The financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession drained sales for Kentucky’s houseboat manufacturing industry, idling hundreds of workers. However, a ribbon cutting Jan. 27 near downtown Monticello, Ky., holds great promise.
It was a christening for the first prototype from the University of Kentucky’s Houseboat to Energy Efficient Residences (HBEER) initiative. HBEER is a partnership between the UK College of Design, the Center for Applied Energy Research at UK, the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp. and the Kentucky Housing Corp.
The multiyear project was initiated in the fall of 2009 in response to the economic downturn’s impact on the houseboat manufacturing industry. More than 50 students and faculty at the UK’s School of Architecture developed models of energy-efficient, affordable housing that could be produced with houseboat manufacturing expertise.
Today, HBEER is creating green jobs and bringing back to work some of the 575 skilled workers and 1,000 related jobs that were lost in the houseboat manufacturing and marine industries due to the economy.
“The transfer of knowledge and expertise gained during the HBEER project traces the path of an arc leading directly from design research conducted at the University of Kentucky to design products meant to address important energy and economic needs of communities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond,” said UK Colege of Design Dean Michael Speaks. Among highlights of the HBEER project:
Estimated energy costs are about $1.65 per day, which is one-half to onesixth of energy bills for other housing alternatives.
More than 80 percent of the home value is derived from products made in Kentucky, creating or saving further jobs.
Stardust Cruisers went from 12 fulltime and 12 contract workers to 56 fulltime employees, including six dedicated to the HBEER project. Stardust has improved its houseboats’ energy efficiency and is now exporting new products.
A second HBEER prototype has been delivered to Whitley County and should be completed by the end of February. A next phase of the HBEER project will include a prototype for multifamily housing as well as classroom space for schools as an energy efficient and more durable alternative to portable classrooms.
Ah, lemonade – how sweet it is.