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Residents of the Blayton Building in Williamsburg can breathe easy.
After a series of weatherization upgrades, the building is looking and feeling much more modern than it did before nearly 35 years after it opened. Weatherization is a process that bolsters existing buildings by ensuring a tighter seal on doors and windows, as well as the replacement of exhaust fans and ventilation equipment, all in an effort to improve health and save money on utility costs.
That’s especially important in a building where residents can still smoke in their rooms. Without a tight seal on the doors, smoke could seep out into the hallways and affect other residents, some of whom have respiratory problems.
The Blayton Building is operated by the Williamsburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority and houses low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
Other work includes attic and wall insulation, duct repairs and an inspection of the building’s furnaces, replacing the ones that were nearing the end of their lives, according to Don Mowry, the weatherization coordinator for the Williamsburg-James City County Community Action Agency, which assisted in the projects.
The work on the Blayton Building was the last of four weatherization projects at buildings managed by the Williamsburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The other three weatherized locations are Katherine Circle Apartments, Mimosa Woods Apartments and Sylvia Brown Apartments. All in all, the four projects cost $350,000 and provided weatherization work to 104 units that house a total of 108 people, according to Mowry and Reba Holden, the executive director of the community action agency.
Funding for the project came from money allocated to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act (commonly known as the stimulus).
Willie Fobbs, the associate director of affordable housing production and preservation for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, spoke at a Tuesday completion celebration for the weatherization efforts.
“On average, we’ve been able to determine residents with weatherized houses save $350 to $475 per year,” Fobbs said. “In terms of medication, grocery bills, that makes a great impact on a senior.”
Fobbs said the weatherization program began nationwide more than 30 years ago, referring to the process now as a “well-oiled machine.” He said weatherization efforts have created jobs across the nation while improving housing conditions for millions of Americans.
Elsie Castleman, the resident’s president at the Blayton Building, said she is happy to see the changes. She has lived at the building for almost eight years. She said she enjoys the building’s proximity to area draws — it is across the street from Williamsburg Regional Library — and that she couldn’t ask for a better location.
She said she grew up in Florida and that she likes to leave her windows open because she does not often need air conditioning or heat. Still, she has noticed a difference in the functionality of the climate equipment — the real test will be when she receives her first utility bill in the coming weeks.
Blayton Building resident Ollie Drew has lived in the building for about 13 years and is happy with the improvements.
“I ain’t trying to go no place else but here,” he said.