October 2006

Affordable Housing with Habitat for Humanity

Lead – Janet McIlvane (FSEC.)

Lessons Learned:

Many of Habitat’s passionate volunteers want to build the best houses possible. However, the affiliate must balance enthusiasm with fiscal responsibility. It is essential to engage all of the decision makers in the systems engineering process to develop sustainable solutions.

We have observed that when the BA systems engineering goals support the builder partner’s basic mission and business model, any identified improvement needs become imperative to the builder because it supports their organizational mission. Conversely, when the builder’s mission and philosophy are either loosely defined or counter to the BA goals, no amount of thinking, talking, or training will transform their product into Building America homes.

Building America partners with Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) to improve affordability, durability, and energy efficiency of the homes built by HFHI’s 1600+ domestic affiliates. The BAIHP team has partnered with Habitat since 1995 when HFHI kicked off its Environmental Initiative providing technical assistance in the design, specification, and construction of 420 Energy Star Habitat homes and 260 near Energy Star homes.

The partnership has generated a rich body of collective experience from “blitz” builds, as well as a cohesive set of web based and hardcopy documents that give HFH affiliates practical guidance on energy efficiency, indoor air quality, combustion safety, moisture mitigation, and “green” building. In 2003, Habitat International adopted Energy Star certification as one of only two “Construction Best Practices;” an indicator of commitment from the highest levels of Habitat International.

Building America researchers also provide training to Habitat volunteers and construction staff at Habitat conferences and fast paced “blitz” builds including the 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2005 Jimmy Carter Work Projects.

Photo of workers building a house.
Habitat volunteers at the 2003 Jimmy Carter Work Project in LaGrange, GA.

BAIHP energy efficiency recommendations for Habitat homes need to meet four criteria to be successfully integrated into Habitat's construction process. They must be:

  • Cost effective and proven
  • Volunteer friendly
  • Readily available in current market
  • Easily maintained and repaired


Builders :

50 Habitat for Humanity Affiliates in: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia.


Summary of Building America activity with Habitat for Humanity International and its domestic affiliates: http://www.baihp.org/partners/BuilderPartners/hfh.htm

Support of Habitat for Humanity International’s Congress Building America program: http://www.baihp.org/casestud/hfh_partner/index.htm


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