National Healthy Housing Leaders Announced as HomeFree Champions

Billy Weber | January 15, 2019

Healthy Building Network is excited to announce the HomeFree Champions who will shape and guide HomeFree, our initiative to support affordable housing leaders who are improving human health by decreasing their use of toxic building materials.

The 16 members are a dynamic group of national and regional healthy-housing experts who represent cross-sector disciplines. “We are honored to be working with top innovators who have been creating the healthiest, high-efficiency buildings in the country, and who are willing to share their knowledge with others,” says Gina Ciganik, CEO of Healthy Building Network.

Meet four of the Champions:

Jess Blanch, Capitol Hill Housing:  Jess joined Capitol Hill Housing in 2016 as an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, where she has focused on advancing CHH's capacity in design excellence, sustainability, and community engagement in a variety of low-income housing and community development projects. Jess has over a decade of experience in the design of high-performance buildings, affordable housing and community facilities, and community-engaged design work at Environmental Works Community Design Center, the University of Washington Integrated Design Lab, and the Global Studio.

David Johnson, SERA Architects: David is a leader in integrated design, with three decades of global experience. David leads the Bay Area office of SERA Architects. Prior to joining SERA, David was a partner and managing director at William McDonough + Partners. He contributes to books,manuals, and conferences and was a sustainable-design studio instructor at Stanford University, and a Planning Commissioner in Marin, California. He presents frequently on how to apply value-based restorative design principles in the built environment.

Ben Passer, Fresh Energy: Ben directs Fresh Energy’s work to advance equitable outcomes across Minnesota’s energy system, and also supports the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Ben holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law. He is a member of the Minnesota Bar.

Rusty Smith, Rural Studio: Rusty is Auburn University's Gresham Professor, Associate Chair of the Architecture Program ,and Associate Director of the Rural Studio. He has also taught and lectured as a Distinguished Visiting Artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects. He is a nationally recognized teacher and scholar. Rusty’s honors i teaching excellence include receiving the 2005 American Institute of Architects National Teaching Honor Award (along with Professors Bruce Lindsey and Rebecca O'Neal Dagg), and the 2003 American Institute of Architecture Students National Teaching Honor Award. Rusty is a regularly invited to speak about design education at both educational institutions as well as to design professionals.

Learn more about all of our Champions

Making a collective impact.

The HomeFree Champions will engage in demonstration projects and initiatives that bring HomeFree’s guidance to their organizations and networks -- raising awareness, and building the capacity of affordable housing practitioners. The variety of projects, from new building construction to routine flooring replacement, will enrich and shape HomeFree, while delivering practical field-tested solutions for our partners. The “Future Floor” workgroup will discover a next generation of healthier flooring materials as they work with interested manufacturers who can provide options to meet specifications. Those pushing innovation in the energy and climate realm will join our “Intersection of Energy, Climate, and Health” cohort who will find healthier weatherization and other products to ensure improved IAQ and minimization of global warming. This work will lead to the transformation of the baseline affordable housing products specified to healthier less toxic options for everyone. As we jointly learn and cross-pollinate ideas, we will expand shared understanding, accelerating adoption of the use of healthier materials in affordable housing. Healthier materials creates healthier lives.

We invite you to explore HomeFree and learn more.