With apologies to Kermit the Frog, attendees at HUD’s Green Academy in Montana not only had the unique opportunity to learn how to “be green” from renowned industry experts, but also were able to share some of the great things that are already happening here in regards to green building, specifically focusing on what works best in rural communities.
As part of HUD’s Affordable Green Initiative, the community of Bozeman hosted the final week of an intensive series of 20 training academies, starting on October 1, 2012 in Boston and concluding on February 15, 2013 in Montana. While Bozeman was by far the smallest community selected to host an academy, registration was not far behind major metropolitan areas, like New York and Los Angeles. This high level of interest shows the value that so many Montanans place on building a vibrant, sustainable future in this part of the country.
Throughout the week, academy participants learned about everything from basic sustainable building principles to how to finance green building. Many in attendance also shared first-hand experiences with HUD programs and services. For example, one housing authority director described the benefits of his agency’s energy performance contract; another management company outlined how they are utilizing energy audits and tracking utility bills to set benchmarks and establish energy conservation goals.
Rather than conducting the academy at a HUD office or federal building, this training was hosted by the Montana Weatherization Center. This state-of-the-art training facility provided an exceptional learning environment for attendees to participate in hands-on demonstrations and applications of the training curriculum. Interestingly, the center is home to a Healthy Homes model house used for training students in weatherization and energy conservation programs.
The strong commitment to sustainability in Region 8 is reinforced from the top. During his recent travel to Montana, Regional Administrator Rick Garcia made a special effort to attend the first day of the training to seek feedback from participants about how HUD can become a better partner. One attendee said this was a great way to start the week and helped to make the event even more memorable and inspiring. Overall, attendance was higher than expected, the feedback was positive, and participants left with a renewed commitment to sustainability and green building principles.
Erik Amundson is the Field Office Director and Sustainability Officer in Helena, Montana