Meet the six winners of this year’s Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, held in partnership with Bethesda Green
Construction with Care
Whether it’s constructing a new home, renovating an old one, or weatherizing one that’s inefficient, protecting the environment is an element that’s high on the punch list of builders with Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland.
The Silver Spring-based nonprofit is one of about 1,300 independent Habitat affiliates in the United States that build affordable homes and rehab vacant, distressed or foreclosed houses, and then sell the properties to people who have a demonstrated need. In 2011, Habitat Metro Maryland launched a repair and weatherization program, completing 115 projects to date at an average cost of about $10,000.
“We do a whole-house audit to look for critical safety issues and ways to reduce energy costs,” says Jeff Dee, development director for the local organization, which receives hundreds more applications than it can fulfill each year.
Through the program, Habitat volunteers gave Adele Biancarelli’s 1950s-era ranch home in Silver Spring a new roof, a ramp, energy-efficient appliances and attic insulation in 2017. The 66-year-old retired widow, who is disabled and lives on a fixed income, says the improvements have made her home more comfortable and reduced her energy bills. “It was like a dream,” Biancarelli says. “There is no way I’d have gotten the work done otherwise.”
The organization aims to reuse, recycle and salvage whatever it can from its projects. When a distressed house is gutted, as much of the material as possible is repurposed. Each year, the local Habitat organization diverts nearly 1,200 tons of waste away from county landfills, donating appliances, construction material and furniture to its two public resale outlets, called ReStore, in Rockville and Silver Spring, Dee says.
Sustainability has long been part of the nonprofit’s work, but there has been greater emphasis in recent years, says John Paukstis, president and CEO of the Maryland affiliate. “We not only want to provide a decent, affordable house, we want to make it energy efficient so there are not high energy bills once they move in,” he says. That means adding insulation, installing appliances that meet Energy Star standards, and using water conservation techniques in plumbing.
“We talk about sustainability efforts with everyone we meet—government, business sponsors and the faith community,” Paukstis says. “It’s always part of our message.”