Green Home

    Home Energy Audit

    Selecting a
    Green Builder

    Financing Green
    Home Projects

  Selecting your builder is one of the most
  important decisions you will make for
  your energy efficient, green home.
Selecting a Green Builder


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Selecting a Green Builder

The science behind constructing a home that is energy efficient, healthy, comfortable, and durable is well-understood. The construction techniques that consistently meet these goals are well-established for new homes and remodeling projects. However, the characteristics of a Green Home are not yet considered part of the standard features of a basic home so the majority of builders do not include these features in their production homes. A more fundamental issue is that a whole-system approach is needed to make a house work the way it should. The traditional approach to construction where architect, prime contractor, and sub-contractors work in their own worlds makes whole-system optimization impossible. This means that you must find a builder who is passionate about his trade, knows more about home construction than is typically taught, and works in a “non-standard” mode. You also want him dedicated to quality.

You will want to meet with several builders to appreciate differences and find one that matches your values, needs, and personality. Face to face meeting is essential. You will be looking for good communication abilities and a comfort level that tells you that this is the builder that can lead you through decisions involving compromise while following your instructions. You will have very few home construction or major remodeling projects in your life and this guy will be your guide. You need to choose wisely.

First, make sure you are his kind of customer. Home construction is a broad market and every builder must specialize. Look for one that builds homes in your price range. He needs to be a custom or semi-custom builder. Builders you are looking for will market themselves as High Performance, Energy Efficient, or Green builders. You may also want to consider whether you are a first-time home buyer, first-time home builder, or interested in aging-in-place. Builders have styles, just like you do. If you like Old-world, Mediterranean, or Modern styles find a builder who has that style. Avoid a builder who tries to be all things to all people. Success requires focus.

Communication will make a big difference. You will need to learn how your home works, how to get the best performance, and how to take care of it. You need to know how to spot problems and how to verify that everything is working as it should. Look at the builder’s website. If it is informative and well organized you are on the right track. You will need a user manual for your home. Make sure that it is more than a stack of manuals for the appliances. The builder should be able to speak easily about the house as a collection of interrelated systems; thermal, air, and moisture envelopes; advanced framing; special considerations for a finished basement; expected energy use; site characteristics and impact on choices; HVAC calculations (manual J, passive solar); window characteristics; and ventilation (natural and mechanical). When he is done talking, you should be comfortable that you learned what you needed.

Organization is key. Home building and home remodeling are big projects that usually involve multiple people from different trades. Your builder must be a good project manager. Make sure there are checklists to verify that critical components are completed properly. He should have lists of features that are included in the type of project you are considering. He must be organized to lead the sub-contractors to results that deliver whole-system efficiencies.

Look for certifications. Green construction is an evolving market. Certifications are no guarantee that the builder will get the job done, but it does show dedication to a higher level of professionalism. Learn about the various green rating systems to better understand the builder’s approach.

You may want to consider a construction auditor to set expectations about how the construction will be done and confirm that specific requirements have been delivered. The auditor should be part of the project from the beginning. They should be responsible for establishing a list of requirements and how fulfillment will be verified prior to ground-breaking. This can be a simple checklist with sign-offs as the project progresses. You may want pictures or videos to verify characteristics of components like the foundation and framing. An independent audit goes a long way to ensure quality construction.