By NEIL ZAWICKI

Tim and Emma Hopkins moved a stack of Hardie board Friday at a residential construction site on Railroad Street. The young couple were there to help build the 1,600 square-foot duplex they will call it home.

The project broke ground in early May, and it is the latest home to be built by Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, a non profit that purchases land and materials and works in partnership with volunteers to build homes for low-income working families. 

The Hopkins live in Essex, with their three kids. They’re staying with family while they save for their new home. Families like the Hopkins purchase homes at cost from Habitat for Humanity with either a zero percent or an affordable interest mortgage. The mortgage payments fund Habitat’s efforts to build more homes. 

When the home is all done, the Hopkins, like all Habitat “partner families,” will have contributed 400 hours of “sweat equity” labor, which explains their hardhats and Hardie board moving.

For the most part, volunteers build the homes, dedicating two days a week to construction. Each home involves between 55 and 58 work days and over 4,000 volunteer hours. 

Sterling Homes in Hinesburg donated the home design, and project costs are kept low by donations of materials and labor from subcontractors and suppliers as well as  construction professionals who offer their services at deep discounts. These subcontractors are invaluable, said Richard Shasteen, construction chairman at Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, and vice president on the board of directors.

For Tim and Emma’s part, they both work in sales at Lowe’s, and so were able to get many of the finish materials, such as the hardwood floors, at cost.

All the real hammer swinging comes from the team of 16 volunteers, all retirees, known as The Old Geezers. At least eight of them worked as engineers at IBM before becoming Habitat volunteers. Together, they’ve built 11 homes for Vermont families. Pete Sandon for example has a Ph.D in Computer Science, and jokes that it comes in handy as he builds houses. 

The Hopkin’s home should be complete by Thanksgiving. The other unit in the duplex, a 900 square foot two-bedroom home, will go to a single mother with two children. 

Both partner families will be moving into quality homes, according to Shasteen. He said the homes are built to high standards, using building methods that incorporate energy efficient design and materials, such as an R-15 insulated foundation with R-30 insulated walls and R-60 in the attics. The higher the R value, the better insulated the home will be. This, said Shasteen, is an important part of his mission.

“We don’t do Tim and Emma any favors if we give them a house that is expensive to heat and cool,” he said.

Shasteen said he got involved with Green Mountain Habitat to give back.

“Life has been very good to me,” he said. “I just want to give return that.”

But Shasteen said there is also a selfish reason for his work, having to do with economics.

“If we help Tim and Emma have a more secure lifestyle, they’ll be more productive citizens and will pay taxes, which benefits me,” he said.

To volunteer,  or simply to learn more, visit vermonthabitat.org.