PB community center gets efficiency makeover


Several dozen volunteers spent their Saturday in a collective effort to increase the energy efficiency of the Family Community Development Center in Pine Bluff by completing a series of weatherization tasks.

Organized by the Sierra Club in cooperation with Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light, the group spent a full day involved in various projects intended to lower energy costs throughout the building.

The projects included the installation of weather stripping on doors, the application of caulk around windows, the replacement of all incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, the replacement of all air filters and the installation of low-flow faucet heads.

“The low-flow faucet heads decrease the amount of water used and reduce the amount of energy needed to heat the water,” said Sierra Club representative Lev Guter. “We also installed energy strips in the computer lab to allow for the complete shutdown of the computers at night. This eliminates the passive use of energy by the computer equipment. At some point in the near future we will bring in someone to blow insulation into the attic.”

Bruce Lockett, board chair of the Family Community Development Corporation, said several of the participants were using the work as a training exercise intended to teach people green job skills.

“We had six individuals who were taking part Saturday to learn weatherization skills in order to equip them with some of the training needed for careers in the green energy field,” Lockett said. “We received a $2,000 grant from the UAPB Economic Research and Development Center through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is what the grant is intended for.”

Guter said the weatherization of the community center is part of a larger effort to make as many homes and businesses energy-efficient as possible.

“Weatherization is the low-hanging fruit to make sure that a building is operating as efficiently as possible,” Guter said. “It will reduce the overall amount of energy used in that building. They can take the skills that they learned back to their homes.”

Lockett said that two of the participants Saturday are the owners of Arkansas Energy Innovation, a company that conducts energy audits of homes and businesses.

“Arkansas Energy Innovation is in a partnership with Entergy,” Lockett said. “For those who qualify for and request an energy audit they will come out and determine how much energy your home or business uses and how much can be saved with weatherization.”

Lockett said the people using the Saturday event to learn weatherization skills were able to visit with the AEI duo and to see that green skills can be used to carve out a career.

“We were able to show the young people who participated that they can get paid for this type of work,” Lockett said. “The two with AEI had been AmeriCorps workers assigned to a green project. After the end of the project they both went to Pulaski Tech and took courses in energy efficiency before starting their company. Our job was to make them aware that there is a whole industry related to energy efficiency that they can be a part of.”

Lockett expressed thanks to UAPB and to HUD.

“UAPB working with HUD was instrumental in getting us the funding for this,” Lockett said. “This involves mostly low- to moderate-income folks and getting them aware of the need to be energy-efficient. It was a great day.”

Guter praised Arkansas Interfaith for pledging to pay for any expense above the $2,000 provided by the grant.

“I don’t believe it went too much over $2,000 but we are so grateful to Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light for offering to provide the funds,” Guter said.

Guter summed up the day’s events in a press release issued Saturday.

“I am so thrilled by the great turnout and impact we had today,” Guter said in the release. “Because weatherizing buildings reduces energy waste and moves us beyond burning fossil fuels for power. Inefficient buildings can suck our hard-earned money out the window, but efficiency saves money for our community centers, schools and homes. Even better, weatherizing projects create jobs here at home that cannot be outsourced. This is a great solution for families and businesses across Arkansas.”