affordable sustainable homes -straw bale

System used to build Y Innovation first affordable sustainable homes

Delaware might be known as a tax-heaven for corporations but there is more to Delaware than fifty shades of banking. Unfortunately for Delaware citizen not benefiting from that industry, housing is as much a problem for low-income citizens than in the remainder of the US, a problem that caught the eye of a local student, Brennan Stark, who decided to do something about it.

This might be why it is after all not so surprising that it will host the first affordable eco-friendly house built by Y Innovation. On 903 North Jefferson Street in Wilmington. The 4,500 square foot property they just acquired for $5000 will house a 660 square foot straw bale home destined to become the property of a homeless family. The house will be a simple house, with 2 main bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a dining room and a living room
This will be the first house built by Y Innovation, a non-profit organization founded by Brennan Stark to provide affordable and eco-friendly housing for homeless and low-income citizens.

Y Innovation’s goal is double. It aims both at providing a blueprint for the creation of affordable sustainable homes for people who hold at least one minimum wage full-time job and at demonstrating that integrating this type of constructions even in affluent neighborhoods can be done seamlessly. A sustainable home that will limit the cost of utilities will further enable house tenants to afford to pay the mortgage.

Example of what affordable sustainable homes will look like once finished

“The really cool thing about straw bale construction is that it’s a really energy-efficient wall system” says Brennan before adding that with their “30 solar panels power the entire system we have an energy efficient air source ductless heat pump that takes heat energy that already exists in the air outside the home and then, using electricity, they transport it back into the home. It’s a natural convection process that can be reversed in the summer to cool the home. Basically, the heat pump is both a heating and a cooling system which is very cool. We use a natural rubble trench foundation to limit the amount of concrete and earthen floor for thermal mass, combined with net zero energy design which essentially means that the monthly electricity bill comes to zero, which helps for devoting resources for paying the mortgage.”

In order to build this affordable sustainable home, Y Innovation work hand in hand with a number of organizations such as Family Promise, Delaware Center for the Homeless Veterans, Sunday Breakfast Mission or Habitat for Humanity to help homeless people to reintegrate the fabric of society and make it easy for them to become homeowners.

At this time, though, they insist that prospective homeowners hold at least one full-time minimum job. Thanks partly to the fact that the labour to build this house is voluntary, or, in other words, free and to the fact that many of the components were donated, the mortgage on this house once finished should come to about $250 per month, with no electricity bill and a water bill limited by the amount of water collected as part of the whole system.

This is Y Innovation first project  to complete an affordable sustainable home, but Brennan and his team fully intend to repeat many of the same and need your help to continue. So, if you want to help you can here 

Watch the presentation of their project here


Brennan Stark is a recent graduate of Archmere Academy in Wilmington, Delaware as well as the CEO of Y Innovations, a nonprofit organization that uses natural building techniques to create affordable and environmentally-friendly housing for homeless and low-income citizens in the Delaware area. Brennan has been featured in several publications for his work with Y Innovations, including most recently, USA TODAY. Brennan traveled to Denmark as part of the 2017 UNLEASH Innovation Lab to pitch his work in sustainable development to government officials and international investors. Brennan is also passionate about education and renewable energy and is currently working on a venture to promote and expand options for young people after graduating high school. Brennan enjoys reading, backpacking in the woods, and spending time with his family. Brennan plans to study Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation with a focus in computer science next fall at the University of Delaware.

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