From 2006 - 2009, Dovetail Partners delivered an Eco-Affordable Housing Program with the objective to discover solutions that promote and sustain resources and community. This program aimed at meeting and providing specific housing needs, particularly in rural areas. However, it was not just about the house. The objectives of this program were to create environmental awareness, to demonstrate the use of housing as an economic development tool for rural communities, and to facilitate the process of obtaining and constructing eco-affordable housing so that it may be replicated easily.
Download the Program Brochure, click here (pdf, 1 MB).
About the Program
We partnered with communities that have identifed a need for affordable housing and/or an interest in green building/sustainable design. The level of involvementvaried from project to project. In some instances, Dovetail has acted as the developer. In others, Dovetail has been involved as a consultant for green building practices and affordable housing options.
As most green building education is focused in the urban setting, we have focused most of our efforts in rural communities. We feel that to truly discourage urban sprawl, all areas and demographics need education on green building practices and sustainability. We aspire that our efforts have taught builders and their communities new ideas that can easily be incorporated into future projects. Besides having reduced utility costs, new homeowners involved in the program have learned about healthy energy-efficient living, good design principles, and sustainable options that have positively affected their everyday lives. They have also gained access to local vendors and materials that they may not have previously known about.
Economic Development and Local Services
Some rural areas have housing needs as well as interests in economic development. For example in some areas, manufacturing plants, forest-based businesses, and other industries are local resources that may be under utilized. We hope that this program has connected communities and their goods via the construction process, and established new avenues of income (or strengthened current ones). Dovetail's mission has been to focus mainly on the local community in order to realize this goal. When we build an eco-affordable housing project, local materials and vendors take priority over anything non-local. Not only has this been a good choice environmentally, but it has encouraged future projects for the area to be done locally as well. This process has also helped to uncover local options and resources that may not have been apparent before.
A big part of making a house both comfortable and affordable to live in, is energy efficiency. Dovetail has provided design assistance to communities in order to help them identify energy-efficient strategies as part of an integrated design approach. These energy-efficient strategies have been modeled after programs already in operation by local utilities (e.g., Xcel Energy) and Energy Star. Design assistance has also included construction monitoring and commissioning upon building completion. Furthrmore, Dovetail has collaborated with a worthy cast of players during design processes prior to the development phase of a project in order to provide energy efficient designs.
Dovetail's Eco-Affordable Housing Program received support from the McKnight Foundation, Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Blandin Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Green Building Program Aspects
There are many things to look at when building a green building. Minnesota Green Communities, Minnesota GreenStar, and the USGBC's LEED Program both have a specific set of criteria to follow in order to build green. However, most of these programs are catered specifically to urban communities and do not offer options for rural areas. For this reason, Dovetail chooses to not endorse one specific program, but to take aspects that work from each one. Dovetail would like to test out these programs and offer suggestions to interested parties about what works and what doesn't for rural communities.