A Beaufort military housing complex became one of the nation's first neighborhoods to be included in the Better Buildings Challenge, a federal effort to increase energy efficiency, create jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
On Wednesday, private developers and federal representatives gathered outside a home in Laurel Bay, the largest of three local military-housing communities involved in the program. The others are at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
The energy-efficiency analysis and renovations in these communities will be overseen by Lend Lease, an Australia-based agency that in June became one of the 14 partners in the Better Buildings Challenge program.
Lend Lease will supervise similar changes at more than 40,000 homes for military families nationwide, aiming to reduce energy use in those communities by 20 percent by 2020.
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Such a reduction would save taxpayers about $40 billion a year, said Michelle Moore, a federal executive on the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who attended the event.
"This is an important intersection of economic opportunity and local business, which will create local jobs and make American companies more competitive," Moore said.
Lend Lease representatives said the company is committed to hiring as many local workers as possible. The company declined to estimate how many jobs the project will create.
There are about 1,200 houses in the Laurel Bay complex, predominantly one-story homes built in the 1950s.
A representative for IBACOS, a home-building research firm working with Lend Lease on the project, led a tour of a vacant home in Laurel Bay, demonstrating some of the methods that will be used to improve energy efficiency.
The instruments included a red inflatable raft-like device positioned in a doorway to regulate air pressure and a blue trapezoid-shaped bin set up in the living room to gauge air flow. Factors affecting home's energy use -- insulation quality, window orientation, ventillation -- will be fed into a computer program to produce a redesign plan tailored for each house.
Kit Murney, a spokeswoman for a Lend Lease subsidiary that supervises the three local military housing complexes, said residents appreciate the unobtrusive analysis and are eager to start saving energy.
"They all want us to come into their homes and make them more efficient," Murney said. "We're pretty excited about this, and so are they."
Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.