Armchair Builder

Green Building: Changing Attitudes

I was in a green building seminar this past week and one of the people attending mentioned that changing the building industry is like trying to turn a cruise ship.  It’s an overused cliche…but VERY true.  The one thing you’ll find if you are building a new cutting edge project is that certain subcontractors don’t want to adopt new technologies, products and techniques.  Here are some old school examples you might run into…

  • Trash Sorting:  I don’t have the time to throw my trash into the appropriate container.  Many green building jobsites now have separate containers for sorting trash for recycling.  But you need the cooperation of your subcontractors to make this work.
  • Rule of Thumb Design:  I’ve been installing HVAC systems for years…why would I need to run a computer program to tell me what I already know.  Believe it or not, we are improving homes every year.  The best way to make sure the heating and cooling equipment and design will make for a comfortable and efficient home is to run one of the programs like Rezcalc to check.  These programs take into consideration insulation types, house orientation, climate, window types, sizes and locations, exterior wall dimensions…etc.
  • Sloppy Framing:  In a previous post called Energy Efficiency:  Building a Tight Home, we shared a few framing techniques for building an energy efficient home.  These are great methods for keeping your energy costs down.  But some rough carpenter subcontractors don’t want to apply these green building methods consistently.  This sloppy framing category can also involve using too much material.  I can’t tell you how many new homes I have walked into that have significant quantities of unnecessary lumber in them.
  • New Products:  I don’t need to read the manufacturer’s label to know how to install this!  Many subcontractors don’t read the directions on the products they use.  This is a scary truth!
These are just a few examples of challenges you might be faced with when planning your new green building project.  What is the best way to combat these attitudes and get your project built the right way?  Here are some tips to help you get your subs on board:
  • Use specific data and credible sources to back up your requests to do a job a certain way.  Telling someone the why is sometimes the most powerful way to influence them.
  • Locate subcontractors that regularly use the green building products or techniques you desire.  For example, don’t hire a siding contractor to install your cement board siding if they typically install vinyl siding.  The techniques and quality measures are much different.
  • Perform regular quality inspections for your green building projects.  This should be obvious for any project…but don’t forget it.  If you catch an install error early on, it will be much easier to correct.  I once caught my new siding contractor the first day on the job not taping the window flanges before covering them with siding.  This detail was in the contract and if I hadn’t stopped by to inspect, all the windows would have leaked when it rained.  Ugh!
  • If the above methods fail and your chosen green building subcontractor still doesn’t want to do things the correct way, pull one of your backups off the bench to get the job done right.  There are companies out there that believe in using the latest and greatest techniques and products, you just need to find them.
Green building is a worthwhile venture as your new project will be more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly.  You will also get the added benefit of better comfort for your family.  So if you run into resistance from suppliers and subcontractors when planning your project, don’t let up…keep looking as there are some great companies out there that truly believe in green building.



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Why Build Green?- Armchair Builder :: Blog :: Build, renovate, & repair your own home. Save money as an owner-builder. | February 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

[…] whether to give the long or the short answer.  There are so many positive things that come out of green building that pay both the homeowner and the environment back with huge dividends.  But one of the biggest […]