Choosing a Contractor for your Green Home
Building a house is one of the most important investments you will make. Hiring an inexperienced green building contractor may cost less initially, but you will pay for it in the long run. Many green building techniques and materials are state-of-the-art and contractors have not had enough experience with them to do a good job. If your contractor has been ‘building this way for 20 years’, he’s probably not the right man for the job. But how, exactly, does one tell the good from the bad and the ugly?
Know your Stuff
The best way to tell if someone knows what they are talking about is to know what you are talking about. Familiarize yourself with the territory by surfing the Internet, watching construction videos and buying relevant books and magazines. From ICFs to solar panels, keep up on the latest green building techniques and materials. Knowing what your options are will help you to make choices that suit your needs. You only have to be an expert of the armchair variety to help choose a contractor to make your home more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
Once you have acquired the site, enter the specifics into a green building software tool to generate a plethora of possible building options. The software is designed to offer you a wide range of possibilities in terms of design, materials and techniques. The software is capable of calculating savings in CO2 emissions as well as the carbon footprint of your build. These programs don’t come cheap and your best option is to find an environmentally minded architect that utilizes this software.
Ask friends, acquaintances, colleagues and anyone else you can think of to recommend contractors who have built or retrofitted their homes. Alternatively, ask your contractor for references from other clients. Ask to see samples of green building techniques in your contractor’s portfolio. Choose a contractor who has a number of years experience in the green building industry. Examine their credentials to ensure that they have formal training in the fields where expertise is required for your build. The contractor must be registered and have a license or ticket for the kind of work you want done.
Be part of the planning and discuss options and progress regularly with your contractor prior to construction. Get the architect, contractor, landscapers, solar installers and any other professionals you will be using to discuss the build. This will help with planning, prevent delays and solve problems before they happen.
Be on-site during the build. Checking up regularly will help with quality control. Check that building specs match architectural specs. Take pictures and video footage to consult other experts if you think something is not being built according to spec.
Some manufacturers offer training courses on the correct use of their materials. For example, Amvic offers training courses for contractors where they demonstrate installation of their ICF’s and other materials. Check to see which manufacturers offer these courses and make arrangements for your contractor to attend.
Get very detailed quotes. Contractors must state which materials they intend to use so that you have a chance to do research and investigate product courses. Timelines and contact details for the site manager should be obtained prior to the build.
Lastly, choose someone that you like. Go with your gut and find a contractor that you will enjoy working with.