A unique new home for a low-income family was honored with the highest LEED for Homes certification level yesterday by USGBC President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi prior to the kickoff for Greenbuild 2009 in Phoenix.

The first concrete Net-Zero Energy home in central Arizona was built by Habitat for Humanity in 12 weeks with the dedication of over 300 volunteers, says Habitat superintendent James Ball. The home is expected to produce more energy than it consumes.

“This will be the nucleus of change that goes around this entire neighborhood,” Fedrizzi says.

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USGBC President/CEO Rick Fedrizzi congratulates Portland Cement Association residential committee chairman Scott Palmer on the LEED platinum certification of a Habitat for Humanity-constructed concrete home in Phoenix. Photo: Scott Blair

Constructed using insulating concrete forms, the building envelope is expected to reduce utility costs by 40-60% over conventional wood construction.  In addition, the 1,325-sq-ft home with detached garage has a specially designed roof system with low solar reflecting concrete roofing tiles and a building integrated photovoltaic solar roof system which will contribute to an Energy Star HERS index of -4.

Habitat for Humanity is no stranger in pairing sustainability with community outreach in Arizona. In 2008, the Central Arizona chapter became the first Habitat affiliate to build a LEED platinum home, and is in the process of certifying over 50 other homes in the Phoenix area.

Scott Palmer, chair of the residential committee of Portland Cement Association, the project’s sponsor, says that the project scored 114.5 on the LEED certification, far exceeding the 80 points required for platinum.
“Not only have we developed a high-performance home that will exceed the stringent regulations set forth in the current Energy Bill for new home construction, but more importantly, we have provided a very high quality and beautiful home for a deserving family,” Palmer adds.

Just a few houses away, Habitat for Humanity is in the middle of a five-day construction schedule to fully build another Net Zero house for the Varela family, a mother and two teenage children who currently occupy a small studio apartment with no bedrooms. “Owning my own home has been my dream for a very long time,” says Maria Varela, future Habitat homeowner. “I am grateful and proud to finally be able to provide a safe and stable home for my children.”

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Volunteers work on the Habitat for Humanity five-day project, coinciding with Greenbuild 09. Photo: Scott Blair

The short construction window coincides with the Greenbuild 09 conference, being held at the LEED-silver Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix. Attendance has held up relatively well considering the economy, with 24,000 attendees registered as of Nov. 10 compared to 28,000 attendees at last year’s conference hosted by Boston. Marie Coleman, associate of communications with the USGBC, expects higher attendance figures tonight once Wednesday’s new registrants are accounted for.