Get Help from Bob Vila
- Give-Aways & Offers
- Monthly Must Do's
- DIY Project Ideas
- Step-by-Step Guides
- Inspirational Photo Galleries
Before you plunge into a green home or remodeling project, take a minute to consider why upfront planning can be so important.
“We need to remember that the greater goal of all of our building projects is to support sustainable living,” says Victoria Schomer, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a LEED-accredited Professional, based in Asheville, NC.
“We need to create living and working spaces that maximize existing square footage, allow us to stay connected with nature, use what we already have better, readily recycle, and adopt green consumer habits on a day-to-day basis,” Schomer says. “Then, we’ll hit that real endgame target of reducing our global impacts and protecting our planet and everyone living here.”
Find Green Experts
Don’t make a purchase until you know your plan. “Most things go wrong at the beginning, even though it may not feel like it. It’s the invisible decisions that equal missed opportunities and costly mistakes,” says Kathleen O’Brien, president of the green building consulting firm O’Brien and Co., Inc., in Seattle. The Northwest Green Home Primer , a book O’Brien co-authored with Kathleen Smith, is a comprehensive look at building, remodeling ,or buying green in that region, with worksheets, case studies, and illustrations that create a thoughtful real-world guide for getting green results.
To get your plan off to its best start, assemble a green team. O’Brien says there should be “one main hire” for the green team: the person responsible for the job. “Making sure this person is qualified and interested in a green project is absolutely key,” she says.
To find that person, look for professionals participating in a green home building program. Check with local programs developed by industry groups, such as master builders associations, environmental nonprofits, and municipal utilities.
“Find the folks who are not just members in names only but have homes certified in the local program,” says O’Brien. “Most of these groups have websites listing their members and sometimes even certified homes you can take a look at.” In the Northeast, check out the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association; in the Southeast, check out the Southface Energy Institute; in the Northwest, check out the Pacific Northwest EcoBuilding Guild.
You also can visit the websites of national organizations to obtain team contacts. The U.S. Green Building Council provides a section on its site to look up members that are LEED-accredited Professionals. To become a LEED AP, members must pass a rigorous exam that demonstrates a thorough understanding of green building practices and principles.
Assemble Your Team
After you chose your key leader, together you can build your team. As you sort through contacts, ask these questions:.
1. What type of green training and/or certification do they have? For many associations, you should be able to confirm certifications by contacting their offices or checking their websites.
2. What type and how many green homes/remodels have they successfully completed? Ask them for a list of green references and be sure to check out the list.
3. How would they approach the project? Coordination among everyone on the team—owner, architect, designer, builder, trade, manufacturers—is vital to the success of a high-performance green project.
4. What is a green building from their perspective? Look for some of the following responses, to name just a few, along with specific project goals:
Working Through the Plan
As you consider, create, and proceed through your green plan, here are other things to keep in mind:
When your green plan has been successfully completed, learn how to operate your new green home or remodel. The success of a green plan can be greatly affected by your habits and lifestyle. Adding big power users, not programming the programmable thermostat or failing to provide routine maintenance of the home’s systems will not allow the project to operate up to its potential.