Michael McCutcheon of McCutcheon Construction lets his green story tell itself as well. The president of the Berkeley, Calif., company believes that green is just a new term for best practices. “I say to clients, ‘We try to do the best practice in building anything for you,'” says McCutcheon, who believes that, green benefits notwithstanding, many green products and design principles are superior to conventional ones.
McCutcheon eschews the laundry-list green remodeling route. “If it's just a checklist of products that you pick, in the short run it's profitable, but if you're not building solid underneath — like back-priming your wood siding — you won't succeed,” he warns.
Matt Plaskoff, CEO of Plaskoff Construction in Tarzana, Calif., lets his green principles shine through not only in the bathrooms he designs through his company One Week Bath but also in how he runs the company. “Green building is an extension of our consciousness about the wasteful way of running a business,” he says.
His company ditched the typical F-450 trucks that workers drove in favor of dropping trailers — filled with well-organized materials and tools his workers would need — at each site . The employees drive company-owned hybrid cars to work to save gas.
Once he had squeezed every bit of time and material waste from his company, Plaskoff focused on taking the waste out of product selections. “People don't have time to run all over town looking for what goes with what, so we put together a green suite of products they can use if they want a green bathroom.”
“Building green is mainstream and there is growing demand, but it's not like an overwhelming market,” reminds Tom Kelly, president of Neil Kelly Co. in Portland, Ore. “It doesn't mean you'll be a success if you weren't one before; it's simply another arrow in the quiver of corporate citizenship, and people want to do business with companies that are responsible corporate citizens.”
Considering Cost McCutcheon says that if you ask anyone whether they want toxins in their homes or want to waste money or be uncomfortable, undoubtedly they would say no. Then the issue of cost comes up.
But looking at cost is not always as simple as comparing two price tags. In the process of selling, remodelers lean on one of three tools: They compare products such as regular tile versus recycled glass tile; they tout the return on investment of energy-efficient products or product life span; or they avoid the issue altogether by simply showing the stunning results of beautiful, sustainable building practices.
Plaskoff claims people will pay 10% to 20% more on a green bath remodel where they are substituting green products for conventional ones, but in actuality, when the job is tallied, it usually only costs the customer about 5% more.
Dennis Allen of Allen Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif., points to the remodeling process as a key place to keep costs in check. “If you get everyone on board in the beginning, you always save money on the systems and the execution,” he says. “Trying to Band-Aid a project later in the process is always more expensive.”
Allen asks for a “mini pre-construction contract,” which stipulates that he be paid $85 per hour for bidding and consulting on green issues, offering preliminary estimates, and reviewing building technology issues. “Even if a project doesn't happen, we get paid,” he points out. “More than anything else, green did that for us.”