Credit: Sharpe + Harrell Photography
Green remodeling has been around for a while now, most notably promoted in David Johnston’s 2004 book with that same name.
There is a lot of interest in the practice, and a minority of industry professionals is actually doing it, but deep penetration in the market is still limited. Where is the demand from consumers and where is the commitment from remodelers?
I believe that the single biggest obstacle to green remodeling is ignorance. It seems that everyone thinks and says that it is expensive and complicated. While there is a grain of truth to that, when you start digging deeper, that idea just doesn’t hold up. When you meet the energy code, the building code, and follow manufacturers’ instructions correctly, in most cases, you are well on your way to having a green renovation.
The problem is that many remodelers, usually unwittingly, don’t do these things consistently. HVAC systems are not sized, designed, or installed according to codes and instructions. Insulation is not installed to manufacturers’ specifications (no voids, gaps, or compressions), nor does it have the recommended air barrier. Windows and doors are not flashed into drainage planes properly. The list goes on.
Since many of these are not standard practices, subcontractors often charge more for them, making the project more expensive. So it seems like a green renovation does cost more, but only if you are willing to accept substandard work as the norm. When we raise our minimum standards to a level that meets legal and product installation requirements, then green remodeling won’t cost more because this will be the new standard.
OK, maybe I’m simplifying a bit. Green remodeling does take some extra knowledge and training to get it right, but since most professional remodelers take the time to earn designations and attend conferences and seminars, green training is just another arrow in your business quiver.
Take some classes, check out local and national building certification programs, use the available online tools and books to learn more about it. Use consultants and energy raters to help you understand the right things to do. Take advantage of local and national incentives to help offset some of the costs during your learning curve.
In the words of Nike: Just Do It.
—A recovering remodeler, Carl Seville teaches, speaks, and writes about, consults on, and certifies green buildings. Read his musings on the industry at GreenCurmudgeon.com.