If you think “green” is just a passing fancy or you're intimidated by the idea, think about the changes you have already made. You may be greener than you think. As an industry, we've made great strides in environmental sustainability. At our company, and probably at yours, we specify low-E glass with argon, insulation with higher R-values, air barriers, engineered lumber, products with recycled content, natural and renewable bamboo and linoleum flooring, low-VOC paints and adhesives, point-of-use hot water heaters, Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent and LED lighting, and fiber-cement siding.
Clients generally have no idea how “green” we already are. So we tell this story, and use it as an opportunity to urge them on to the next level. For example, not so long ago, we promoted HVAC systems with a System Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of 10. Now, we never consider a SEER of less than 14 and are seriously pursuing ground source heat-pumps with a SEER of 30 or better. They add about $10,000 in initial expense; but between soaring utility costs and pressing environmental concerns, clients seem willing to consider the long view.
As more technology becomes available, previously “exotic” technologies are starting to make sense to a broader audience. This may be a perfect storm that will allow us to promote sustainable practices — and practice good business. Just as doctors who keep up with the latest procedures and technologies rise to the top of their field, when we act as professionals and lead our clients toward healthy building practices, they will clamor for our services.
Upscale remodelers are often the vanguard of sustainable practices, simply because our clients are educated and willing to invest in them. Perhaps it is time to dig deeper. In many cases, just a bit more effort in the areas where we have already made improvements can amount to significant gains. Leaders of upscale remodeling companies are in a particularly influential position: We already have the respect of homeowners, employees, and trade partners. Let's lead them toward everyday green.
Dean Brenneman is a principal of Brenneman & Pagenstacher–Residential Architects & Builders, an upscale remodeling company based in Kensington, Md.