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Green Communities

AWARE: A Sustainable Housing Initiative in Ohio

Modeled after the Enterprise Green Communities criteria, the city of Columbus and Franklin County AWARE requirements result in quality affordable housing

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This is a “before” photo of an AWARE gut rehab project.
Image Credit: ECP
This is a “before” photo of an AWARE gut rehab project.
Image Credit: ECP
Here's the “after” photo of the same project.
Image Credit: ECP

By Kim Stands

In 2009, the City of Columbus and Franklin County created and adopted the AWARE Manual (Accessibility, Water Conservation, Air Quality, Resource Conscious, Energy-Efficient) to be the performance standard for federally funded residential projects in both jurisdictions.

The AWARE Manual is modeled after the Enterprise Green Communities criteria to create housing that is healthy, accessible, and environmentally friendly. Homes that meet the AWARE standards, matched with resource-conscious behaviors in the home, can lead to more efficient energy use and lower utility bills.

One key to AWARE: 3 site inspections

Our approach for NSP is to create good products, to support nonprofit and for-profit developers, and to foster home sales and rentals.

Our homegrown Green 101 training is required of all of our developers, spec writers, and contractors before working on NSP-funded projects. For all projects, developers must submit their plans and specifications to be reviewed for compliance with the AWARE Manual. When the units hit the construction phase, everybody involved must attend pre-construction meetings to go over all of the requirements and the inspection procedures.

The City’s housing staff visits the sites regularly and requires 3 different formal inspections:

• The first inspection is for the air infiltration package. This inspection is to make sure that all cracks, crevices, voids, etc. have been sealed properly, as well as the sealing of the ductwork, prior to installing insulation.

• The second is the insulation inspection to verify that all insulation has been installed properly prior to installing drywall.

• The third inspection is a final AWARE inspection. As with a final building inspection, we are making sure that what was specified early on has been installed. This includes Energy Star appliances and light fixtures, low-water-consumption fixtures, and high-efficiency HVAC equipment.

Since the AWARE Manual is an “above the minimum building code” tool, these inspections are a vital part of how we monitor the construction phase of the program.

AWARE works

Successes are being seen on the construction end as well as with home sales. To date, we have finished 43 units with an average HERS score of just over 65, well below the 85 score required to meet Energy Star requirements. Our current low score is a 52! With close to a 50/50 balance of new build houses and gut rehabs, we making great strides in building healthy, accessible, and environmentally friendly homes for people to buy and rent.

You can find the AWARE Manual at the Come Home Central Ohio Affordable Housing Network.

You can find more information on the City of Columbus and Franklin County’s creation and implementation of their green strategy on the Enterprise Green Communities website.

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