How to Find an Environmentally Conscious Contracting Company
So you want your next house to be sustainable, with a reliance on renewable energy and a tiny carbon footprint. It’s a great idea, but unless you’re in the construction business, you can’t do it yourself.
Still, it can be tough to find a contracting company that can build your green home the way you want it built. Green building is still a relatively new field, and not every contractor has the specialized skills needed to create an ecologically friendly home. Here are a few things to consider when choosing green contractors.
Just because they say they’re “green”… it doesn’t mean they are
Green building is a popular field now, but it’s still new—and some companies have jumped on the bandwagon by advertising themselves as green when there’s very little in their experience or practice that would justify that label. In the U.S. any contracting company can advertise itself as green—but if they haven’t been in business for longer than a few years, they may not have the basic construction skills to build a home well, let alone build one that’s truly sustainable.
Experience still counts
Some companies call themselves green but aren’t; other companies don’t use the green label, but have the technical know-how to build energy efficient homes. A lot of building green is just building well. If a house is properly insulated, for example, it’ll retain heat more easily and it won’t require as much energy to heat in the winter. When looking for a green contractor, don’t limit your search to those who call themselves green. Look for those who have twenty or more years of experience in the business as well.
Familiarity with LEED certification
The Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED) certification is given out by the US Sustainable Building Council to buildings that meet strict criteria for environmental construction. LEED certification is available for almost any kind of building, including residences. If your contractor is familiar with LEED certification and has a few silver, gold or platinum LEED homes under his belt, it’s a pretty safe bet he can build you a sustainable home.
The right memberships
There are no required licenses specifically for green contractors, but there are some for renewable energy installers as well as a few organizations that can demonstrate their commitment and interest in green building. If you’re looking for a solar panel installer, they should have a state-certified Solar Contractor license or solar panel installation certification. They should also be state-certified as Roofing Contractors and Electrical Contractors. For green contractors in general, look for memberships with organizations such as the United States Green Building Council or the American Solar Energy Society.
A record of building green
When talking to possible contractors, ask for contact information for former clients with homes similar to the one you want designed. If they can provide you with a few contacts, that’s a good sign. Call the homeowners; ask them how the build process went, whether there were any roadblocks along the way and how the contractor handled them; as well as anything you need to know about how their green home works.
The ability to listen
It’s important to find a building professional who will listen to you. Some builders, whether they bill themselves as “green” or not, are more apt to cut corners than others—and the basis of a successful green building project is getting even the small details right. Look for a builder who will listen to what you want and commit to doing the job right, without cutting corners or costs. Chances are a green building project will be more expensive than an ordinary residential construction project—but you should be able to get what you pay for.
Finding the right contractor to build your green home isn’t as easy as looking in the phone book. It takes some research, careful interviewing, and knowledge of the characteristics the right contractor has to have—from obvious ones like green industry memberships and a history of green building to the less obvious, such as a long history of building excellent homes. With this knowledge, you should be able to find a contractor who can build you an environmentally friendly home.
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