JIMMY ROYSTER brings his passion for green building and his commitment to volunteerism to his role at The Affordable Housing Group of North Carolina, Inc. (TAHG).
He says his interest in housing began at age 16, when the church he grew up in in Poquoson, Va., would help build homes for Appalachian families.
That led him to become involved with Habitat for Humanity when he was in college; he was president of the chapter at James Madison University.
After college, he led more than 40 youths in the construction of three affordable homes using green building technologies for West Virginia's Almost Heaven Habitat chapter and then worked as a construction assistant for Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte, N.C. He even worked with an El Salvador Habitat chapter to build three earthquakeresistant homes in Central America.
“Meeting housing needs was something I could do well,” Royster says. “I realized I wanted to have a career in this." So he opted to go to graduate school for a master's in community development and planning at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., to build his skill sets.
He did a brief stint at Enterprise Community Partners' Green Communities. Then he landed at TAHG in July 2007 as a development associate. Royster mainly handles project management—i.e., looking for funding and sites, doing technical assistance for local nonprofits, managing the development team, and obtaining building permits.
When he started, he says he realized that it was taking longer for the green movement to pick up steam in North Carolina. From his experiences with Enterprise Green Communities and Habitat's green building, he knew there was no reason for it not to happen and continued to plug away.
“When he came to us, we were doing Energy Star and hadn't investigated doing anything more than that,” says Kathy Stilwell, deputy director of TAHG. “His background in it was good, and he did a lot of research of his own to figure out what programs were out there and what things we can do at our properties. He encouraged us to pursue it."
The opportunities presented themselves, and Royster was able to guide two of TAHG's seniors developments to high green standards.
Under his direction, Cherry Gardens in Charlotte became the first multifamily project in North Carolina to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes certification. And Curlin Commons in Mooresville, N.C., received EarthCraft certification, also a first for an affordable multifamily project in the state. Both projects were placed in service in 2010.
“At the end of the day, the benefits of green should be made available to everyone," he says. “Making homes healthier and energy efficient doesn't have to bust the budget."
Royster remains active as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte for building and fundraising events, and his “commitment is contagious," says Stilwell. Rather than have an office holiday party in 2010, the staff decided to volunteer for a day at the Habitat ReStore in Charlotte, which Royster organized. The previous summer, he also arranged for the staff to take part in a Habitat house build.