Friday, April 17, 2009

"Rehab for Humanity" by Harvey Yoder

Here’s an idea for challenging economic times I’ve been mulling around for some time. In a time when the building industry is in a slump and construction workers are hungry for work, why not launch a community wide effort we might call “Rehab for Humanity - A Community Energy-Saving Initiative”?

The goal of this movement would be to promote the renovation of as many area homes and other buildings as possible to make them more energy efficient, and to help people accomplish this as cost effectively as possible.

A part of a strategy to accomplish this might involve urging local banks to provide special rehab loans at affordable rates for approved individuals, with repayment plans based in part on resulting energy savings.

It would also involve forming an advisory and oversight group to determine eligibility criteria for low-cost loans and grants, including the availability of some of the billion dollars that will supposedly be available as a part of the new stimulus package. This group would also enlist home inspectors trained to do energy audits and cost estimates for interested home owners, help homeowners connect with reputable local bankers and builders for competitive bids, and advise individual persons on tax and other available benefits in doing their home improvement projects.

The benefits, from my perspective, are obvious. We would be promoting improvements that can eventually pay for themselves, help provide a grassroots-based stimulus to our local economy and the larger US economy, and contribute to good outcomes like a cleaner environment and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to our becoming a more energy sustainable, energy conserving, and energy conscious community.

In addition, industries that manufacture replacement windows and storm door, insulation and related materials would benefit, and a spin-off might be increased investments in more energy efficient lighting, appliances and heating and cooling equipment.

Most folks I’ve talked to seem to agree that it’s a good idea, if we can just get enough good leadership and a community-wide effort to get it going.

If we’re really interested in a green and clean future, and are serious about wanting to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, it would be shame to have even one construction worker idle or underemployed while there is even one building in the area that is wasting energy into thin air.

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