For most parts of the country, the green building movement has only recently gained momentum. A notable exception is California, where contractors such as David Leff have been doing environmentally friendly remodels for decades. Almost 30 years ago, Leff was a member of the North Coast Solar Builders Association, and he now serves on the green building committee of the North Coast Builders Exchange. He has also completed the green building certification program at Sonoma State University.

“We've always made [green] part of our approach to designing and building,” Leff says, noting that certain procedures — separating materials for reuse or recycling, for instance — that other companies do to advertise themselves as green builders have been par for the course for his company for some time. He distinguishes his company by talking with potential clients more specifically about topics such as air quality and energy conservation.

Early in his career, Leff dabbled in development — including a 44-unit solar town-house project in 1984 — but has focused on large remodels and custom homes since the late 1980s.

- Hayden Alfano