Affordable + Green Homes Are Possible Via BuildBetter Program

Habitat for Humanity’s BuildBetter with Whirlpool initiative helps cut down on families’ energy bills.

“Don’t touch the thermostat!” … a phrase that will no doubt reverberate across local households as we struggle to keep our energy bills low—especially during the sweltering NC summer.

Enter Habitat for Humanity’s BuildBetter with Whirlpool program, which helps homeowners alleviate the impact of climate change via more energy-efficient and resilient homes. Now, NC’s Habitat for Humanity affiliates are furthering the cause for Raleighites.  

The Whirlpool partnership is an expansion of Habitat for Humanity’s BuildBetter program, which plans to build ~250 affordable, climate-resilient and energy-efficient homes in the next three years (how’s that for a triple dub?)—with the new collab expanding the initiative’s efforts. 

As part of the program this year, participating affiliates can pursue energy-efficient home upgrades, including Energy Star, SystemVision, active ready radon mitigation systems, homebuyer disaster-readiness education and Fortified Home designations.

“When we launched the BuildBetter with Whirlpool initiative, we established a baseline goal of a 15% increase in energy efficiency over typical new construction homes,” says Adrienne Goolsby, senior vice president of the U.S. and Canada Habitat for Humanity International. “We are currently in the process of a formal study that monitors the progress of the three-year initiative, and we aim to have results of the BuildBetter with Whirlpool program available in 2025.”

The efforts are clearly much-needed. To keep up with the rising energy rates (which have increased by 7.7% since last year), low-income households across the country shelled out almost 13% of their incomes on utility bills, with many NC residents giving up basic essentials such as food/medicine to foot the costs. 

Through the BuildBetter initiative, 143 out of 250 climate-resilient and energy-efficient new build homes are complete or in progress, and 120 more homes will be built in 2023. And joining the effort are six local Habitat for Humanity branches (Durham, Greensboro, Orange County,Ashe County, Goldsboro-Wayne and our very own Wake County)—with each committed to incorporating energy-efficient features. Think water-conserving plumbing and high-efficiency heating/cooling appliances in new home construction projects this year. 

“This is the most rewarding job I’ve had in my entire life—and I’ve served 29 years in the military,” says Avis Rankins, who originally started as a volunteer and currently works as a construction site supervisor at the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity. “I love this even more than what I did in the service because I’m doing this for a whole different reason. I’m improving my community where I was raised. I’m making somebody else’s life easier.”For those wanting to offer a helping hand, volunteer opps are available for all—whether you want to roll up your sleeves or assist in other ways. “There’s so much we do in a construction arena that doesn’t require heavy lifting. Even if you want to show up and just sit at the table, talk to people or fellowship with the homeowner, please come out,” says Rankins. Building a better community—literally—one person at a time…

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.