Green building and remodeling has become more popular due in part to concerns about the environment, not to mention the desire to save money and resources. Whether you are planning to remodel your existing home, or build an eco-friendly home from scratch, there are some things you need to consider before you take the plunge.
Find Qualified Professionals
A green build or remodel involves more than just installing solar panels, grey water systems, and high-efficiency windows. Green building also covers the other materials used in the build, such as drywall and even paint, as well as demolition, removal, and disposal techniques. Because the field is still fairly new, finding a team that specializes in green residential architecture and building is often easier said than done; but there are ways.
Check with the US Green Building Council (USGBC) for LEED-accredited builders, architects, and interior designers in your area. You can also check websites like thebeam.com and moderngreenliving.com, which have nationwide directories of green builders, designers, and other contractors, as well as their credentials and affiliations.
In addition to verifying their green credentials, you should also make sure they have the necessary standard paperwork such as contractors insurance, plus licenses, certifications, and bonds, if required in your state.
Another option is to check with people who have had green residential builds in your area to find out who they have worked with, their experience with their builder, and whether they are satisfied with the results.
Research the technology
Even if you hire people with training, experience, and certification in green building, you should still educate yourself on the green technologies that are available. Doing so not only helps you better communicate with your builder, it will also give you an idea of what to include in your remodel.
Consider attending green house tours, or the US Green Building Council’s green building show. Local home improvement stores can give you information on Energy Star appliances, recycled building materials, and home automation products. You can also check with your utility company, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, and other state and local government websites to see if they offer discounts, incentives, or rebates for green building.
B e realistic about your space needs.
Part of green building means using as few resources and materials, and creating as little waste as possible. The larger your space, the more materials you’ll need, and the more waste you’ll generate in the process. Also, larger spaces require more energy to heat and cool.
While it is tempting to go big with your remodel, unless you have a regular use for all that space, it’s better to go for less square footage.
Another option is to assign multiple functions to certain rooms. For example, having a separate guest room is great if you have frequent overnight guests. Otherwise, you could have a game room, that your family uses often, which also doubles as the guest bedroom.
Even if you know exactly what you want, you might be limited by what is actually available in your area. Also, some green options might not be your first aesthetic choice, but could actually work out to be more efficient.
Being flexible ensures that you can get the best options available in your area, instead of spending extra money and resources shipping items from distant locations. It also ensures that you get the materials that provide the best long-term solution while still blending in with your overall aesthetic.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the remodel and go a little nuts on high-end green features. Your best bet is to start off small, with green versions of all your necessities, then see how much of your budget you have left to accommodate a few upgrades here and there.
For example, solar panels might be on your wish list, but they can also blow your budget. Instead you can budget for room light timers and motion detectors, a high-efficiency furnace with a zone thermostat, and other power-saving devices. Once you have planned your remodel with the basics, you can see how much of your budget is left then consider where you can afford to upgrade.