Greentrepreneur: Project Homecoming

logo_blueprintl_0Tell us a little bit about your company, and what’s on your plate right now both as a business and as a member of the sustainability conscious New Orleans community.

Project Homecoming is an affordable housing developer born through the Presbyterian Church after Hurricane Katrina. In the years since Hurricane Katrina, Project Homecoming has hosted over 12,000 volunteers and rebuilt over 250 homes.  It became an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2010. It still brings in approximately 1,500 volunteers annually to rebuild homes for low income families in New Orleans. Since its inception, Project Homecoming has also developed other programs, such as a Home Ownership program and a Workforce Development program. The Home Ownership program builds and re-builds affordable homes that are energy efficient and storm resistant and are for sale to low and moderate income families. The Workforce Development program trains unemployed and under-employed local individuals who want construction experience. The participants in the Workforce Development program are paid a living wage and work with skilled construction professionals to build the affordable homes for the Home Ownership program.

What are some of Project Homecoming’s proudest moments?

Every home dedication is a proud moment. They are the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people, all coming together welcome someone back home or make them a homeowner for the first time. We have a dedication ceremony to celebrate with them, it is a fantastic opportunity to step back and reflect on why we are all so dedicated to what we do.

How does your organization go about improving your social and environmental impacts?

Project Homecoming focuses intently on the energy efficiency and indoor health of the homes we build. All of our construction management staff go through extensive building science training and are either Building Performance Institute (BPI) or ResNET Home Energy Rating certified. Training and certification helps immensely in the application of intelligent and cost effective energy efficient and green building practices. This is important both for the general environmental impact that it can have, and also to keep energy bills low preserving long term affordability for our low and moderate income clients.

What partnerships have you formed in order to leverage sustainable impact as a company?

Partnerships are the bedrock of effectively getting socially positive projects done in New Orleans. Project Homecoming has had a number of partners that have helped to magnify the impact that Project Homecoming can have in the arena it works in. Some of the incredible partners we have had are United Way of Southeastern Louisiana, The City of New Orleans, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, Capital One, Enterprise Community Partners, NOLA for Life, and many more.

If you had a magic wand to change one thing that would make it easier for your company or other New Orleans businesses to go green, what would that thing be?

I always hope for more easily attainable information about the cost / benefit impact of particular green improvements, in both internal operations and in our products. The implementation of green practices can be done through altruistic intentions, but final decisions that impact an organization’s financial state and resource allocation cannot be made in an economic vacuum. The easier it is to access data about the impact that a particular may have, the better chance we all have to make resource allocation decisions that have the most green “bang for their buck.” For instance, when we made the decision to implement wood recycling, we did so without having data about the economic or environmental benefit it would bring. We only knew the cost to us and that was not inviting. Surprisingly, recycling wood is quite expensive, but we believe it is an important practice for the company and we pay for the service.

What advice would you give to other businesses who are trying to improve their internal practices to benefit their city and state?

To remember that decisions to “go green” can mean a lot of different things. It is important to understand what your organizational goals are in terms of going green, and what your capacity to do so is. In evaluating a “green plan” it is important to measure the positive and negative long term impacts of your decisions for both your organization, and its stakeholders. Often, if that evaluation is done truly on a long term scale, the decision to go green is an easier one because decisions align with the long term health of your organization on a number of levels.

Anything else you would like to tell our community of Green Card members and Green Businesses such as upcoming events or promotions they should look out for?

Project Homecoming has a nearly decade long track record of high quality construction, creative problem solving, and dedication to doing things right. As our programs expand, we want to offer our general contractor and construction services to the general public. These market rate, high quality, and dependable services will expand our reach in the New Orleans community and help support our other housing related programs. If you are interested in Project Homecoming being your contractor or other construction services, please reach out to homes@projecthomecoming.net.

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