Going green

They've built more than 250 beige, white or blue houses, but this is the first one that's "green."

Sea Island Habitat for Humanity, a provider of affordable housing, recently built its first house using green material. The organization hopes to gradually incorporate many of the materials and practices from this house into all its future homes.

"There's an interest in Habitat nationwide to move to sustainable housing," said Chuck Swenson, managing director of Sea Island Habitat. "The whole concept of building Earth-friendly is important for all of us. We want a nice place to live, now and in the future."

A switch to green material is good not only for the environment, but for homeowners as well. The energy efficiency of the homes will make them more affordable to maintain.

"Homeowners saving $100 on their energy bill means a lot more to someone in the low-income bracket," said

Nikki Seibert, green building coordinator for Sea Island Habitat.

Seibert organized a Green Building Blitz earlier this month to construct the home in Browns-wood Place on Johns Island. Volunteers included a group of College of Charleston students who insisted on riding their bikes or carpooling from the peninsula.

The material used to make the house energy efficient included light-colored shingles and roof sheathing coated with reflective Radiant Barrier to reduce heat absorption. Windows were Energy Star certified, and a variety of sealants were used on the exterior walls.

The yard was landscaped with native plants that will require less watering.

The house also will be fitted with a solar-powered hot water heater, low-flow water fixtures and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Brad Brown of Liollio Architecture volunteered to help build the house partly because he wanted to see what green methods Sea Island Habitat was using.

"We try to incorporate sustainability in all our designs," he said.

The construction site included piles of materials that later would be recycled, including paper, cardboard, drywall and untreated wood. A company called Wood Not Waste will turn the wood into mulch after extracting nails with a giant magnet, Seibert said. Even the break area was Earth friendly. The coffee was fair trade, sugar was organic, and the cups, bowls, napkins and utensils were made from recycled materials or were recyclable. Sea Island Habitat staff washed the plates used each day instead of buying and throwing away disposable ones. The lunch provided to volunteers came from local restaurants, and food waste was composted. The concepts presented to volunteers were similar to those that Sea Island Habitat homeowners are learning. In addition to classes on subjects such as home maintenance and finances, homeowners are now required to take a class on energy efficiency.

"I love the homeowners, and I feel like there's no one teaching them these really important concepts," Seibert said. "They really get into (the class). You show them they can save money and they really appreciate that."

Seibert hopes others will learn something from Sea Island Habitat's transition to sustainable design as well, she said. "If a nonprofit can go green, then anyone should be able to go green."

Reach Kristen Hankla at 937-5548 or khankla@postandcourier.com

To know more

For more information on Sea Island Habitat for Humanity's green techniques, call 768-0998 or e-mail greenbuild@seaislandhabitat.org