The Home for Hope outside Cleveland represents more than just green building. It’s a community awareness-builder, a fund-raiser, and an educational opportunity for the contractors of tomorrow.

Led by local builder R.J. Perritt Homes, the 2,200-square-foot house in Amherst, Ohio, was built largely by construction students from nearby Lorain County Joint Vocational School. Upon completion, the house was raffled off, with proceeds benefiting Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, the local chapter of the non-profit that provides temporary homes for families of children undergoing medical treatment.

The green-built home achieved Silver certification from the Green Building Initiative of Northeast Ohio, developed under the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines, and features many products and techniques R.J. Perritt already employs in its homes.

Three-quarters of the walls were traditionally framed with 2x4 construction; the builders achieved R-19.5 by combining fiberglass batts with insulated vinyl siding. Another portion of the exterior was completed using straw bale. The students harvested the straw locally, as well as the bamboo used to make the vertical members; they plastered the inside and outside of the straw bale using clay excavated from the construction site.

“We wanted to introduce the students to a new concept of building; we wanted to introduce the community to it,” R.J. Perritt president and owner Bob Perritt says, noting that the technique has been around for thousands of years but is still unfamiliar to most people. “The students were really excited to learn how to put the straw bale together.”

DuPont Tyvek housewrap and a caulk and sealant package also were part of the envelope; the attic was insulated with R-60 blown fiberglass from Owens Corning. The home underwent a blower-door test. 

On the inside, the team addressed indoor air quality by sealing ducts during construction, a Perritt staple, and utilized zero-VOC ICI paints, hard-surface flooring wherever possible, and Mohawk carpet made with renewable polymers. Other features include Jeld-Wen low-E, high performance windows manufactured locally, concrete countertops made with recycled content, and Moen WaterSense-certified showerheads and lav faucets.

Many of the products and materials were donated by manufacturers and suppliers. "The support we had was phenomenal," says Perritt, who estimates the house saves about $200 a month on energy costs compared with traditional construction.

The resource-efficient house is in good company, situated within R.J. Perritt’s Copper Creek, a development of 40 additional certified green homes, most still under construction. Ten acres of the 30-acre site are set aside as green space, including six acres of woods with walking trails. Rocks excavated from the sites, along with no-mow fescue and bio-retention soil, were used to create a community rainwater garden that slows and filters stormwater runoff.

And while the Home for Hope certainly helped spread the word about R.J. Perritt’s sustainable-building practices, the project was much more than that for the man leading the charge. Bob Perritt is passionate about educating the next generation of builders, and this house instilled in the students a respect for proper high-performance building techniques while also giving them first-hand experience with the start-to-finish construction process and all that comes with it. "It was the highlight of my career,” Perritt says.

Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome.