Mike Vance started out his college career with dreams of becoming an architect. But because of a discouraging physics class, he ended up graduating with a degree in business administration. His dream is still alive today, however, as he gets to "play architect" while overseeing design firms as homeownership manager for Buncombe County's Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO).
What is MHO's mission? Has the mission changed since green building has become so popular?
MHO's mission is to build and improve homes, neighborhoods, communities and lives for the people of Asheville and Buncombe County. As a housing developer, MHO has always believed that our community and clients are best served by creating affordable homes near jobs and services.
In 2005, we expanded our approach to include reducing the cost to heat and cool our homes, thereby keeping mortgage and utility costs affordable. That year, MHO was asked to partner with the WNC Green Building Council and the NC Solar Center to pilot a set of criteria for the new NC HealthyBuilt Homes program. We built Prospect Terrace, a 15-home development on Clingman Avenue, to those standards and integrated a collection of sustainable techniques, materials and systems to demonstrate the program. As the state's first HealthyBuilt development, it gained a lot of regional attention and even won a national award from the Home Depot Foundation.
How have you and MHO been able to create housing that is both affordable and green?
There is definitely a balance to be achieved between upfront, initial costs and long-term savings when it comes to green building. The best return on investment is to focus on a well planned and constructed home-efforts that don't require too much additional cost. From the location and size of the home to the details in framing and insulation, we can greatly reduce the impacts to our environment and our homeowners' bank accounts. With minimal expense, we've been building homes that cost less than $30 a month to heat and cool.
What are some of MHO's future plans and goals?
We've been planning new developments along the Town Branch...