When it comes to home improvement projects, if you have the motivation and skills to do it yourself, you have the ability to make it green. But not everyone has the DIY bug, and some projects are just too big or complicated for even the handiest amateurs. Fortunately, in many parts of the country it’s getting easier to find architects, builders and other professionals with green design and construction know-how.
Some pros have a good grasp of green fundamentals. They know effective methods and materials that are healthier, use natural resources wisely and don’t waste energy. In fact, many have been designing or building eco-friendly homes for years without necessarily calling them green.
On the flip side, anyone can put the word “green” on their business card or website. Let’s face it, green building has become big business and lots of folks are clamoring for a piece of the profits. It’s up to you to check the green credentials of anyone you hire. Here are tips for getting started:
Where to find green pros
Ask for referrals from people you know, particularly those tuned into the local green scene.
Check with local or state green building programs or your city’s environment department, if it has one.
Read publications that feature green homes and keep an eye out for names of green pros in your region.
Know your priorities
You don’t have to be a green building expert, but you do need to know what green means to you. What are your priorities and passions? Energy efficiency? Sustainably harvested wood? Avoiding products that trigger chemical sensitivities or asthma? The better you articulate your goals, the more likely the pros you hire will be able to meet them.
Look for pros whose skills and services match your needs in terms of scope, budget, style, location and green interests.
Talk it over
Discuss green with the pros from the start. Don’t wait until after signing a contract to surprise them with your green wish list. Energy efficiency and smart resource use need to be integrated into the entire design and construction process, not tacked on at the end.
Ask probing questions about the projects they’ve worked on and get details about the green elements. If a particular project wasn’t green, ask why not.
Check references. In addition to the standard questions about budget, quality and so on, ask their opinion of the pro’s green experience.
Put it in writing
Spell out your green requirements in the contract. If it’s not in writing, you’ll have little recourse if the work doesn’t meet your expectations. Some pros have a list of standard green specifications. Modify this to suit your project, or provide your own green specs. You can also include in your contract relevant sections from publications such as Build It Green’s Green Building Guidelines.
© Jennifer Roberts.
Originally published in Good Green News.