Berman & Wright partners with Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

November 11, 2013

Montgomery County, PA – June 2013 marked the completion of construction on Berman & Wright’s first collaboration with Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, PA, the renovation of an existing 1890’s brick townhome.

Habitat for Humanity is a national non-denominational non-profit organization that empowers qualified, hardworking, low-income individuals and families to become owners of safe, simple, and affordable homes.  Habitat for Humanity, through volunteer labor, donations, and individual grants, builds new or renovates existing structures for affordable housing.  The prospective homeowners are required to volunteer on the construction of their homes and the homes of other Habitat families to obtain “sweat equity.”   The volunteer labor and donated materials keeps the overall cost of the building to a minimum; and the value of the home is then transferred into a no-interest mortgage for the homeowner.

Located in the Historic District of Norristown, Pennsylvania, the condition of the townhome to be renovated was poor. Severe water damage through the original brick masonry walls deteriorated interior plaster surfaces and windows, a tree growing through the rubble foundation undermined the a two story bearing wall above, the integrity of many connections between the wooden floor joists and the masonry bearing walls was questionable, an added addition which housed a kitchen was deteriorating, and leaking roofs, were amongst many issues that needed immediate attention.

Habitat for Humanity has strict parameters regarding home square footages, numbers of bathrooms, and what appliances can be installed.   According to Habitat International’s guidelines, only one bathroom could be constructed.  However, a family of five was designated to purchase the home, a single working mother with three grown children and one toddler grandchild.

The original house had five bedrooms and one bathroom.  Because only four bedrooms were necessary for the homeowner, the fifth (original) bedroom was utilized to expand the existing bathroom area.  The new bathroom was then “compartmentalized” to include a separate toilet room, separate shower room, and a double vanity area; such that a maximum of four people could effectively use the bathroom at the same time.

HVAC soffits were designed around the perimeters of each bedroom, and the living and dining rooms, creating “tray” ceilings.   This simple to construct, efficient way to circulate the HVAC ductwork and vents throughout the house created a “high-end” aesthetic to the interior of the house.

In addition, although Habitat for Humanity design parameters do no permit laundry rooms and dishwashers, a dedicated laundry area was incorporated into the re-design of the house, and plumbing for a washing machine and a dishwasher was “roughed in” for future use.  Moisture mitigation materials were incorporated into the construction details, along with new insulation along all exterior walls.  With new windows throughout, the energy efficiency of the home exceeded national standards by 50%.

Berman & Wright has continued to provide design and construction documents for Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County.  Construction documents for the renovation of another brick townhouse in Norristown have recently been submitted for permits, and the house is currently undergoing demolition of interior finishes.

Information regarding both projects can be viewed on Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County’s website:

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