Our project connects Northwestern engineering students with low-income Evanstonians to provide free energy audits in Evanston’s Fifth Ward. We estimate that we can reduce utility costs by up to 30%, resulting in up to $350 a year in savings per family audited.
Evanston faces a crisis of affordability. Between 2004 and 2013, Evanston lost 40% of its affordable housing, according to a 2019 report by Apartment List. For many in Evanston’s Fifth Ward - traditionally low-income and African-American - managing a rising cost of living while property taxes skyrocket has become almost impossible.
Compounding the problem for Fifth Ward homeowners is the high cost of utilities. The housing stock in the Fifth is some of the oldest in the city, with most houses built nearly a hundred years ago. These old houses leak heat. While the median price for utilities in Evanston is approximately $95, one Fifth Ward resident told us that they paid as much as $300 per month in utilities -- yet their house was still too cold.
Providing free energy audits will help ease the cost for these already burdened homeowners. Thanks to our partner organizations in Evanston, Connections for the Homeless, and Open Communities, we are connecting engineering students with Fifth Ward families who want to participate in our program.
Jim Cavallo, a professional with decades of experience, will train the engineering students to perform a room-by-room examination of the house, find leaks, and install simple fixes. Our partners at Citizens’ Greener Evanston (CGE) have agreed to provide critical heavy equipment, such as an infrared camera and a blower door.
We have a strong relationship with Robin Rue Simmons, the Fifth Ward Alderwoman, who has put us in touch with a number of families already. Our first audit training for engineers will take place in late January and we will begin site visits in mid-February. If successful, we will expand next year to the Second and the Eighth Ward.
Funded by Chicago, IL (February 2019)