measures in low income, affordable housing.

Beginning in 2007, VHDA implemented an incentive in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program that encouraged developers to pursue a recognized third-party standard, including Viridiant’s EarthCraft Multifamily program. This successful partnership has resulted in over 230 developments representing more than 16,000 certified apartments in Virginia.

With a substantial number of developments pursuing energy efficient construction, there was an interest in understanding the efficacy of VHDA’s policy decision to promote energy efficient construction in the Virginia rental housing stock. After initial funding from VHDA to benchmark and track unit-level performance of four EarthCraft Multifamily certified projects that had utilized Low Income Housing Tax Credits brought exciting findings, Viridiant partnered with Housing Virginia and the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR) at Virginia Tech to publish a first-of-its-kind study that demonstrates the impact of energy efficient incentives in the construction of affordable rental housing in Virginia.

The 2015 report, The Impact of Energy Efficient Design and Construction on LIHTC Housing in Virginia[2], shows that the average EarthCraft Multifamily apartment reduces monthly energy consumption by 464 kilowatt hours saving $54/month on electricity, which amounts to annual savings of $648 and 5,568 kilowatt hours.

In addition to the energy and utility cost analysis, the research team deployed an anonymous survey to residents to gain insight into housing satisfaction, comfort, thermostat set points, appliance use, etc. In general, residents sampled in the study were more satisfied, more comfortable and paid lower utility costs compared to previous housing. An unanticipated finding of the study was the value observed in the independent, third party verification process that was instrumental in helping development teams achieve their energy and sustainability goals.

The study is one of the first in the nation to evaluate unit-level electricity consumption of affordable apartments built to exceed current efficiency standards. Of the 230 EarthCraft Certified Multifamily projects, 15 projects were selected to ensure representation of building type, geographic location, resident population and both new construction and renovation. Using actual utility performance, unit-level energy projection models, building information, and resident surveys, the team concluded that, on average, units performed 16.6% better than Viridiant had modeled, outperforming standard construction by 30%.

With savings reported in this study at almost $650 a year on average and over 16,000 EarthCraft Multifamily dwelling units in Virginia, the projects have the potential to save residents over $10 million in 2016 alone.

A continuation of the study is underway to assess construction costs of energy efficient construction and scheduled to be released in 2017.

Viridiant will continue to support the industry with the EarthCraft family of green building programs, but the organization is also looking to broaden its reach and mission. Recently rebranded as Viridiant, the organization plans to add more services and certifications in areas such as in-home energy monitoring, utility allowances, online energy assessment tools and unbiased consultation on specialties such as solar energy and energy-efficient home mortgages.

The new name, which is derived from a combination of “viridis,” the Latin word for “green,” and “-ant” of “servant” for their mission-driven stewardship, recognizes the group’s expansion into Washington, D.C. and Maryland, and its intention to do more to demonstrate how the latest building science can set a path for businesses and homeowners to create structures that are more affordable, livable and durable.

Viridiant offers win-win solutions for anyone who is interested in living in or building better buildings. “From net-zero to environmental sustainability and improved air quality, we are well versed in helping our partners exceed their goals to deliver high quality products and avoid construction pitfalls,” said KC Bleile, Viridiant’s Executive Director. “Having served nearly 20,000 families and 325 building partners, we’re excited to use what we’ve learned to expand our programs and reach to serve twice as many families over the next ten years.”

Over the coming months, Viridiant will begin to pilot, test and launch new programs and services to serve their broader goals.

[1] http://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard

[2]Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR), Virginia Tech, 2015. The Impact of Energy Efficient Design and Construction on LIHTC Housing in Virginia, Contract Report submitted to Housing Virginia, Richmond, VA. Retrieved January 15, 2016, from http://www.vchr.vt.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Housing-VA-LIHTC-Study-Full-Report.pdf

Southface's Dennis Creech praises EarthCraft Virginia

EarthCraft Virginia’s Sustainable Leadership Awards
By: Dennis Creech, April 29, 2014

Dear Southface Community,

We all have a favorite quote or two. One of mine comes from anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Earlier this month, I was reminded of that quote at the EarthCraft Virginia’s 5th annual Sustainable Leadership Awards. EarthCraft Virginia is an independent nonprofit organization that started as a special initiative of Southface, but has truly flourished over its 10-year history. I had the honor of offering remarks at this years’ ceremony where individuals were recognized for their accomplishments in advancing green building and sustainable community design.

EarthCraft Virginia’s board and staff members are talented, committed professionals who work tirelessly to transform the market for high-performance homes. But it was the builders who really shined that night. As they received awards and offered remarks, it was apparent that they were proud of their building accomplishments, but also that they were helping address the serious energy, water and environmental challenges facing our region and beyond.

While I doubt that Margaret Mead had in mind this group of builders when she penned her famous quote, it nonetheless applies. The more than 10,000 homes that EarthCraft Virginia has certified are indeed part of the larger change in the built environment that we’re seeing everywhere.

In addition to recognizing the accomplishments of builders, EarthCraft Virginia also presented its Visionary Award to Chuk Bowles, its co-founder. Chuk is an old-school builder and building science consultant and he has worked together with Southface for two decades.

In celebrating Chuk’s well-deserved recognition,, I was reminded of another favorite quote. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Things don’t change, people do.” Chuk understands this and has worked tirelessly to educate and provide technical assistance to design and construction professionals, so they can make the changes necessary to achieve high-performance buildings.

Yours for a sustainable future,
Dennis Creech, Executive Director

Building Green Makes Housing More Affordable

Posted: Richmond Times Dispatch, Friday, April 25, 2014

BY IVY MAIN

If you think of “green” homes and solar panels as luxury amenities for high-end housing, you might be surprised to learn that these are becoming standard features in low-income housing, even here in Virginia.

Buildings with added insulation, better windows, energy-saving light fixtures and Energy Star appliances translate into big savings on utility bills. This should matter to all of us, but it’s especially important for low-income households. For them, lower energy bills can mean not having to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table.

Reducing energy costs is equally important for low-income housing owned by the government or nonprofits. Using energy efficiency and renewable energy to lower utility bills saves the public money and makes it possible to keep rents stable.

Recognizing these benefits, the Virginia Housing Development Authority 10 years ago began to incentivize green building techniques. As a result, when government agencies and nonprofits build low-income housing in Virginia today, they make green building a priority.

Today there are more than 11,000 units of affordable housing in Virginia that are certified to EarthCraft standards, one of the strictest measures of home energy efficiency. According to Philip Agee, green building technical manager for EarthCraft Virginia, these new affordable housing units are 28 percent more efficient than homes that are built to the 2004 model housing code. Units renovated to EarthCraft standards average a 43 percent improvement in efficiency.

Building green makes housing more affordableThe Richmond-based Better Housing Coalition now builds all its low-income housing to exceed EarthCraft standards. As its website explains, “installing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, energy-efficient windows and lighting, and blown cellulose insulation are standard practice for BHC homes. So, too, is the use of durable cement-board siding and tankless water heaters. Reduced energy usage means reduced utility bills for our owners and residents.”

Even more striking is the inclusion of solar energy in recent projects. Many of the Better Housing Coalition’s buildings include solar PV panels for electricity and solar thermal systems for hot water. Last year the Better Housing Coalition built the first net-zero-energy apartments for low-income residents, combining super-efficient construction with solar to produce as much energy as residents consume.

Another leader in the solar movement is Community Housing Partners, a nonprofit organization that designs and builds low-income housing throughout the Southeast. It has worked with Virginia Supportive Housing to include solar panels on at least four of its recent projects, each system sized to provide 20 percent of the building’s electricity.

The Heron’s Landing apartments in Chesapeake include both 61 kilowatts of solar PV and a 13-kilowatt solar thermal array to supply hot water to the 60-unit complex designed for formerly homeless residents. Across the state in Charlottesville, The Crossings includes 33 kilowatts of solar PV and a 76-kilowattt solar thermal system for 62 units serving homeless and low-income residents. Both projects used Charlottesville-based AltEnergy as the solar contractor, supporting solar jobs in state. Paul Risberg, AltEnergy’s CEO, says his firm is currently working on two more Virginia projects.

Solar systems are also part of the Community Housing Partners’ developments in Richmond (Studios at South Richmond) and Portsmouth (the attractive South Bay Apartments). Now, like the Better Housing Coalition, the organization plans to take the next step, making its latest housing development for low-income seniors in Christiansburg net-zero.

Municipalities, too, are working solar into their plans for low-income housing. Last year the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority worked with Staunton-based Secure Futures LLC to install solar on its Polly Lineweaver apartment building, which serves elderly and disabled residents. According to a local television report, the contract will save the authority money over time and help keep rents stable.

Building green is proving such a money-saver for low-income housing that it’s a shame Virginia isn’t applying this lesson more widely. The state’s failure last year to adopt the 2012 model building code standards means that even buyers of brand-new homes won’t be guaranteed the level of quality built into these low-income apartments. Let’s hope the administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe takes note and changes course.

___________________________

Ivy Main is chairman of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Contact her at ivymain@cox.net.

Virginia Leads Southeast in Nationwide Ranking of Affordable Green Building

Check out pages 19-20 in Virginia Town and Country Magazine and read all about how Virginia is a leader in green building.

Richmond BizSense Highlights Sustainable Leadeership Awards

BizSense newsbites: Announcements, awards and other tidbits for 4.22.14

EarthCraft Virginia announced the winners of its annual Sustainable Leadership awards, which included:

• Single-Family Project of the Year and Most Energy Efficient Project of the Year: Bain-Waring Builders,“Near Net-Zero” home in Montpelier
• Multifamily New Construction of the Year: Better Housing Coalition, Beckstoffer’s Mill
• Habitat for Humanity Affiliate of the Year: Richmond Metro Habitat for Humanity
• Visionary Award: Chuk Bowles, co-founder of EarthCraft Virginia

Bain-Waring Builders,“Near Net-Zero” home in Montpelier

Bain-Waring Builders,“Near Net-Zero” home in Montpelier

12/11/13 Healthy Buildings Workshop in Arlington, VA

Take advantage of this rare opportunity to ask national and local building science experts your questions about balancing moisture, ventilation, and energy efficiency. Prepare for the increasing rigor in energy codes and green building programs, and learn the principals of managing moisture in tight multi-family residential buildings.

If you haven’t yet reserved your seat, kindly do so by Monday December 9, 2013.  Registration is required and seats are limited.

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Register Now! Earth Day 5K!

Join EarthCraft Virginia for our second 5K Race Without a Trace. You can run a 5K anywhere, any day, but this 5K offers a gorgeous, riverfront course that helps support our environment. The course offers runners access to areas and islands along the river in downtown RVA that are opened up only for this running event. After a great morning run, stay and enjoy the official Richmond Earth Day Festival at the historic 17th Street Farmers’ Market.

For race details and registration, click HERE!

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