Guest blogger Jessica Rick is the special programs coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Michigan.

As our communities grow and develop throughout Michigan, it is important that we keep in mind the impact that our growth has on the environment and on each other. Every home uses energy, water, and natural resources, and it is up to us as builders and developers to make sure that these resources are being used in a sustainable manner. Habitat for Humanity is leading the way in sustainable building practices, which means safer and healthier homes for our partner families.

Habitat for Humanity of Michigan (HFHM) started the Sustainable Building Program in 2008 to serve low-income families throughout Michigan with high performance housing solutions. This program trains, educates, and coaches leaders to successfully transform and improve the way homes are built, rehabilitated and repaired, as well as to educate others in the building community to achieve the highest sustainable levels of performance in new construction housing. Our Michigan Habitat for Humanity affiliates are continuously achieving national recognition as sustainable leaders in affordable housing – they are building new homes that are at least 55 percent better than code requirements and that incorporate renewable energy.

The Sustainable Building program has benefited families by improving indoor air quality, and by providing safer living conditions, more durable and resilient structures and improved usability by individuals with disabilities. The program also results in financial savings for families through reduced maintenance, repair costs and utility bills – savings that can be used for other priorities such as health and medical bills, and other basic needs.

As a way to impact more families, communities, and neighborhoods, Michigan affiliates are serving more families through home repairs. Unlike many repair programs that have a specific goal or task in mind, Michigan affiliates assess a home from a holistic perspective.  By using a comprehensive tool, the home’s defects and deficiencies, along with the functional needs of the family will be assessed, ranked, and then prioritized to follow a “critical path” methodology. This approach helps to eliminate the dangers that can come about by performing work in the wrong order, while focusing first on the family’s safety, health, and security.

For example, an affiliate may receive a work request from a family who has noticed mold forming on their walls. Instead of coming in and simply removing the mold, the home is scrutinized for other preexisting issues, which may include the cause of the mold, such as a leaking roof. The repairs can then be prioritized, so that the leak is repaired and the mold is prevented from coming back.

The Sustainable Building program would not be possible without the partnerships and support received from DTE Energy Foundation, Consumers Energy Foundation, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Dow Chemical Company, and many others. We are excited to continue finding new and innovative ways to lower our environmental impact and make our homes healthier, safer and more energy efficient for families all across Michigan.

To learn more about Habitat Michigan’s Sustainable Building Program, please contact Thom Phillips, Sustainable Housing Director at, or Special Programs Coordinator Jessica Rick at

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