How does someone who is interested in Green Building get started? I was involved in helping to develop NARI’s green building education program. We had a similar problem when we tried to organize and sort out a clear approach to learning about building “green.” The issue we faced is similar to the one that all people or organizations face when looking at the topic: where do you start?
Green Building is an ever growing topic with literally millions of pieces of information to be discovered. Our task force group spent many hours devoted to discussing how to approach the topic. As we sorted out how we wanted to approach the topic, the obvious starting point was the planning and design phase of a job.
We brainstormed questions that a good designer would ask as he or she approached a project. The very first question that should be asked is: are your clients interested in green concepts for their home? It is quite possible they are interested but have no idea how to approach the issue. This client will most likely take more time to educate on the subject and may or may not want to invest in the final outcome. However, I do feel it is our responsibility as builders and designers to be able and willing to educate our clients about the pros and cons of Green Building.
Questions can center around the indoor air quality of the home, comfort, energy use, savings or all of the above. For most people this will trigger more questions and give the remodeling professional a great opportunity to distinguish themselves as knowledgeable and capable leaders in the movement towards more environmentally conscious building practices.
Simple questions potential customers might ask include: are there temperature differences between rooms? Do you feel drafts from under cabinets, at windows, standing near the tub in a bathroom? Other considerations that designers need to ask themselves at this point are: how many people live in the house? How many pets and what kind? Is moisture an issue? Do the windows have condensation? Are there water stains in the house?
Depending on where we as building professionals are entering the process, we can then move into the design phase. This will allow us to incorporate a number of Green concepts into the project. If we are entering the process after the plans are complete, we can work with the existing design to “green it up.” It is very possible to apply a great deal of energy-saving and interior design ideas to most remodels. The only catch in all this is that the designer and the builder need to be aware of the areas where Green Building techniques can be applied and where the customer can see these choices as beneficial to their project.
How to begin the green process
The question you might ask is: how do I do this? I don’t know anything about building science, fly-ash or low-VOC paint. There are many paths to understand these concepts. Local Green Building classes, associations such as NARI, local utilities classes, conferences such as ACI or West Coast Green, the Internet, books, magazines and partnerships with other professionals are just a few of the ways that you can start to gain a clear understanding of Green Building.