U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to Help Rebuild Homes in New Orleans on Veterans Day

Underscoring the Obama Administration's commitment to community service, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu traveled to New Orleans on Veterans Day, a national day of service, to volunteer at a home construction site with the St. Bernard Project, a group dedicated to creating ongoing housing opportunities for community residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Working with the Wounded Warrior program, a non-profit group that helps find meaningful work for service men and women, St. Bernard Project trains and employs injured active duty soldiers and veterans in transition after their service. Details about the event are below.

In conjunction with the visit, the Energy Department is also announcing plans to advise St. Bernard's Project staff on best practices to improve the energy efficiency of homes being rebuilt and new houses being constructed. In this role, experts from the Energy Department will counsel the four-year-old group on techniques, standards, and technologies - including securing air ducts and the building envelope, installing energy efficient building, heating and cooling technologies, and adding proper insulation and caulking - to cut heating and cooling costs, saving homeowners money.  This builds on the Department's earlier work providing technical assistance to Project Home Again, which built 45 homes that were 30 percent more efficient than code.

"President Obama has made clear the importance of service for all members of this country, and it is extra special to do it on Veterans Day," said Secretary Chu. "I'm playing a small part, but it is still an honor to help put members of the New Orleans community back into their homes and have the Department improve the tremendous work that St. Bernard's Project is doing every day to restore the city."

During his visit, Sec. Chu will meet with St. Bernard's Project volunteers, spend time volunteering at a construction site, view some of the houses the group has recently completed, and discuss with co-founders Zack Rosenburg and Liz McCartney ways in which the group can utilize new technologies to reduce the energy footprint of the families they assist.

"By improving energy efficiency in homes, you are literally putting dollar bills back into the pockets of homeowners," said Secretary Chu.

The Energy Department has been involved in helping other facets of New Orleans reduce energy use as it rebuilt from Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, DOE signed a memorandum of understanding with the Louisiana Department of Education. The aim was to use the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning's Advanced Energy Design Guides so that the new schools and schools facing major renovation would be at least 30 percent more efficient than code. Three new schools have already been designed and completed at 30 percent better than code. The potential savings are also monumental for all of the schools, amounting to some $75,000 per year at each.

Additionally, the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) worked with private and non-profit area builders to see that new homes being constructed in the wake of the hurricane were 15-30 percent better than required by code. NREL also helped city officials develop the Energy Smart New Orleans Plan, which includes residential energy audits, incentives for energy efficiency, low-income weatherization, commercial and industrial programs, pilot programs for photovoltaic arrays, solar domestic-hot-water systems and education outreach.