After Linda and I got married, we built our house on the farm near Dell Rapids where I was raised. As we were constructing our house, we took special steps to make our home as energy efficient as possible. The house is situated with a grove of trees to the north to block the cold winter winds and the south facing wall of the house is covered with windows. The winter sunlight fills the house and heats the house for free. We built walls 14 inches thick to accommodate extra insulation. I also installed an electric heat pump water heater for use in the summer. It heats the water more cheaply than resistance coils and cools the house at the same time, using minimal electricity. These things have made our house less expensive to operate, which has helped our family save money.
When I took office, I became curious about whether we could apply some of these efficiency measures to Governor's Houses.
The Governor's House program was established in 1996 to give more families the opportunity to own a home. The homes are built by inmates at Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield and are intended to be quality, low-cost, low-maintenance homes. More than 1,900 of these homes have been purchased by the elderly, persons with disabilities and by income-qualified families across the state.
Last year, I asked the Department of Corrections and the Housing Development Authority to explore ways to make the Governor's House more energy efficient, and, in the long run, save homeowners money.
Their first step was to build a prototype which met the Passive House Standard. The Passive House Standard is a rigorous energy efficiency standard that requires heavy insulation, an airtight envelope around the house, highly efficient windows, highly effective heating and cooling systems, and an energy recovery air exchanger. Structures meeting the Passive House Standard have very low utility bills, and the homes retain enough heat to provide survivability even in extreme cold without power.
The demonstration house was built in only a few months and the house was displayed at the State Fair to demonstrate the new cutting-edge building technologies.
After the model was completed, it became clear that building every Governor's House according to the Passive House Standard would make the house too expensive for those who qualify for the program. Instead of using the model that incorporates all of the standards, the new Governor's Houses will apply some of the Passive House principles. The increased cost of the upgrades will be offset by the decrease homeowners will see in their utility bills. The new design includes better insulation and windows, an airtight envelope and an energy recovery air exchanger. These houses will meet the Energy Star Standard, making those who qualify eligible for federally insured mortgages which are available only to energy efficient homes.
Homeownership is a part of the American dream, and the Governor's House program has made that dream come true for hundreds of South Dakotans -- people who may not otherwise ever own a home. By continuing to make the homes even more efficient and affordable, we'll be making that dream a reality for many more in the future.
To learn more about the Governor's House program and how to apply, visit sdhda.org and click on "Governor's House Program" under the "Home Buyers" tab or just type "Governor's House" in your internet search engine.