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Public Housing Environmental & Conservation Clearinghouse

PIH Green Initiative

On October 16, 2009, HUD released a notice, PIH-2009-43 (HA), encouraging the use of renewable energy and green construction practices in public housing. Through the notice, HUD "strongly encourages Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) to use solar, wind, geothermal/ground coupled heat pumps and other renewable energy sources, and other 'green' construction and rehabilitation techniques whenever they procure for maintenance, construction, or modernization."

It explains that "[p]roperly incorporating green building techniques supports the goals of the President's National Energy Policy by reducing the burden of public housing energy costs while increasing comfort and reducing health risks to public housing residents, and [minimizing] life-cycle costs."

Green building incorporates low impact development, energy efficient system integration, recycling and waste management, water conservation and efficiency, and good indoor air quality throughout the entire lifetime of a building, including its planning, design, construction, renovation, and demolition. The advantages of green building include, but are not limited to: lower utility bills, better indoor environmental quality, higher resale values, preservation of natural resources, less reliance on fossil fuels and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and durability of building materials and structures.

Operations and Maintenance

As part of a green maintenance approach, through this notice, PHA's should introduce no- and low-VOC paint, adhesives and finishes, use Energy Star and WaterSense qualified products, and adopt an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy.

Active participation by residents is extremely important in green maintenance. PHAs can encourage resident participation by providing pertinent information on green maintenance and why these changes and upgrades are beneficial.

Modernization and New Construction

The following national, regional and state green building programs offer information for new construction and building rehabilitation.

  • Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contains green building standards and specifications for the home or entire building.
  • The ENERGY STAR Indoor Air Package provides updates in construction practices and technologies which decrease the risk of poor indoor air quality in new homes. It should be used as a supplement to the website above: Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.
  • Health House© program sponsored by the American Lung Association which promotes increased indoor air quality.
  • The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes Initiative for Affordable Housing promotes sustainable building practices with an emphasis on multi-family homes.
  • Green Communities is sponsored by Enterprise Partners and is a program that provides grants, financing, tax-credit equity and technical assistance for new construction and rehabilitation to existing low-income housing according to the Green Communities green criteria. These criteria are closely aligned with the LEED ratings system.
  • The National Association of Home Builders Green Home Building Program highlights how a developer can integrate green building into residential projects.
  • StopPests.org gives references, tools and training related to Integrated Pest Management.

Green Purchasing

PHAs are encouraged through this notice to purchase green products and equipment such as ENERGY STAR products. This also includes renewable energy sources, when economically feasible. Because utility costs have a large impact in the total effective cost of equipment, PHAs are advised to use life-cycle costing analysis which will account for lower maintenance and savings which are accrued over a specific amount of time.

PHAs should explore all incentives available nationally and locally to help support greening efforts. Most Federal, state and local green- and energy-related incentives are listed in the Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency (DSIRE).

To read the entire notice click here.

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