Greening the American Dream

Published Aug. 19, 2010

Months of fundraising, planning and sweat equity culminated with RIT completing its first Habitat for Humanity house in Rochester. In keeping with the university’s commitment to innovation, the house was designed with many sustainable features.

The walls on the Whitney Street house went up in Nov. 2009. April Randall and her family moved in to their new home in March 2010.

“This house speaks love and shows love,” says April Randall, homeowner. “Love has been put into this house through so many of you that didn’t even know me. Thank you for all of the love and support.”

RIT’s Habitat for Humanity student club along with numerous other student organizations, faculty, staff and alumni, teamed up with Flower City Habitat for Humanity and local businesses to donate money, building supplies and services. Randall herself logged 200 hours of sweat equity on her home.

RIT’s Engineers for a Sustainable World student chapter took existing house plans and tailored them to incorporate sustainable features.

“We modified the plans to include solar panels to augment the family’s electric usage,” says Alex Ship, a sixth-year mechanical engineering B.S./M.S. student and member of RIT’s Engineers for a Sustainable World. “We upgraded the insulation and took advantage of a south-facing wall to get natural lighting and potentially some natural heating. We also used composite siding versus vinyl siding.”

Other features include solar panels, a 95-percent energy efficient furnace and a tank less hot water heater.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the RIT family,” says RIT President Bill Destler. “This is an RIT student project. RIT engineers and environmental scientists significantly altered the house’s design with almost all that work done by students. This project is another example of RIT’s commitment to not only innovation and creativity, but to our community at large.”

The house is located in the JOSANA neighborhood, in the heart of one of Rochester’s poorest areas. Ninety-nine percent of properties were built before 1950 and 20 percent of children under 6 tested at or above the highest levels of lead-paint poisoning. In addition, code-violation calls to Rochester’s Housing Council are the highest per capita in this area.

“RIT has strong roots in the heart of this city and it’s been good for us to go back to where we started; to lift them up however we can,” says Kaity Werner, a fourth-year RIT business student and veteran of Habitat for Humanity. “This group of dedicated students and volunteers is helping to bring the community back to where it once was.”

View a slideshow of photos related to the house.