By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 2, 2008 - The future is getting "greener," and so are the houses Homes for Our Troops will build in the future, thanks to a $1 million grant from The Sierra Club Foundation. The grant will allow the organization to build environment-friendly homes.
"We are excited to increase the green building we incorporate into the homes we build for the severely injured veterans we assist," said John Gonsalves, Homes for Our Troops president and founder. "This grant will allow us to incorporate state-of-the-art building techniques and materials such as geothermal heating systems and photovoltaic solar panels to give our veterans the long-term economic and environmental benefits of green building."
The Sierra Club Foundation is happy to help Homes for Our Troops in that endeavor and give back to servicemembers and their families at the same time.
"We're thrilled to be able to give back to families that have given so much to our country," said Peter Martin, director of The Sierra Club Foundation. "We hope this project will demonstrate how easy it is to save energy at home. We can lower our energy bills, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create jobs in the green building sector at the same time."
Spread over three years, the grant also will allow Homes for Our Troops to reach out to educate the public and builders about green building, said Dawn Teixeira, the troop-support organization's vice president.
"What we'll do with the grant is pretty much educate ourselves and create a program to kind of start our homes to be green," Teixeira said. "We kind of are hoping to use these houses also as a teaching tool."
The program to begin making the houses Homes for Our Troops builds greener already is in the works, and Teixeira said she anticipates the first of the environmentally conscious homes will appear within the next year. The potential exists for all of the 100 homes the organization plans to build over the next three years to be green homes, she added.
Going green isn't without geographic challenges, however.
For instance, a home the organization recently built and presented to an injured veteran in Denver is "green." Denver, with 300 days of sun each year, is perfect for solar energy technology, Teixeira said.
"Minnesota on the other hand, is not," she said, referring to a home that was presented to another injured veteran in St. Paul yesterday. "So, we [had] to use different technologies."
Homes for Our Troops officials hope to work with companies trying to market green technologies to take some of the challenge out of the equation. The partnership seems serendipitous.
"There are so many companies out there that have these products that are not in the market place," Teixeira said. "We think that we're the perfect vehicle to help them get them out there."
Homes for Our Troops, a supporter of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, has completed 30 homes since October 2005 for veterans seriously injured while serving in the global war on terrorism. America Supports You connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.