Community Housing Partners (CHP) is a 501(c)(3) community development corporation that serves the needs of low-income and low-wealth individuals and families in the southeast. CHP's mission is to create affordable, green, sustainable housing opportunities and services for the people and communities they serve. Since 1975, CHP has served over 206,000 people, including the elderly, women and children in transition, formerly homeless people, single female heads-of-household, and other individuals of low-income and low-wealth. Their activities include sustainable development, architectural design, construction, energy services, homeownership facilitation, housing management, and resident services. These efforts, in concert with public and private partnerships, enable us to create and sustain Communities of Choice that promote vitality in neighborhoods, foster wealth-building for individuals, and contribute to a better environment for future generations.

In 2002, CHP's architecture department, Community Design Studio (CDS), was approached by Tekoa, Inc. to create a residential facility for local at-risk teenage boys in Christiansburg, Virginia. The new home would also offer a counseling and special education program. As part of Tekoa's approach to therapy, it was important to the organization's leaders that the facility imbued a feeling of safety, comfort, equality, and acceptance. The client envisioned a place that was close to the youths' homes, thereby allowing for family interaction, and was also highly durable so that it could withstand the vigorous wear and tear often associated with teen behavior.

About this time, CHP launched a major initiative called “Down to Earth,” committing itself to environmental, economic, and socially-responsible design, construction, and services. The creation of Tekoa would be an excellent opportunity to incorporate CHP's principles of sustainability with the owner's vision of a durable, holistic environment for young men.

After carefully weighing the feasibility of design and LEED® certification against the needs of the client, it was decided that there would be many benefits to incorporating LEED guidelines into the project.

During the design process, it became demonstrably clear that sustainable strategies and practices are best implemented when they cover all three facets of responsible buildings: environmental, economic, and social. While choosing one focus over another generates inherent tension, choosing a single idea to address all three elements of sustainable design fosters accord. Admittedly, some ideas may be in direct opposition, whether due to client requests, building materials, project budgets, or time frames; but the challenge of any sustainably-built project is to reconcile different goals and desires into a clear set of priorities, and the LEED formula can be an effective method for merging ideas.

“CHP's mission has always been to provide safe, affordable housing for our clients. By incorporating green products and sustainable features into the Tekoa project, we were enhancing that goal, making the building safer for the residents and gentler on the environment,” says CHP President and CEO Janaka Casper. “The energy-efficient features made it more affordable over the long run. But an important part of our goal was to give our residents an environment they can feel good in—emotionally, as well as physically.”

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