Financial investments made by the Initiative and its partners over the past decade are returning dividends in the form of affordable, green homes, energy efficient commercial spaces, green economy jobs and savvy energy consumers across North Carolina.
The Initiative’s Green Agenda has strategically focused resources to promote a sustainable North Carolina through community projects in real estate development, research and testing, conservation, workforce development and consumer education.
“North Carolina is a national leader in sustainability and green economy innovation,” says N.C. Community Development Initiative CEO Abdul Rasheed. “We’ve been able to leverage and enhance the state’s expertise in this area to benefit our state’s lowest-resourced communities, which arguably need those energy cost savings and energy-economy jobs the most.”
Investments transform affordable home building
The Initiative and its partner, the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, were honored in November for a green agenda investment made a decade ago.
Advanced Energy, the building science nonprofit located at N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, presented special Partner Awards to the two organizations for investing in and helping create SystemVision, the nation’s first guaranteed energy efficiency program for affordable housing.
Each SystemVision home is ENERGY STAR® certified and comes with heating and cooling and comfort guarantees. Advanced Energy monitors the energy use of each home for two years to ensure energy usage does not exceed the guarantee, which is typically around $25 to $30 in heating and cooling costs each month. If a home exceeds the guarantee, Advanced Energy addresses any issue and pays back the difference to the homeowner. The Initiative’s $1 million investment covered the extra cost of building homes that met ENERGY STAR® standards.
As a result, more than 100 developers of affordable housing integrating energy-saving features into homes across the state, saving the low-income working families who purchased them more than $3.4 million in energy costs and reducing the state’s energy consumption. In addition, SystemVision created a game-changing shift in the way homes are built today.
“This is a great example of how North Carolina’s community economic development sector leads innovation that yields economic and environmental returns not only for low-income families and communities but for our state as a whole,” Rasheed says.
Joint venture yields building innovation
The Initiative teamed with UDI CDC in Durham in 2003 to launch Carolina Steel Solutions. The company focuses on producing green, energy efficient and durable building materials for use in the construction of affordable housing. It also aims to create a sustainable revenue stream to support community economic development in the state.
In 2011, Carolina Steel Solutions introduced a new product with the potential to revolutionize the residential and commercial building industry. Its new steel-and-foam-panel system, Tavacore, is made from sustainable materials and is stronger, lighter and more energy efficient than wood, and it costs less to build and own. For that reason, it holds particular promise for community development corporations that build housing for low-income families.
“When you compare the total costs of Tavacore to traditional building materials, like wood or concrete, we’re about 10 percent less expensive,” said Carolina Steel CEO Alan Freuler. “Equally important, the long-term cost of ownership of a property built using Tavacore is far less, too. Our energy efficient panels can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 50 percent.”
The light-gauge recycled steel framing that Carolina Steel produces can withstand hurricane force winds up to 180 miles per hour and is resistant to fire, mold and insects. A 1,200-square-foot home can be built from recycling five junk cars, compared to traditional construction, which would require clear cutting 1.5 acres of forest.
Grantee organizations pioneer green building practices
Initiative-funded organizations have pioneered other green and energy efficient technologies and opportunities in low-income communities across the state.
Northeastern Community Development Corp., for instance, incorporated a range of green features in its Winnie Wood Child Development Center in Elizabeth City. The highly rated child care center features a solar hot water heater and a natural “playscape” playground.
Goler Community Development Corp.’s energy-efficient townhomes in Winston-Salem comply with the ENERGY STAR® and SystemVision standards and seek to set a new construction standard for the city.
East Carolina Community Development Inc.’s Glenstal senior apartments in Jacksonville features a rain water harvesting system to water its community garden.
Mountain Housing Opportunities’s Glen Rock Depot in Asheville is the first mixed-use LEED-certified building in Asheville.
Pilot project tests community partnerships for weatherization
Five N.C. community organizations, including three community development corporations (CDCs) and two community action program (CAP) agencies, are participating in the Initiative’s $75,000 pilot project funded by the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center to test strategies for collaborating and pooling resources to serve low-income communities.
Three participating groups are exploring opportunities for CAP agencies to subcontract with CDCs. The CDCs are serving as intake coordinators for the CAP agencies, finding local families who are good candidates for the weatherization work. Ultimately, they plan to become certified subcontractors to perform the work. The groups expect the project will create green economy jobs as well as generate revenue they can use to sustain their organizations.
Two other participating groups are collaborating to produce educational workshops on improving energy efficiency for community residents and local builders that can also serve as a training model in other communities across North Carolina.
LaVett Saddler, the Initiative’s residential real estate development officer, will present the program findings at the N.C. Community Action Association’s annual conference in May.
Teaching energy savings to low-income families
Another of the Initiative’s Green Agenda grantees is exploring creative ways to promote energy saving through education.
Clean Energy Durham has developed an innovative neighbors-teaching-neighbors energy savings program that helps residents in low-income communities and elsewhere learn how to reduce energy consumption and expenses. The model is designed as a continuous neighbor-to-neighbor program, in which a community member learns not only how to save energy at home but also how to teach the energy-saving techniques to others.
Clean Energy Durham is using grant funding to develop a business plan and training materials that could be effectively and affordably offered to other communities.
Providing green jobs, training at-risk youth
Another Green Agenda grant recipient, Green Opportunities (GO) in Asheville, is using the Initiative’s investment to complete the design of its collaborative model for a green jobs creation and training program.
The program prepares young adults for green jobs through trainings and apprenticeships, and it works closely with local businesses and neighborhoods to find job placements for program participants and reduce unemployment.
GO plans a two-day retreat and one-on-one coaching sessions for groups that are interested in using the model. Teams of organizations from communities across the state will attend the April retreat in Asheville to learn about the model and how the team members can partner with each other to grow their capacity and replicate the model successfully in their communities.
GO is also introducing a new culinary program this spring that is designed to train participants for culinary careers while educating them on the economic importance of supporting local farmers by using locally grown ingredients.
The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit www.ncinitiative.org.