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Habitat for Humanity Builds Green

Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County (Habitat SKC) chapter is now recognized for another reason: its green building practices.

Earlier this year at the 2017 Annual Built Green Conference, Built Green awarded the Judge’s Choice Hammer Award to the Habitat SKC for a 9-plex building in Renton and a single-family home in a veterans’ development in Pacific. In the past year, this chapter of Habitat for Humanity built and certified ten 4-Star units, bringing their total to 91 certified units since 2001. 

Lisa Henry started as an AmeriCorps Crew Lead over 12 years ago and now works as Habitat SKC’s Construction and AmeriCorps Project Manager. When asked about what Habitat SKC does, Lisa said that their primary goal is to “build, renovate, and repair homes in partnership with low-income families. Homes are sold at an affordable rate to first-time, income-qualified homebuyers. These homebuyers participate in the building process and in education about budgeting, home maintenance, and home insurance.” For many in the program, Habitat SKC provides the opportunity of home ownership.

Greta Tjeltveit also worked with Habitat SKC for nearly two years as an AmeriCorps member and served as a construction crew lead. She says that the largest barrier to homeownership is the down payment: “Many of these people are renting, and when a third of your income goes to housing, it isn’t easy to save money for a down payment. To offset the cost of the down payment, Habitat for Humanity allows families to use sweat equity.” 

Each family is required to do 250 hours of sweat equity by helping to build the house they will one day live in. “When you put in work on your own home, you take pride in being an owner of the house. You care about the details and the quality of craftsmanship that goes into your home,” Greta stated. In addition to sweat equity, Habitat SKC homebuyers are also selected based on their income (60% or less of the area median income) and ability to pay. 

But it isn’t enough to be affordable. According to Lisa, “Habitat SKC builds quality, healthy, sustainable homes that are energy efficient and properly ventilated while utilizing easy-to-maintain systems,” and it is because of this mission that Habitat SKC partnered with Built Green over ten years ago. 

Lisa continues, “Built Green aligns with our mission to provide healthy sustainable homes at an affordable mortgage rate. The Built Green process is easily integrated into our design and build process.  We utilize approximately 80% volunteer labor in our construction projects and the Built Green methods are simple enough that our skilled construction staff are able to successfully teach unskilled volunteers.”

“It’s not just making sure that the homeowners could afford to live there, but also about creating a healthy environment for them to live in,” Greta added. Built Green homes help by providing a set of rigorous standards to ensure good indoor air quality, durability, energy efficiency, and water efficiency. Building green has also opened new opportunities for partnership with other like-minded community organizations and funders. “It challenges us to be better stewards of our resources and continually improve our efficiencies of material use,” says Lisa.

Some homebuyers come from crowded living conditions, so Habitat SKC wants to ensure that their new home gives the family the best indoor air quality to avoid conditions like mold and alleviate problems from illnesses like asthma. Building green also means the home is more comfortable and affordable. Lisa also mentioned that “Habitat SKC homeowners enjoy the heating and cooling capabilities of the ductless heat pump units that efficiently condition their home. Additionally, many families value the ENERGY STAR appliances, particularly the energy- and water-efficient washing machine.”

Some are so grateful that they continue to give back. Greta mentioned that one man in Federal Way was so moved by his own experience with Habitat SKC that he continued to help build other Habitat for Humanity homes. 

Habitat for Humanity homes are more than just homes; these homes provide stability and become the cornerstone for families’ lives. Certifying these homes as Built Green protects the environment while ensuring that the families can continue to live happily and healthily in the houses for generations. As Greta said at the end of her interview, “Habitat for Humanity makes you believe in humanity.”

Be sure to be on the lookout for future Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County homes! There are seven more homes in Pacific and ten homes in Sammamish underway as Built Green projects. The homes in Sammamish are also enrolled in Built Green’s and Cascade Water Alliance’s WaterSense incentive. Lisa affirms, “Habitat SKC plans to continue utilizing a Built Green 3-Star minimum for future projects around King County.”


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