What Makes Green — Green?

Architects and designers across the country are finding at least some “greener” pastures despite the lowest consumer confidence in several decades. To be successful in an increasingly competitive world, remodeling professionals should have a basic understanding of all things green — including their clients’ desires for sustainable solutions and durable designs that are budget conscious.

Many of the remodelers I talked with said the fear of making major purchases has kept many of their clients from making a final decision on whether to start the design or building process.

Dispelling misconceptions about sustainability is the major hurdle we face in educating our clients. Most often, people hear green and think there is a premium attached. This is the first myth we as remodelers need to dismiss. There are products at every level that a good designer or remodeler can recommend. It is this knowledge, knowing how green your client is willing to go and marrying it with their budget that will set you apart from your competition.

However, before you can educate your client, you need to be educated. Whether a client is focused on energy-saving appliances, water conservation or the impact of their design on the health of the people that will inhabit the space, a sustainable design should be your focus. This can be marketed from many angles. The urgency presented by the enormous amount of press green has created will force you to take smaller more deliberate steps throughout the entire process, from your initial interview through design and finally through construction.

I have noticed through my e-mails that across the United States regions differ when talking about sustainability and greenability. In those areas with high foreclosure rates, consumer confidence has been impacted and this directly relates to how much people are willing to invest in greening their living environment. I have become aware that the demand for green products might be moderate but the desire for information is ultimately higher. This puts green and sustainability in a great position when the economy turns around — and it will turn around.

As I have probed further into sustainability, several factors have come to the forefront. I now consider that a home’s total environment/carbon footprint must demonstrate a complete and thorough life cycle assessment. This includes the five stages of a building product: material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, construction and use, and disposal. All five of these factors determine whether I will recommend a product or system to my clients.

Today’s overriding goal must be sustainability. We as designers, homeowners and remodelers need to make our living environments cleaner, healthier and more environmentally friendly. We need to always be searching for products and systems that offer a smaller environmental footprint that yields a larger economic benefit (always being conscious of costs) for our clients.

There are a lot of terms that are thrown around when you hear people discuss green. Over the next few articles I will try and break these down into the simplest common denominator. These terms are: lifecycle, durability, carbon footprint, conservation, green, sustainability, efficiency, indefinite, longevity and environmental footprint. On a personal note, I want to thank all of you who read my column and contact me. It is this encouragement, through your e-mails and letters that makes writing this column worth it. I have come to know many of you personally and I want you all to know that I learn more from you than you could possibly imagine. So, thanks.