Difficult economic times force many consumers to cut back on luxuries and even some necessities. One area of the home budget that doesn’t seem to have a lot of flexibility involves utility costs. But a group of West Virginia University students helped some local residents look for ways to reduce their energy costs.

The students, enrolled in the Design for Energy Efficiency course offered by WVU’s Division of Design & Merchandising, teamed with New Vision Renewable Energy, to conduct home energy audits in the Bertha Hill area in late October.

New Vision worked with WVU to schedule energy audits on several homes in the area to identify opportunities for making them as efficient as possible. The efficient homes will maximize the potential of the renewable energy systems to be installed in the homes by New Vision.

“Homeowners are becoming empowered knowing that renewable energy is affordable and often includes common-sense solutions,” said Pamela O’Brien, New Vision’s director of operations.

Both New Vision and Chris Haddox, instructor of the design course, have support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to promote sustainable and energy efficient design in West Virginia. The partnership between the non-profit and Haddox’s students proved to be a perfect fit.

“I learned about New Vision a few years ago when I was working as executive director of Mon County Habitat for Humanity.” Haddox explained. “Then when I came to WVU, I met Ken Means of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, as one of his students was taking my Sustainable Design and Development class.

“Dr. Means was doing some work with New Vision and I was able to finally meet the folks through him,” Haddox said.

The student visit was the beginning of an ongoing relationship between the Division and New Vision. Haddox will continue to assist with energy audits and assessments. He’ll continue to involve students in the audits and assessments whenever possible.

In addition to building renewable energy solutions, New Vision also places a priority on building connections.

“We have a saying,” O’Brien said. “Give a family money for their power bill, you teach them to be dependent. Provide the training and resources to build and install their own renewable energy systems and you open a New Vision of possibilities for a lifetime. This is what we are all about, giving hope and a hand up to under-resourced families so that they can realize that renewable energy solutions are attainable and affordable.

“We like to see ourselves as an educational and innovative movement focusing on applicable technologies within the emerging ‘green’ economy and serve as a hub of collaborative discussion, training and invention bringing together green innovators, community leaders, youth, organizations as well as public and private partners,” she added.

Haddox and the Division of Design & Merchandising are certainly among those innovators. In addition to building sustainability into their programs in fashion design and merchandising and interior design, they’ve also developed a minor in sustainable design to emphasize that rapidly growing sector of the design and construction market. Haddox holds many sustainable design credentials including LEED and Green Advantage and has become a regional expert for general sustainability issues.

As forward-thinking as the effort is, the October work made Haddox nostalgic for a previous role: “The first Morgantown home that we worked on in this project is also the first home that was built under my watch with Habitat for Humanity.”



CONTACT: David Welsh, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
304.293.2394, dwelsh@wvu.edu

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