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Mississippi Homeless Shelter Case Study

Spray Foam Insulation Contributes to Energy-Efficient Remodel of Mississippi Homeless Shelter

As a small non-profit organization that provides shelter to homeless women and children and helps them become more self-sufficient, Community Care Network (CCN), of Ocean Springs, Miss., is always looking for new ways to economize without sacrificing the quality of its services. This was the idea when the organization recently purchased a 1960s-era seven-bedroom foreclosed home for what appeared to be a steal. The intention was to convert the home into a shelter that would accommodate more families than CCN’s original location. Unfortunately, inspections done after the closing revealed that the desired remodel would be more expansive and costly than expected. The daunting list of mandatory repairs included new roofing, plumbing, wiring and insulation.  

“The house had been vacant for a while and had taken on water through a bad roof,” says Diane Easley, executive director of CCN. “We had to gut the walls down to the studs and the floors down to the concrete because all of the wiring and insulation had gone bad. We were able to purchase this home because it was a foreclosure, but our budget simply did not allow for the many thousands of dollars in repair work the home needed.”

However, when handed lemons, some people choose to make lemonade. In the architectural skeleton that remained, Easley saw an opportunity to build a sustainable, energy-efficient, new homeless shelter with high-performance insulation that would lead to lower utility bills and reduced operational expenses for CCN in the years to come. She had experienced firsthand the benefits of energy-efficient home improvements after having CertainTeed’s CertaSpray® closed-cell spray foam (SPF) insulation installed during a post-Hurricane Katrina remodel of her own home.

“We saw such an immediate decrease in our utility bills after the spray foam insulation was installed in our home that I wanted to have the same insulation in the shelter,” Easley said. “The shelter covers 5,000 square feet, so I knew our utility bills were going to be high if we didn’t do something about it.”

Easley consulted Tobias Torjusen, a certified energy auditor and owner of Foamman Insulation, LLC, the contracting company that had installed the SPF insulation in her home, for advice on improving the energy efficiency of the shelter. With the project’s budget constraints, she also asked if Torjusen would be willing to donate his company’s services. Torjusen inspected the home and made several recommendations, including new insulation, windows and HVAC equipment, and agreed to do the project pro bono. CertainTeed’s Corporation also agreed to donate its CertaSpray product to the cause, further easing the financial impact of the project on CCN.

“I would estimate that having SPF insulation in the shelter will result in at least a 50 percent savings over the monthly utility costs it generated in its previous state.”

“Community Care Network is an outstanding organization that makes a big impact on our community every day, so I knew immediately I wanted to be involved,” Torjusen says. “The renovation provided a perfect opportunity to give them the best house possible, with a new roof, a less expensive, down-sized HVAC system, new windows and high-performance SPF insulation. And, with the donation from CertainTeed, we were able to get our portion of the project off the ground.”

Working with a crew of six this summer, Foamman Insulation collectively installed more than 55,000 board feet of open cell SPF throughout the shelter. The crew filled wall cavities to a thickness of 3-1/2 inches and insulated under the roof deck to a 5-1/2 inch thickness, sealing off several sources of air leakage in the process.

“We’re in a hot, humid climate, and code already requires vapor barriers on the outside of the walls and between the roof deck and underlayment to eliminate vapor drives,” Torjusen says. “Considering that and the home’s slab foundation, we were able to choose between open-cell and closed-cell SPF insulation. We chose to use open-cell SPF because it has a lower installed cost than closed-cell and tends to be easier to use in remodels. It expands so much more than closed-cell, and we had plenty of gaps and cracks to fill.”

The SPF installation ran very smoothly with few challenges. Foamman Insulation and all of the other contractors who donated their services were able to work around each other and the CCN volunteers with very little trouble.

“Everyone worked together very well,” Torjusen says. “All of the volunteers were very friendly and accommodating. They moved their operations outside while we worked and took care of any potential resident health concerns. It was a real team effort.” The energy cost savings expected to result from the remodel will definitely have a positive impact on the limited budget of CCN, which is operated by a staff of volunteers. “CCN won’t just be receiving a new building—they’ll be receiving a building that will provide higher energy efficiency and the resulting utility bill savings each month,” Torjusen says. “I would estimate that having SPF insulation in the shelter will result in at least a 50 percent savings over the monthly utility costs it generated in its previous state.” In all, the insulation portion of the job took four days, and by mid September, the shelter was ready for CCN to move in. Easley was blown away by the results and generosity of all those who pitched in for the project. They had helped CCN reach its goal to be able to help more people without taking a devastating hit financially.

“Our shelter looks absolutely amazing, especially considering that it looked like a bomb had gone off in it before we started,” Easley says. “About all you could see was the roof and the concrete floors. We were so fortunate to secure generous workers, like Tobias and his crew, who donated their time to complete nearly all of the work needed in the home. If we had to pay for everything, we couldn’t have done it. We are so grateful.” 

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