YouthBuild Akron, Ohio Goes for LEED with CertainTeed


Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

CertainTeed and our parent company Saint-Gobain have a three-year partnership with YouthBuild USA providing expertise and products for projects they are undertaking in various cities around the U.S.  Last week, I conducted some training programs for the YouthBuild organization in Akron, Ohio on the building envelope and how to select products to help them meet their LEED goals. YouthBuild helps train young adults in green building techniques and construction practices on hands-on projects in their community.

This project is a renovation of an existing home and based on the information from their design charrette, they may reach LEED Platinum which would be awesome not only for a low income housing project but as far as I can tell it is the first LEED H Platinum project in Akron.  The best part is that the house next to this home was previously rehabbed by YouthBuild and is nearly identical in layout so they should be able to do some comparisons of the energy savings.  Of course, results won’t be as “cut and dry” as we might like because you can’t control the behaviors of the occupants.  However, we should be able to get some relative comparisons as the homes are of identical size with identical orientations.

Based on the products and systems Akron YouthBuild are planning to use, they are hoping to renovate to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score of 65. This means that the home consumes 35 percent less energy than what is building code standard of 100.  This is a very aggressive score. HERS is a program of the Residential Energy Services Network and a registered HERS rater is working with them on this project.

While not all the products/systems have been selected, during our visit we made some suggestions especially for insulation, gypsum and roofing based on their goals and the building assembly to help with the EPP (Environmentally Preferable Products).  We were also able to add points because of the proximity of CertainTeed plants to the project location.

It is great to see these projects educating builders of the future in green and sustainable techniques. I also believe it sends the right message to the community in that a sustainable habitat is possible for everyone.

YouthBuild Inspires on a Cold Winter Day in Philadelphia

Current building

At this time of year, many of us are looking for something inspiring to get us in the holiday spirit.  That “something” came for me during a recent partnership announcement between Saint-Gobain, CertainTeed and YouthBuild USA.

It was a very cold day in North Philadelphia. Representatives from Saint-Gobain, CertainTeed, the City of Philadelphia and YouthBuild stood on the street in front of a corner home that had been vacant for 20 years. That vacancy is destined to end soon, because the house will be renovated by the YouthBuild Charter School of Philadelphia with support from Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed. When completed, this building will again be an affordable home that is may be LEED certified, for a first-time homebuyer.

Artist rendering of renovation

But it was not the partnership or the scope of the project that inspired me.  It was seeing and hearing the excitement in the nearly 200 teens and young adults who are part of the YouthBuild Charter School and who will work on this project. These students had dropped out of high school but, realizing that they needed to make a change in their lives, found their way to YouthBuild. Together with the YouthBuild staff, they are studying for their GED and learning skills in the building trades that will help them secure jobs when they finish the program. That was inspiring!

Two of the students shared their stories; teen pregnancy, substance abuse, criminal activity – you get the idea. You could feel that their stories were representative of most of the students braving the cold, winter air.  The spirit on the street was overwhelming and particularly so when Dorothy Stoneman, president and founder of the YouthBuild USA program spoke about their commitment. That was inspiring! 

YouthBuild was started by Stoneman in East Harlem, New York in 1978 to address core issues facing low-income communities – housing, education, employment, crime prevention, leadership development and she has seen the program grow to 273 programs in 45 states, Washington, D.C. and the Virgin Islands. 92,000 YouthBuild students have built 19,000 units of affordable, increasingly green, housing since 1994.  That was inspiring!

As this partnership develops and our experts, like our main blogger Lucas Hamilton, help train YouthBuild students in green techniques, product knowledge and best practices in building we will share more inspiration.  Have you been inspired recently?