Designing a Green Home

Today YouthBuild Philly’s Advanced Construction and Green Build squads met with project partners at a design charrette for this year’s LEED-targeted renovations on Wingohocking St. in Nicetown.  The Advanced Construction and Green Build students will be the primary groups working to renovate two adjoining and abandoned properties into comfortable, sustainable and affordable homes.  (You can view photos of the properties in their current state here and here.)

Some of you may be wondering what a “charrette” is (we certainly were!).  Its contemporary usage in the world of architecture and design means a collaborative design process.  But why is it called a charrette?  Lucas Hamilton from CertainTeed filled us in this morning with an interesting history of the word: In the early days of modern architectural education, students in France used to submit their 3-D models to their professors by way of a cart (or charrette, in French!) that traveled through the streets of Paris.  Students would work together up until the cart’s arrival – and sometimes travel with the cart if they weren’t done yet! – to put the finishing touches on their design.


The focus of today’s charrette was on creating a LEED-eligible home, built responsibly to support the natural environment and sustain a healthy indoor environment as well.  Students learned about sustainable building practices and products through presentations from Sustainable Solutions and CertainTeed.


In the afternoon, students and staff broke up into groups to discuss design elements that would qualify the building for LEED certification based on the six-category rating system.  For example, students researched water-efficient plants, fixtures and appliances to consider when finishing the property.  The last home that we renovated in conjunction with Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed received LEED Platinum Certification, and we are optimistic that the Wingohocking homes will receive certification as well!

It was exciting for our students to learn about and participate in the process of sustainable design. We are grateful to everyone who joined us for making this a meaningful and invigorating learning opportunity.

Our timeline for the project is such that the same YouthBuild students who are planning this renovation will see it through to completion and the ribbon-cutting ceremony – i.e., from idea to reality. Keep checking back for updates on Wingohocking St. as we move into the renovation stages this year!

Students to Complete Energy-Star Certified Home

YouthBuild Philadelphia’s first signature green rehabilitation project is almost ready for a new first-time homebuyer! The project on Uber Street in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia is in partnership with Nicetown Community Development Corporation.

The rebuilding commenced in 2009 during a special demolition event with community volunteers and YouthBuild’s Class of 2010 led the energy-efficient and “green” rehabilitation project. Current YouthBuild students in the Green Building and Advanced Construction squads finished the home to Energy-Star Certification.

Nicetown CDC and YouthBuild will celebrate the completion of the home with a ribbon cutting ceremony in April. Please keep an eye out for an invitation in coming weeks!

Spring Break Service Trip to Costa Rica

YouthBuild Philadelphia is proud to offer the opportunity for 20 students to travel to Costa Rica for our 2nd annual International Service Learning Trip.  The week long travel experience (March 24 -31) will expose students — most of whom have never traveled outside of Philadelphia — to new wildlife, culture, and language.

Last year, YouthBuild students traveled to Guatemala to volunteer construction services and learn about a new culture.   After the astounding success of the experience for the Class of 2009, we are thrilled to be able to extend a similar opportunity to this year’s class.

“Going to Guatemala opened my eyes to real poverty,” said Deleita Hopson, 2009 graduate.  “I thought that living in the projects was the worst it could get. But these kids on the streets had no money and they had to pay to go to school. We take so much for granted. It changed the way I look at the world.”

This year, we’re building on our green initiative by partnering with a wildlife protection organization to help protect an endangered species.  Students will help a small town in Costa Rica that is rallying around its sea turtle population and contribute to the growth of a relatively new grassroots conservation project.  This unique opportunity to work with Parismina Turtles will allow YouthBuild students to immerse in the local community by participating in cultural exchange activities, Spanish language classes, and beach clean-up projects.

To help make this trip possible, we are asking supporters to sponsor a student by making a tax-deductible donation to YouthBuild Philadelphia.

  • $1200 donation will cover all expenses for one student, including airfare, meals, lodging, vaccinations, and passport fees.
  • $400 donation will allow a student to take their first ever plane ride!
  • $125 donation will afford a student to obtain a passport.
  • $50 donation will pay for one day and night at Parismina Turtle Rescue.