By Sabrina Westfall
The Knox County Housing Authority will be hosting an open house Monday afternoon to showcase their work for the Sustainable Housing Rehab Project.
The open house at Tilly Estates, located at 11 Powell St. in Bicknell, will be from noon to 4 p.m. Monday to showcase their first fully refurbished apartment, according to Executive Director Elizabeth Ellis.
The project started two years ago after Ellis became the director and the housing authority was facing damaging budget cuts and government sequestration.
Upon researching their outgoing expenses, the Knox County Housing Authority realized a large chunk of money was going towards utilities and the board began considering ways to start making those changes.
At the same time, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began the pilot program for the Green Accredited Housing Authority, and Knox County was among the first to jump on board.
They began making changes in the apartments, and last June became the first Green Accredited Housing Authority in Indiana.
“What that green accreditation did as we worked through that process, it taught us so much about what true sustainability is and how much money that we could actually save,” Ellis explained.
Through a partnership with HUD and the Department of Energy, the housing authorities were encouraged to take part in a Better Building Challenge, which included a showcase project. The result of that project is the unit to be shown on Monday.
“This is our first 100 percent sustainable unit, and we are really proud of it. As we worked through the process we have found comparable products and sustainable materials to everything a normal housing authority would use,” Ellis explained.
She said by doing research they were able to find items that returned their funds in savings and were also able to make the newly refurbished unit more economically friendly.
When lightbulbs need replaced in the housing units they use LED lights, which cost 80 cents a year with a life expectancy of 29 years. In addition to the longer life, the LED lights use a lot less energy and reduces electric costs.
The flooring in the unit is a vinyl lock tile made out of 100 percent recycled materials, has the look of real hardwood and has a 55 year warranty.
The countertops placed in the unit is made of recycled glass products and has a 75 year warranty.
While redoing the bathroom, the housing authority found a toilet that uses half the amount of water per flush, which cuts down on about 500,000 gallons of water in a year.
She said it cost a little more, but the savings has outweighed the initial cost.
“We’d save taxpayers millions of dollars, probably billions of dollars, if all housing authorities would jump on the ship,” Ellis said.
Chairman of the Knox County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners said the project has been very rewarding and has surpassed their expectations.
“When we first started this a little over a year ago, we didn’t know how it would work out. If it would be cost effective or not, but it’s paying dividends already with a decrease in usage of utilities, water and electricity and so forth here,” Shelton stressed.
One of the priorities of the board is to ensure the entity is cost effective because those funds are coming out of their own pockets essentially as taxpayers.
He stressed the importance of their ability to use local resources for the project.
“We utilized a lot of local resources. Donovan and Donovan donated time to do the architectural design of our retrofits in this apartment. One of our local residents, Mr. Charlie Walker, who is a retired master electrician and maintains a current license, he donated a lot of time which allowed us to save thousands of dollars on electrical work in this unit,” Shelton said.
Shelton added the Knox County Housing Authority has an outstanding staff, which is dedicated to maintaining the efficient housing.
To learn more about how the Knox County Housing Authority was able to attain the energy efficient housing unit, attend the open house on Monday, call 812-735-2006 or visit www.kchabick.com.