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Pima County partners achieve highest green rating on foreclosed home turned into duplex

Nov 30, 2012 | Read More News
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Pima County’s partnership with a local contractor and a nonprofit has created jobs and turned a vacant, foreclosed home into a duplex that achieved the “greenest” possible rating for energy and water efficiency – Emerald.

Two low-income families are moving in today.

“This is the only Emerald Certification awarded in the state of Arizona” for a renovation, said Shawn Andersen, project manager for the nonprofit Southern Arizona Land Trust (SALT).

With Andersen’s project direction, the contractor converted the run-down house into a beautiful, safe and very energy-efficient home.

“Everything in this house, from the roof to the foundation, has been constructed to save the resident money on their water and electric bills for many years to come,” said Jerry Camp, the general contractor with JC Construction Inc. hired by SALT.

The property southeast of Valencia Road and South Sixth Avenue is one of dozens of vacant, foreclosed homes purchased and renovated for sale or rent through the Pima Neighborhood Investment Partnership (PNIP). Pima County received a $22 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2010 and is collaborating with the City of Tucson and seven local nonprofits to make foreclosed and vacant homes energy efficient, available and affordable in a target area generally south of 22nd Street. SALT received $8 million and has purchased, renovated and rented over 52 homes to low-income families.

The project has helped Camp keep his 15-year-old, family-owned construction business going through tough economic times. “If it hadn’t been for the grant money … I’d probably be running two or three guys,” he said. “That’s it. Now I’ve got 21 guys.”

Camp is proud of his green building record. “I’ve got 42 Silvers, three Golds and an Emerald,” he said about his housing rehabilitation work for the partnership and for the City. He and Andersen worked closely with Amy Patze and Clayton Trevillyan in the County’s and City’s green building programs, respectively, to get the certificates.

The standards of the Regional Residential Green Building Program established by the City and County are comparable to the national LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards without the costly LEED fee for certification – a critical factor in affordable housing projects.

“People say that using Energy Star-rated materials, fixtures, bulbs, etc. increases the construction costs hundreds, even thousands, of dollars,” Camp said. “It doesn’t.”

“There are many ways to find the required points to make the home energy efficient without spending an enormous amount of money,” Andersen said. “Jerry and I have great model we have utilized on every one of our projects to maximize the energy efficiency while keeping construction costs to a minimum.”

Turning the 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom home with a grandmother’s apartment into a duplex gave Andersen and Camp an opportunity to go for an Emerald Certificate because they had to completely gut all but the foundation slab, outside walls and roof.

To create one 3-bedroom/2-bath unit and one 2-bedroom/1-bath unit, with a garage for each, they had to add 500 square feet, replumb the entire property to create two separate water and sewer systems, and rewire for all new electric to correct deficiencies and meet code.

The improvements that helped Andersen and Camp achieve the Emerald rating included:
  • Replacing the home’s swamp cooler with a heat pump for each unit.
  • Increasing the insulation in the ceiling to R-30 and adding three layers of reflective roof coating.
  • Water-efficient toilets, and sink and shower fixtures. “Many time people will only install new shower heads, for example,” Camp said. “We actually go another step further and install new diverters. No matter what shower head you purchase and install, it’s going to be “low flow.”
  • Installing ceramic tile floors instead of carpet.
  • Double-pane windows with argon gas between the panes. “You can touch the window on the inside when it’s 110 degrees outside and it’s still the same temperature as it is in the house,” Camp said.
  • Energy-efficient light fixtures and ceiling fans. “The actual light fixture is low-wattage,” Camp said. “You can use a 60 watt bulb, but it will still be energy efficient.” • Formaldehyde-free cabinets and paint free of volatile organic compounds.
  • Drought-tolerant, low-water-use landscaping with rainwater retention and a high-efficiency irrigation system.
  • All Energy Star-rated appliances.

Camp said his green building work for SALT and PNIP “has transformed how we work and think.” He’s hired an energy specialist to help achieve green building certifications, and together they’re educating homeowners and construction workers about green technology. He started a nonprofit, Green & Healthy Homes Inc. (http://tucsongreenhealthyhomes.com), to raise funds to provide “a healthy living environment for low-income families, especially those with children and seniors.”

Camp praises the Pima County One-Stop Career Center for helping him hire the local and lower-income workers the federal grant required.

“You know what’s good about One-Stop?” Camp said, repeating his phone conversation with the center personnel. “’Hey, I need some guys.’ ‘How many do you need? What do you need?’ “You call them up. You send over your reference sheet. They set up a room and they set up all your appointments within a half hour. I sit in there at a desk and they bring them in. I mean wow! What an organization!”

Camp also hired “7, 8, 10 guys from the neighborhood.”

“If they could do a couple more grants like this,” he said, “I think they could really help the economy out a lot.”

For more information, please visit:
Pima Neighborhood Investment Partnership: www.pnip.org
Southern Arizona Land Trust: www.saltproperty.com
JC Construction Inc.: http://www.jcconstructionarizona.net/