St. Cloud

Empowering homeowners to tackle energy efficiency improvements

Workshop series hosted by Rethos: Places Reimagined

Empowering homeowners

 

Over the past year, the nonprofit Rethos: Places Reimagined hosted a combination of in-person and virtual do-it-yourself workshops to teach homeowners in the St. Cloud region and beyond how to maximize energy efficiency and minimize heat loss in their homes, with the help of a Central CERT Seed Grant.

 

The primary goal of these classes was to empower homeowners to tackle energy efficiency issues on their own and in a cost-effective way.

Natalie Heneghan, Education Manager at Rethos: Places Reimagined

Preserving older homes and promoting community vitality

Over the past year, Rethos: Places Reimagined hosted a combination of in-person and virtual do-it-yourself workshops to teach homeowners how to maximize energy efficiency and minimize heat loss in their homes.

“This work starts at home, then spills out to our block, our neighborhood, our city and state, until it covers our entire region with no boundaries or limits,” the nonprofit’s website noted about their efforts to lead and inspire people to connect and promote community vitality.

Through these workshops, the Rethos team had goals of demonstrating the value of rehabbing old buildings and reducing environmental impacts of energy use, home construction and demolition, aligning with the organization’s unique grassroots approach to how places and communities are reimagined.

“The primary goal of these classes was to empower homeowners to tackle energy efficiency issues on their own and in a cost-effective way,” said Natalie Heneghan, who serves as the education manager at Rethos.

A Central CERT Seed Grant funded the staff and contracting labor required to develop and implement the workshop curriculum and conduct effective outreach to recruit participants.

These classes helped to dispel myths about older homes and structures being inherently inefficient and that improvements and upgrades are too costly and difficult to be worth tackling.

Natalie Heneghan, Education Manager at Rethos: Places Reimagined

Building a DIY energy efficiency curriculum

The original classes designed by the Rethos team demonstrated concepts including the importance of conducting an energy audit, basic weatherization and winterization skills, and ways in which older homes can be upgraded and improved.

“This is helping build a growing base of homeowners that can confidently purchase and renovate existing homes, reducing the amount of wasteful demolition, and increasing the ecological sustainability of the housing market,” Heneghan said.

In addition, Rethos hoped to challenge the idea that new is always better.

“These classes helped to dispel myths about older homes and structures being inherently inefficient and that improvements and upgrades are too costly and difficult to be worth tackling,” Heneghan added.

Classes included the following topics: 

  • Why Old is Green
  • Repairing and Restoring Old Windows
  • Energy Audit Walkthrough, and
  • DIY Energy Upgrades

The Rethos team spread the word about the classes through its own press release and newsletter, local radio stations and other local partners including the Morrison County Historical Society.

 

Cen-Rethos_Photo1_EgressEducationClass.JPG.jpg

Demonstration of repairing and restoring an old window from a Rethos event.

This is helping build a growing base of homeowners that can confidently purchase and renovate existing homes, reducing the amount of wasteful demolition, and increasing the ecological sustainability of the housing market.

Natalie Heneghan, Education Manager at Rethos: Places Reimagined

Workshop impact and lessons learned

In total, more than 60 participants attended the four events, with most expressing a desire to participate in more classes. Workshop participants’ knowledge and backgrounds were diverse, however, which prompted the organization to consider a tiered approach to its curriculum and class offerings in the future.

“We found that attendees often come from different backgrounds and comfort levels with home [and] property owner improvements, ranging from those who hardly ever use tools to those who work in the industry or have tackled property improvement projects on their own,” Heneghan said.

Drawing on this, the team wants to create a tiered curriculum in the future that would “provide classes to beginners as well as more seasoned do-it-yourself rehabbers.”

In addition to adapting across different skill levels, the Rethos team also learned from adapting their curriculum to an online format as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We learned that, if we are planning to do webinars in the future, we need to tailor the curriculum to better fit the format,” Heneghan said. “Just transplanting our in-person curriculum to a webinar was clunky at times and less efficient than a purely webinar focused curriculum would have been.”

For future webinars, the team plans to include more videos, which served as great introductions to each new energy efficiency topic and provided an engaging break between standard presentation-based content. Indeed, the recent workshops were “just the beginning” of the organization’s energy efficiency curriculum.

“We have already planned a curriculum to cover additional topics, including roofing, insulation, plaster repair, and how to conduct a self-energy audit,” Heneghan said.

The project is helping move Rethos beyond the classroom and workshop format, as well. In the months and years ahead, the team will continue planning broader, statewide initiatives to grow awareness about these topics and the environmental sustainability of building rehab.

Project Snapshot

 
  • Clean Energy Focus: Energy Efficiency Education
  • Central CERT Seed Grant: $3,000
  • Total Project Cost: $5,000
  • Other Funds: In-kind (time/materials by Rethos)
  • Project Team: Natalie Heneghan, Rethos: Places Reimagined and Ann Marie Johnson, Morrison County Historical Society/ Rethos: Places Reimagined
  • People Involved and Reached: 67
 
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