Habitat for Humanity of Wake County is continuously seeking to be a good steward of its entrusted resources. Among Wake County businesses and other Habitat for Humanity affiliates nationwide, Habitat Wake’s construction team is a longtime leader in sustainable building. Additionally, the five Habitat Wake ReStores help divert waste from landfills and have implemented large-scale recycling programs into their best practices. These initiatives, along with Habitat Wake’s ongoing strategic planning and corporate partnerships, embody the organization’s ongoing commitment to sustainable development — a core tenant of the mission.
Efficient building and strategic partnerships
In July 2015, Habitat Wake launched an ambitious three-year strategic plan with the goal of providing 315 families with safe, affordable housing. To help achieve this goal, Habitat Wake secured a 15,000-square foot construction facility. In the for-profit building industry, expanded production generally results in increased waste — huge amounts. However, Habitat Wake has done just the opposite, thanks in part to the new facility and an ongoing 14-year partnership with Advanced Energy, an environmental consulting group. In the one year since the construction facility’s opening, Habitat Wake has claimed its title as a “Green Builder” by using efficient building practices and energy-friendly products in Habitat Wake homes.
The standard Habitat Wake home is 1,200 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths. Habitat Wake staff uses this model strategically to ensure they’re building green, affordable houses. On average, professional builders strive to only waste 10 percent of materials during the framing of the house. At Habitat Wake, the controlled environment of the construction warehouse allows a team of volunteers to precisely pre-cut all framing components. As a result, the construction team has been able to reduce waste during framing to less than .5 percent. Any leftover pieces and scraps are cut down to usable lengths and kept for future projects.
On the build site, volunteers work to install siding, insulation, flooring, roofing, and more. Thanks to strategic local and national partnerships, these volunteers have the opportunity to work with energy-efficient products that make being green easy for the homeowner. One of Habitat Wake’s newest partners, Cotton Incorporated, works with Habitat Wake to provide cotton insulation, which is made out of worn denim that has been recycled into insulation. Valspar provides eco-friendly paint for all Habitat Wake homes, and each Habitat Wake home is equipped with low-flow fixtures and toilets in order to keep water consumption low. Homeowners also receive Energy Star appliances and appropriately-sized HVAC systems, both of which help save energy. Advanced Energy must approve the crawl- and attic-space sealing to ensure that wind and water are kept at bay. Not only are these products better for the environment, they help keep utility costs low, meaning Habitat Wake homes can continue to be affordable for homeowners beyond their mortgage payments.
ReStore programs and initiatives
All Habitat Wake ReStore proceeds support Habitat’s mission to build affordable homes in Wake County. The ReStores’ philosophy is first to reuse if possible, then to recycle, and finally, as a last resort, to dispose in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.
The first and most obvious way the ReStores accomplish this is by diverting thousands of tons of usable material from landfills. In the 2016 fiscal year alone, more than 5,000 tons of furniture, building materials, appliances, and more found a second life at the ReStore instead of being thrown away. Profits from the sale of these materials aided Habitat Wake’s goal of building 50 new homes in that same fiscal year.
The ReStores also go to great lengths to properly recycle as many materials as possible — including junk metal, brass, copper, and electronics. For example, ReStore employees strip the metal that comes out of broken appliances, like raw steel and pot metal. They also remove brass hinges and door knobs, as well as the copper wire in old plumbing fixtures. Finally, unless the electronics can be sold at the eStore, the ReStore sends them to a recycling company that specializes in electronics and ethically disposes of material that can’t be recycled. Not only are these recycling programs keeping waste to a minimum, they are also generating revenue that Habitat Wake can then put back into funding the mission. In the 2016 fiscal year, the ReStores generated $30,000 from recycling programs alone — nearly one-third of the cost of building a Habitat home in Wake County.
In November 2015, the ReStores started ReStore ReMix, a paint up-cycling program based out of the Fuquay-Varina ReStore. As the only project of it’s kind in the state, ReMix has processed more than 3,000 gallons of paint that might have been improperly thrown away or left to dry. One gallon of improperly disposed paint can contaminate up to 250,000 gallons of drinking water. Instead, through the ReMix program, paint that otherwise would have been wasted is being sold in the ReStores and benefiting affordable housing in Wake County.
What you can do
When hardworking families partner with Habitat Wake, they are taking steps towards a sustainable future. In order to build more homes and serve more families, Habitat Wake strives to minimize construction waste and divert trash from the landfills via ReStore efforts. You can join us in making a difference! Sign up today to volunteer on the build site and in the ReStore. You can also donate your gently used items to the ReStores, or give a financial gift to our annual fund, all of which helps us continue to build affordable, sustainable homes in Wake County.