Welsh: Recycling meets green building

Nancy Welsh talks

Nancy Welsh talks "extreme green" and Builders of Hope in advance of her visit to Portland. (Photo by Jennifer Kromhout.)

This week Portland plays host to a wealth of sustainability expertise, including Nancy Welsh, the founder of the nonprofit Builders of Hope, who will keynote Earth Advantage's Green Day Forum held Thursday at the Gerding Theater.

Welsh's group has set a new standard for "extreme green" affordable housing, recycling entire houses otherwise destined for demolition and outfitting them with the latest in energy efficiency — all while providing jobs to under-served communities.

The concept was piloted in North Carolina and is spreading. We caught up with Welsh to find out more. And to talk about the potential of applying the Builders of Hope model in Oregon.

Sustainable Business Oregon: Builders of Hope have taken recycling to a new extreme. What are the challenges associated with recycling an entire structure and how have you overcome them?

Nancy Welsh: When recycling an entire structure, particularly if relocating that structure as we do in our Green Communities, we encounter several challenges including the house move itself, lining it up on the new foundation and removing the roof, as well as putting it back on. Once the house is set back down, the biggest challenge is sealing the envelope of a 50+ year old home while trying to reuse as much of the existing structure as possible. Making our homes airtight for energy efficiency and adhering to criteria for superior indoor air quality are the critical pieces to our Extreme Green Rehabilitation process.

SBO: I understand you’ve applied for a patent on the Builders of Hope business model. What are the highlights of that application? What are the most innovative aspects of the model?

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