A worldwide partnership that has built homes for people who otherwise would have no place to live is going green, and it wants Salt Lake to help.

Habitat for Humanity International is launching a pilot program of the Partners in Sustainable Building — a national green-building partnership with The Home Depot Foundation — that will provide funding and resources to assist in making Salt Lake Valley Habitat houses more sustainable and energy-efficient.

Over the next five years, some 5,000 homes — 17 percent of the homes Habitat will build — are to be constructed according to nationally recognized green standards. They will be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. The project will have the advantage of technical resources and training underwritten by $30 million of financial and hands-on support from Home Depot.

The aim is to establish a pool of green-building expertise that will make both the homes and Habitat viable in the coming years, said Stella Allen, Salt Lake Valley executive director.

Salt Lake is one of only 30 Habitat affiliates selected to participate in the yearlong pilot program. A larger national launch of the five-year partnership is scheduled in May 2009.

The 30 affiliates will be eligible to access two tiers of funding for houses built in accordance with responsible building standards. They can receive up to $2,000 per unit for houses built to meet the Energy Star minimum building standard. Affiliates that meet certain higher certification standards will be eligible to receive an additional $2,000 per unit. Affiliates also will be eligible for training resources during the pilot.

"This partnership will provide our affiliates with the additional resources and training they need to create homes that are more durable and energy-efficient, which will make them even more affordable to our homeowners," said Jonathan T.M. Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International.

In addition to the affiliate grants, the pilot program also will consist of four $100,000 grants to Habitat state support organizations to employ staff dedicated to supporting the energy-efficient, sustainable-building needs of affiliates in their state. Habitat's state organizations also will be encouraged to use a portion of the grant funds to provide responsible building training events for affiliates.

Although Home Depot and Habitat for Humanity have worked together in many ways over the years, this is the first formal partnership between the two organizations at the national level in the United States. In Canada, Home Depot has been the largest supporter of Habitat for Humanity Canada since 1996, donating more than $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions to affordable-housing projects each year.

Since its formation, The Home Depot Foundation has granted $70 million to nonprofit organizations and supported the development of more than 50,000 affordable, clean homes.

Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people.

Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity has built 69 homes for low-income families in Salt Lake and Tooele counties since 1986. Seven homes are now under construction. Families that receive homes are required to complete an education program, which includes sessions on financial literacy, understanding credit, home maintenance and identity-theft prevention.

E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com