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Habitat home benefits family, environment
By C. T. BOWEN, Editor of Editorials
Published June 27, 2007
West Pasco Habitat for Humanity is going green. Not cash. Pro-environment.
The county's oldest Habitat chapter is building its 14th house and its third at a Moon Lake construction site. But the cinder blocks (except for the already installed foundation) and the wood trusses won't be used this time.
This morning, volunteers are scheduled to gather at 7:30 and begin assembling 1, 200 square feet of living space among walls of insulated expanded polystyrene foam and sheets of metal. The 45-inch-wide panels snap together, leaving vaulted ceilings on the interior and a weatherproof, hurricane resistant exterior that can sustain winds of up to 140 mph. The structure is supposed to be up by 5 p.m. today.
Here's the good part. There is no need for insulation, and the electric bills should be half of what they would run a typically constructed home. It's Habitat's first of the so-called green homes in Pasco and just the fourth in Florida built by the charity.
The walls' strength, exceeding building codes, should mean an insurance savings as well.
The beneficiaries are a single mother, Melissa Weiss, and her three children. Weiss, 36, a full-time nursing student, followed her parents to Florida nine years ago. She and the kids - Ryan, 17, Alex, 13, and Susanna, 12 - live in a rental house in Holiday.
Today, she plans to take pictures. The kids aren't allowed on the job site. They'll be with the grandparents in Spring Hill.
Tuesday morning, Weiss gathered up the construction litter and tried to stay out of the way as crews cut the panels and smoothed the edges in anticipation of a daylong assembly of the shell.
Interior walls, the ceiling, plumbing and electrical work will come later as volunteers and supplies are available. The targeted move-in date is sometime after the first of the year.
Weiss has never owned a house. She started out as a Habitat volunteer, then submitted the application to participate. She's painted, policed the grounds, run water to the construction crews, or done anything that needs doing.
"What have I done?" she asked rhetorically, "what haven't I done?"
It is part of Habitat's well-known formula. The future homeowner provides 500 hours of sweat equity in exchange for the home and a 20-year no-interest mortgage to cover the cost of materials. Estimated costs are $60, 000 to $70, 000. Estimated appraisal of the finished house is at least $150, 000.
"It's not free. We don't give them away, " emphasized Jeanie R. Almo, construction manager for West Pasco Habitat for Humanity.
There are up to 5, 000 hours of donated labor on each Habitat home and contributions or discounted materials from, among others, Home Depot, Publix, Whirlpool, B.E.T.E.R Mix, Larson Storm Doors and Hunter Douglas window treatments.
Labor comes from students at the New Port Richey Marine Institute, and Fred K. Marchman Technical Education Center students will do the air conditioning and electrical work.
The green aspect is courtesy of Vision Builders of New Port Richey, which arranged for materials at cost and a work crew, some from as far away as Fort Myers, to do the installation today and help train Habitat's own volunteers to work with the energy-efficient foam and metal walls.
The two neighboring homes in Moon Lake, constructed by Habitat (of traditional building materials) but not yet occupied, are pale yellow and pale green. Weiss can have whatever exterior color she wants, said Almo. Weiss said she'll take whatever they give her.
Figure it likely will be beige or pale blue. The irony of the color selection is not lost on Almo.
"You know, " she mused, "this is the one we should have painted green."