Habitat for Humanity builds 'zero energy ready' home in Ohio

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Posted at 10:34 AM, Jan 27, 2022

CANTON, Ohio — When a Northeast Ohio family received the keys to their first home Wednesday, they also unlocked what some hope is the future of affordable, sustainable housing.

Bradley and Marjorie Tyson have been renting for the past decade, but their homeownership dream is becoming a reality thanks to a partnership with Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio.

"We needed health, we needed stability, we needed to own something, instead of just rent and never feel like we were going to get out of that kind of lifestyle," Marjorie Tyson said.

The couple began seriously hunting for a house to own when they noticed their young daughters' allergies were aggravated by poor ventilation, dust, mold and other conditions in their rental units.

Their search was quickly halted by soaring home costs and limited options on the market. At first, their application to Habitat for Humanity was denied, but the organization later reached out with a unique opportunity.

Habitat homeowners typically help build their own houses with volunteers, take financial literacy classes and purchase their homes with an affordable zero-interest mortgage.

"We provide the opportunity for families to have the dream of homeownership," said Beth Lechner, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio.

But the Tysons' new home is not a typical Habitat for Humanity home.

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Design and manufacturing company Saint-Gobain donated the "zero energy ready" house as part of its Sustaining Futures, Raising Communities initiative.

"With a set of solar panels on top, it would use nothing off the grid, which means long-term, you don't have heating bills, you don't have electrical bills. It makes it very affordable on a day-to-day basis," said Mark Rayfield, the CEO of Saint-Gobain North America.

Saint-Gobain donated the Canton home to Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio. Builders selected many of the home's construction materials to maximize sustainability.

Northeast Ohio-based Charis Homes built the house with sustainable techniques and materials.

"We think it's incumbent on all of us to look at sustainability for the future and so this is the launching pad for that," Lechner said.

Lechner hopes the Tysons' home will be the first of many zero energy ready homes.

"If families have lower utility bills, if families can live in a home that's sustainable, that's certainly going to help them in the long run with their overall costs and affordability," she said.

The Tyson family said they didn't consider sustainability when initially searching for a home, but they were pleasantly surprised by the added benefit.

"We're so overwhelmed with so much joy, expectation to see how it performs, [we're] really excited," Marjorie Tyson said.

Saint-Gobain will monitor the home's energy performance and the family's experience living in it. Next year, Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio plans to build another highly efficient home with its volunteers using the company's materials and guidance.

This story was originally published by Catherine Ross on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.