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Habitat for Humanity homes get green stamp of approval

The local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity will dedicate its first homes Saturday under the "green" building program Earth Advantage.

An open house will follow Saturday's dedication ceremony, set for 2 p.m. at 841 W. 11th St., Medford. The public is invited to tour two homes — 1,300 square feet and 1,100 square feet — on the lot.

Avista Utilities paid the $1,000 fee for certification by Earth Advantage, a nonprofit organization that has certified 25 local homes within the past year, including some in Grants Pass and Klamath Falls, said local area representative Fred Gant.

Earth Advantage emphasizes energy and resource efficiencies, along with healthy air and environmental responsibility. Projects require better insulation, windows and heating systems. They also may incorporate fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting, formaldehyde-free insulation and paint and wood-fiber products that give off fewer harmful gases. Ducts must pass a more stringent leakage test, and outside air must circulate via a ventilation system.

It's a model that local Habitat officials say they plan to adopt in all new homes.

"We decided we wanted to continue doing that with all our homes," said local Habitat Executive Director Denise James.

James said the organization hadn't calculated additional costs beyond the Earth Advantage certification fee of $500 per home but determined that the program was cost-effective. Upon breaking ground in spring of 2007, local Habitat officials estimated they would spend $2,000 per unit, said board member Dan Davis.

Habitat plans to finish up two more Earth Advantage homes within the next six weeks on Ashland's Garfield Street, James said. A $95,000 grant from Thrivent Financial, a Lutheran benefit society, kick-started the Medford project.

The new Medford homes' prospective owners — one a family of 10 — will purchase their houses on 25-year, no-interest mortgages, James said. Along with about 100 volunteers, the families worked to build their new dwellings.

E-mail: slemon@mailtribune.com.