Archive for September, 2011

Energy Efficient Roofs Come to West Philadelphia

September 26, 2011

A number of green roofing projects have been popping up in the West Philadelphia area in both residential and commercial buildings. Green roofs serve multiple functions, including cooling the building during the summer, reducing heat loss during the winter, and retaining stormwater. They also dramatically increase the life of the roof by decreasing exposure of the roof to the harmful UV rays of the sun.

Not only do green roofs have benefits for the home or business owner, they can help to lower urban air temperature which is particularly important for dense cities.

Typically, a green roof is constructed by placing a waterproof membrane over the surface of the roof. Then a layer of dirt is applied, in which various species of plants are planted. 

The Partnership CDC provides free roof improvements, including white and green roofs, to low-income residents in area. Nineteen green and 73 white roofs in the area have been completed. Students at Drexel are studying the area influence of these roofs on temperature, storm water runoff, and water quality.

This past summer through the Green Professional Training program at The Partnership CDC, six individuals passed the Green Roofing Professional Certification Exam.

An alternative to a green roof is a white roof, which is a roof painted with a specific type of white paint that reflects the warming rays of the sun. Less expense than a green roof, a white roof also decreases the amount of energy needed to cool a house when temperatures rise.

The Partnership is not the only organization including environmentally sustainable roofing in their projects. The People’s Emergency Center (PEC) has several sustainable housing projects in West Philadelphia.  Jannie’s Place, a new affordable housing building by PEC, has over 5,000 square feet of green roof space. This roof should lower annual energy consumption of the building by 5 to 7% and increased rainfall retention by 50%, exempting the building from storm water management fees.

For more information of The Partnership’s green and white roofing program, contact Alix Howard at 215.662.1612. For more information on PEC and Jannie’s Place, go to

UCD Promotes Home and Business Energy Efficiency

September 22, 2011

Did you know that you could be saving hundreds—even thousands—of dollars in energy bills by having an energy audit? University City District is spreading the news in West Philadelphia through a partnership with the non-profit, Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA).

Created in 1984, ECA’s goal is to conserve energy and educate the community about energy conservation techniques and programs.

At the September 14 workshops, Jack Strong from the ECA provided energy saving techniques, tips, and programs for commercial property owners as well as residential property owners. 

For commercial property owners, energy audits can be a great tool to find ways to decrease energy costs, particularly with the recent rate increases from PECO. Several PECO programs can help to reduce energy costs, such as rebates and credits.

Through the EnergyWorks program, homeowners can receive a discounted energy audit. The audit informs the resident about potential areas to improve their home’s energy efficiency and takes about four hours for the average house. In less than a week, the homeowner receives a detailed report and where improvements could be made. Also, the report compares other houses in the area, and rates the house’s energy efficiency compared to the neighborhood. Strong says that this may be important when going to sell your home, as people are now paying more attention to the importance of energy efficiency.

EnergyWorks has licensed contractors that will work with residents to then install energy efficient products in their home, including insulation, energy efficient HVAC systems, and other items. Through the Keystone HELP program, residents have the option of financing with very low-interest loans. Residents are also eligible for other programs including rebates, tax credits and other low-interest loans available.

The goal of the program is to reduce energy bills by at least 20%. Tara, a recent energy audit recipient, cut her energy bills in half by working with an EnergyWorks contractor to air seal and insulate her home.

Queens Village was the first neighborhood in Philadelphia to participate in group-audits. About 15 houses participated in the program. These homeowners received a reduced rate on audits as well as energy-efficient improvements because so many participated in the program. Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, and south Philadelphia are other area communities participating at group rates.

For residential properties, UCD is organizing as many households as possible to participate in a home energy audit. The more houses that participate, the lower the price of the audit.

For more information, go to or contact Seth Budick from UCD at

Grand Opening of Jannie’s Place Showcases Green Housing!

September 22, 2011

On September 20, a large group of community members, leaders, and others gathered at a new apartment building just east of 40th Street and Lancaster Avenue for the grand opening of Jannies’s Place, dedicated to Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. Jannie’s Place includes 29 affordable housing units for families moving out of transitional housing.

Spearheaded by Kira Strong at People’s Emergency Center (PEC), the concept of Jannie’s Place began in 2006. Because of the complexity of the site, funding sources, and other aspects of the project, Jannie’s Place has been five years in the making. But it has been well worth the wait.  Deborah McColloch from the Office of Housing and Community Development said that “this project is not only helping independent housing here, but the community as a whole.” 

PEC is at the forefront of providing sustainable housing for the homeless. Chairman of the PEC’s Board David Fryman stated that “PEC is consistently helping to drive change in an environmentally friendly way.” Jannie’s Place is equipped with a 5,000 square foot green roof, porous pavement parking lot, and ceiling fans in bedrooms and living rooms. Benefits of the green roof include lower annual energy consumption by 5 to 7% and increased rainfall retention by 50%, exempting the building from storm water management fees. Also, the life of the roof will be extended significantly due to the reduction of UV breakdown of exposed materials.

Speaking about Blackwell’s commitment to the community, Representative Chaka Fattah said “on the question of housing, there is no one who has cared more about getting a roof over people’s heads than Jannie Blackwell.”

For more information on Jannie’s Place and other housing projects by PEC, visit there website here (

Need to Weatherize Your Home or Business? Borrow a few tools at the West Philly Tool Library

September 22, 2011

Started in 2007, the West Philadelphia Tool Library is a member-based library that loans tools for home and yard maintenance, projects, and skill development. With only a few members initially and limited hours, the library has expanded to about 1,000 members and is now open five days per week.

Friday, September 2 marked the grand opening of the new location at 1314 South 47th Street. With more space at this new location, the tool library hopes to gradually increase its member base as well as invest in some new tools.

With over 2,500 tools in stock, the library boasts a wide selection of items, from paint brushes to larger items such as lawn mowers, saws, and sanders. Popular items to prepare homes for the winter include ladders, snow shovels, and vacuums. 

Staffed by two tool librarians, the library is a source for both beginner fixer-uppers and the seasoned weekend warrior.  Mimi, one of the tool librarians, says that on an average night, about 20 to 30 people come in “from beginners to people wanting to totally renovate their house.” The best thing about being a tool librarian—“meeting people that live and work around this community, as well as seeing what they are doing and building.”

About one-third of the funding for the tool library comes from annual membership dues. The balance comes from community organizations, including SCI-West. Membership is calculated on a sliding scale, depending on the income of the potential member or budget for the organization. The individual membership fees range from $20 to $50 per year and organization fee is between $50 to 200 per year. Public schools may also become members for $25 per year.

Despite the already wide selection, the library is always looking for new tools. They take donation tools and there is a committee that is in charge of seeking out tools that are placed on the tool wish list.

Located at 1314 South 47th Street, the library is open Monday through Thursday from 6:30-8:30pm and Saturday s from 9-3. For more information about the library, click here ( or call 215.833.3190.