LLNL engineer spends time building affordable homes

Jan. 3, 2014

LLNL engineer spends time building affordable homes

Kenneth K Ma, ma28@llnl.gov, 925-423-7602

Alicia Williams is developing technology to strengthen America's security and building homes to provide low-income families with affordable housing.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory mechanical engineer in the Defense Technologies Engineering Division (DTED) is working on a weapons certification plan to support stockpile stewardship. But what she does on her free time is equally impressive.

Williams is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer who spends her Saturdays laboring on rooftops, where she installs siding, nails in frames and puts in decks to build inexpensive homes in the Bay Area, an expensive region.

"I was drawn to the organization because I think the cost of good housing is a huge challenge for many working families," she said. "Plus, I get to do some work with my hands, which is a refreshing change from spending the day on the computer."

With more than 1,500 local affiliates in the United States and more than 80 organizations around the world, the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity has helped to build or repair more than 600,000 houses and serve more than 3 million people worldwide, according to its website.

Williams started her pro bono work as a day volunteer, someone who does homebuilding for any given day. She's now a regular construction site volunteer on Saturdays, working on a variety of projects and helping maintain worksite safety.

Though the best part of the job, she said, is when the volunteers meet the partner families that eventually occupy the homes.

"The partner families have to put in 500 hours of 'sweat equity' as their down payment for the houses, and they are some of the hardest working people I know," said Williams, adding that Habitat makes housing mortgages affordable based on the family's income.

"It's always gratifying to hear stories of families who have been so positively affected by having good housing - something that is easy for many of us to take for granted."

If you would like to get involved in Habitat for Humanity, email williams224 [at] llnl.gov" target="_blank">Williams at or visit Habitat for Humanity