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Home, Efficient Home

May 9, 2006
By JOHN M. MORAN, Courant Staff Writer

A hammer clutched in his right hand, Tim Finamore, the casualty claims director for Nationwide Insurance, watched as a section of wall for a new home in Hartford's North End was raised and nailed into place.

The new house on Risley Street started taking shape Monday, thanks to volunteers for the nonprofit group Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity. The two-story duplex will use some of the latest energy-efficient technologies and construction techniques, as well as recycled building materials.

When it is completed in about six months at a cost of about $240,000, the house will sport solar panels, a 90-percent-efficient furnace, extra insulation and other energy-saving features.

Nationwide, Carrier Corp., and its parent, United Technologies Corp., are co-sponsoring the project, along with a variety of other businesses seeking to promote affordable housing and environment-friendly construction.

"I think this is where sustainability starts - on the local level," said Shea Hagy, construction supervisor for AmeriCorps, another nonprofit contributor.

Even as work on the Habitat house continued, a discussion of the business community's role in building global sustainability was taking place just 2 miles away at the Hartford Club downtown.

There, Bjorn Stigson, president of the Geneva-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development, told a luncheon meeting co-sponsored by the MetroHartford Alliance and UTC that businesses must address such global issues as energy use, global warming, water pollution and population shifts.

"We have to be engaged in the public debate and bring the business view," said Stigson, whose organization represents 190 multinational corporations with a total market value of $5.4 trillion.

The global business community is steadily waking up to the importance of creating a sustainable world economy, one that does not inflict environmental or social injuries, Stigson said.

What is not yet clear, he said, is whether that awakening is happening rapidly enough to head off such problems as climate change attributable to global warming.

Some were upbeat about the prospects for improvement.

Jan van Dokkum, president of UTC Power, another division of United Technologies Corp., said the parent company had slashed energy and water consumption even as it grew.

UTC, a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is also investing in energy-efficient technologies, including fuel cells, to power buildings and vehicles, van Dokkum said.

Stigson said the rising cost of energy will help persuade businesses that they should cut their own consumption and work for global change.

"There was a Chinese proverb that says: If you do not change direction, you will end up where you are going," Stigson said. "At the moment, I'm afraid we're heading to an unsustainable place. ...We need to find the right ways of changing direction."

Meanwhile, back at the Habitat for Humanity construction site, volunteer workers raised stud walls built with 2-by-6-inch lumber, spaced 24 inches apart.

Not only did the studs create room for extra insulation, but the wide spacing also means the house will use 40 percent less wood than conventional construction, said Terri O'Rourke, the agency's director of institutional support.

Between bouts with a hammer and a circular saw, Geraud Darnis, president of Carrier, said 40 percent of the world's energy consumption is used in buildings. So-called "green building" practices, using new construction techniques and materials, could have a big impact, he said.

"We could get a lot done just focusing on conservation," Darnis said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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