Green Habitat

The charitable homebuilder is switching to more energy-efficient methods.

Habitat for Humanity already has a great track record for building affordable housing in urban areas. Now that charitable program is adding a "green" component, making its homes even more affordable.

The Pinellas County Habitat chapter completed its first "green" home on 25th Street S. in Midtown St. Petersburg last week, part of its "Improving Our Homes" program.

The biggest cost savings are expected to come from a Styrofoam-like mold used to create concrete walls that fit together in a process similar to Legos construction. The material is called Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICFs.

"We were looking at how expensive it is for our homeowners to live in Pinellas County, and we found that the cost of insurance, taxes and energy utility costs consume most of the money that should be going towards housing," said Scot Montjoy, construction manager at Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County.

The ICFs insulate the homes so well that Habitat has been able to use smaller air conditioners.

"In the hot part of the summer, a person can leave their house in the morning to go to work, come back after work, and the temperature would not have changed more than 3 or 4 degrees, and the A/C would have never come on," Montjoy said.

Covering the ICFs in stucco or vinyl siding makes the homes more energy efficient and more durable while minimizing maintenance costs. Habitat will add new tankless gas water heaters and more efficient air-conditioning equipment, and the homes will be tested by the Florida Solar Energy Institute for Energy Star compliance.

"We can't fix taxes," Montjoy said, "but we can address energy efficiency, insurance friendliness and long-term durability."

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