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Rebuilding a Home, the Sustainable Way

The act of building a home creates a lot of waste, but refurbishing takes fewer materials and is far better for the environment.

UL's Habitat for Humanity home is complete and ready for new memories.

June 25, 2019

Working toward a sustainable future doesn’t always mean helping companies become more environmentally friendly. Sometimes, it means helping a family have the home they’ve always wanted.

UL partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley as a build sponsor to help Joleena Meija, a single mother, and her six children purchase a home in Elgin, Illinois, that’s the right size for their family. Beyond giving shelter, their house is comfortable and beloved and has truly become a place they call home. It also provides Meija and her children a place that truly belongs to them. 

UL’s Environmental Sustainability Manager Ellen Shieh said that a lot of the home’s infrastructure was out of date, and UL’s employees were able to identify the older technology and update it to make a safer and more secure living environment.

“What’s unique with this particular project is that it’s a refurbished house that is a year or two older than UL itself,” Shieh said. “And what’s crazy is that it’s a really beautiful house, pretty big by today’s standards.”

Related | UL Teams Up to Renovate a Home Steeped in History

The act of building a home creates a lot of waste, but refurbishing takes fewer materials and is far better for the environment. Luckily, with this house, more than just the structure could be reused. The stairway, original flooring, baseboards, doorframes and doors, and trim all of which were well crafted and highly valued were all kept in this five-bedroom, 127-year-old Victorian home, retaining its classical charm. Windows, cabinets and light fixtures were also repurposed as part of the construction, making for less refuse headed to the landfill.

Besides purchasing a home at fair market value, the Habitat for Humanity model additionally requires "sweat equity" on the part of the buyer. This means they also help pay for the construction of the home by working on the project. In addition to putting in a number of hours on the job site, Meija received training on how to maintain her new house properly, and she learned about the expected costs that could rise out of being a homeowner. This type of training helps new homeowners successfully take on responsibilities and prepares them for a successful future.

Stay mindful of the goals – United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, that is

It’s important to be mindful of the effect building or fixing up a home has on the environment. To that end, UL and Habitat for Humanity continue to keep the environment and sustainability top of mind.

“To maximize our impact, UL is focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals No. 3, No. 11 and No. 12,” said Barbara Guthrie, UL’s vice president of Corporate Sustainability. “Our partnership with Habitat for Humanity provides us with the perfect opportunity to do this.”

The goals Guthrie mentioned are No. 3 Good Health and Well-Being, No. 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, and No. 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, which all exist to help create a better future for our generation and those that follow.

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The collaboration between UL and Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley is helping to not only affect the lives of Meija and her children but the entire community. By restoring a dilapidated home, helping to revitalize a neighborhood and providing children with a safe, inclusive and accessible green space, the health of the community is also improved as shown by evidence pointing to the positive impact of one’s environment on mental health.

UL’s President, Keith Williams, welcomed the family to their new home on June 8th. The gathering included volunteers from UL and the Habitat for Humanity plus city of Elgin officials.

“This is a project we’re proud of,” Williams said. “It’s important for UL to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and restoring a gorgeous old house like this so that it can see many more good times with this family, is responsible production.”