One method to jumpstart this process is to sign up for NARI’s Green Education Program. The program covers a wide spectrum of topics that will give you a good overview of how to build Green. These topics include: Introduction, Application problem solving/ Site Planning, Basic Building Science, Indoor Environmental Quality, Deconstruction vs. Demolition, Foundations, Structural Framing, Roofing, Insulation, HVAC, Electrical, Renewable Energy, Appliances, Plumbing, Exterior Finishes, Interior Materials and Finishes, Landscaping and Marketing Your Green Business. The program is offered by NARI as a teleseminar and we will launch both east coast and west coast versions soon. It is currently an education program with plans to be a certified program within the year. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with how green building fits into every phase of construction on each job, from the initial design to the final landscaping. We recently completed a pilot program with participants from across the country. We were aware in the development process that “regions” would play a part in how different topics were presented. One of the more interesting parts of the program was asking how the building process was different in the various parts of the country. After integrating vital information from professionals in varying climate zones, we came away with what we hope is a comprehensive and universally applicable curriculum for the class.
The energy was exciting and I truly believe after being a part of the development and presentation of this program that I learn as much as a presenter as I do when I’m a participant.
One other great way to get started is to partner with local experts. In our location we have a great resource in Matt Golden with Sustainable Spaces (http://www.sustainablespaces.com). He has put together a team of experts who can diagnose, suggest the appropriate solution and implement it if you want. His company offers a “Green-Up” building service which comprises of a three hour test and a comprehensive report that deals with the issues you or your customer might have with a home. Look for these partners at association meetings: ACI workshops,(Affordable Comfort Inc. http://www.affordablecomfort.org ) or EEBA ( http://www.eeba.org ). Both of these sites have links and information that can be valuable resources for all. You can also check in with experts in the field. Most will be happy to share their knowledge with you.
My library of books is rapidly growing. There are many that are wonderful and full of great information. “Builder’s Guide” written by Joseph Lstiburek, Ph. D P.Eng. is part of a series of books that have been written for the four major climate zones in the US with a fifth book coming out soon for the Marine Climate. “Green Remodeling: Changing the World one Room at a Time” by David Johnston and Kim Master, and “Residential Energy: Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings” by John Krigger and Chris Dorsi are great resources that I have personally found helpful. One effective website that I’ve come across is “Green Building Guidelines: Meeting the Demand for Low-Energy Resource-Efficient Homes”. (http://www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/building_america)
It is critical that we present ourselves as educated professionals in anything we bring to our business and our customer. The area of green building is no exception. We would be doing a great disservice to our customers to “throw money” at problems they might be experiencing. On a site visit, if the client says that they have a 100K BTU FAU but are still cold, should they install a 150K BTU FAU unit? Questions like this beg us to start thinking outside of our normal way of going about the construction process. In other words, we aren’t just there to ask them to sign on the bottom line. If we are put in a position to sell or not sell our client brand new windows without knowing what the other issues are in the house, are we really helping them make the best decisions in the end? Above all, education is the key to knowing the answers to these questions.
As we begin to implement these items, how do we know how green our projects are? We can use a third party rater to check our project for compliance. We can download a self-assessment test online to check our job beforehand. (stopwaste.org) This is a handy tool to design with and to keep our product consistent. Areas of significant focus include demolition and how much of our job is recycled or reused, foundation, are we using fly-ash (derived from burning coal, fly ash is a valuable additive that makes concrete stronger, more durable and easier to work with), structural framing, are we using “Advanced Framing Techniques” FSC certified wood, I joist, SIP’s, and where it is appropriate to use recycled lumber for non-structural applications. Exterior finishes can be greener using FSC certified wood, or by using fiber-cement siding materials. Green plumbing application include: water heater jackets or tankless heaters, pipe insulation, re-circulation pumps with timers or aqua stats, and replacing toilets with ultra low flow units. Electrical applications might include: installing compact fluorescent bulbs, air sealed recessed cans, lighting control systems, and using whole house fans to replace air conditioning (where climate appropriate). Another simple way to be more in tune with green building is to install only Energy Star appliances. Insulation might comprise of upgrading to exceed energy code requirements and using alternate insulation products like cotton or spray foam. Applying green practices and products when dealing with window choice might include double pane installation as well as low-E coatings. You might also want to include specific window coatings based on the orientation of the home. Heating and air-conditioning is a much abused area that has many opportunities for improvement. You can use duct mastic on all joints, install duct work within the conditioned space, use sealed combustion furnaces and water heaters, venting fans and hoods to the outside, use load calculations to size HVAC units, install a separate garage exhaust fan, as well as heat recovery ventilation units. Renewable energy might include pre-plumbing for and installing solar thermal, pre-wiring for a photovoltaic (PV) system, installing a radiant barrier in the roof, using a cool roof, incorporating passive solar heating, installing overhangs or awnings on south facing windows, and planting deciduous trees on the west and south sides of the property. Indoor air quality is huge and with some carefully thought out finishing selections, we can positively affect our clients’ health. You can utilize low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints, no or low VOC adhesives, engineered sheet goods with no added Urea-formaldehyde, seal all exposed particle board or MDF, install a whole house vacuum system, use FSC certified wood flooring, use “recycled content” tile, and install natural linoleum in place of vinyl. You can also install “recycled content” carpet with low VOCs.