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The Green Life: Help With Home Improvement

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June 16, 2007

Help With Home Improvement

Green building is one of the hottest sustainable trends, but contractors familiar with all the ecofriendly options can still be hard to find. I tracked down a few recently for the July/August issue of Sierra and gleaned a few tips. Good builders understand that people want some pizzazz in their green home--like bamboo flooring or countertops made from recycled glass--but they hope potential clients will keep in mind that "hidden" things like insulation, weatherization, and energy systems are what really counts in the long run. Here are some questions to ask to suss out a potential builder's green qualifications:

  • What kind of certifications (e.g., LEED, Energy Star) are you getting for the homes you build?
  • Where are your homes sited? Do you look for in-fill building opportunities?
  • What do you do to minimize the footprint of your homes and control erosion?
  • Are you using salvaged or FSC-certified lumber?
  • What are you doing to minimize waste during the construction process? How much are you recycling?
  • How do you work to improve indoor air quality? A radiant or decentralized heating system, for example, is a better bet than a forced-air one, because the latter's duct work may house mold and dust that can then blow through the house.

A local association like Build It Green in Northern California can provide referrals to green builders, and often some free advice to homeowners too. If you can't find a contractor who specializes in environmentally friendly projects, see if you can find one who wants to learn and will work with you to investigate greener options. And check back next week as we start a series of interviews with green builders and provide more resources for new homes and remodels.

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