Although most builders and remodelers typically build throughout the year, spring is still a great time for renewal. Take the new product and design ideas you’ve gathered these past few months, add some new fresh plans to the lineup, and, of course, review your contracts with suppliers and trades for the coming year. From a technical perspective it’s also a great time to tune up your knowledge of critical high-performance building techniques that can help avoid risks and offer new opportunities for savings, customer satisfaction, and a greening of our building processes. Here are five spring tune-up ideas that will empower you and your trade contractors to identify opportunities for both improvement in building performance and cost reductions.
1. CONTROL WATER
The first goal of green building should be to create structures that last—say at least 100 years—and given that water is what destroys buildings and building materials, all builders need to turn a critical eye to exterior water management details. My fellow building scientist Mark LaLiberte likes to remind builders to put on their “water management glasses,” to look from the focused perspective of the path that water is going to take down the exterior of our buildings during a storm. Go further and imagine the “50-year” storm: Are the moisture control details you use, soon to be hidden behind the brick, stone, stucco, or siding façade, going to stand the test of time?
High-performance home builders will complete a quality-assurance checklist on each home before applying exterior finishes. In fact, there are checklists available from sources such as the EPA Indoor Air Plus or the LEED for Homes programs that include verification of items and details like proper roof underlay, application of flashings on roof and wall penetrations, updated window flashing details, functional foundation drainage, correct site grading, and capillary breaks between concrete and wood elements. Develop a system for capturing digital photo records of all your moisture-control details to show your homeowners how tuned in you are to these risks, and to document your own practices on every project.