Checklist: Choosing a green builder
By Hans Doellgast on 03/22/2010
As people become educated about the benefits of building and owning a green-built home, more builders are advertising themselves as “green” builders. For the most part, this is a good thing. For those of us who have preached environmentally sensitive building practices for years, our voices have been heard. Now that our message has caught on, future green-home owners are presented with a large pool of builders to choose from.
But when choosing a builder, make sure you pick one whose value system and priorities match up with your own. Building a home can be either one of the most satisfying projects you can take on, or it can turn into your biggest nightmare. Make sure that when interviewing builders, you ask questions that reveal their shade of green! Here are some questions to consider asking prospective builders:
- What makes your company green? (If you only get a list of products, beware!)
- How long have you been building green homes?
- Can you tell me about the NC HealthyBuilt Homes program?
- What led you to go green?
- How many homes have you certified through the HealthyBuilt Homes program?
- What level of certification did your homes achieve?
- Do you actively use locally produced materials in your homes?
- What efforts do you go through to lessen the impact on your job site?
- Are your homes efficient? Why?
- Have you ever used alternative forms of technology to heat, cool or power your homes?
- Are your homes appropriate places for chemically sensitive people to live? Why? What changes could you make to achieve this goal?
- Do you have your own crew, and if so, are they paid a living wage?
- Do you employ ENERGY STAR framing techniques, and if so, which ones?
- Do you make an effort to keep certain building materials out of the landfill? How? Why?
- Do you provide fresh-air introduction to your homes? How? Why?
- What type of insulation do you typically use? Why?
- What sets you apart from your competition?
- Are there any new green products or technologies that you are excited about?
- Do you have a list of previous clients that I could call for references?
In my opinion, there are indeed wrong answers that perspective builders can give to most of these questions. Builders who are thrown off by any of these questions — or who consider a question to be unimportant — might not be your best choice. There are, however, quite a few correct answers to all of these questions. Approach each interview as an opportunity to educate yourself.
If a builder’s response doesn’t seem to make sense, or contradicts another builder’s response, call the WNC Green Building Council’s hotline at (828) 254-1995. Council staff members are an unbiased source and are available to help you negotiate your way through a dizzying array of products and services. The council also offers a variety of classes to educate both homebuyers and builders. Current class listings are available at http://www.wncgbc.org.
Hans Doellgast owns Jade Mountain Builders, a committed NC HealthyBuilt Home company.