Some of us in the industry have been trying for a long time to create demand and traction for green remodeling, with limited success. What’s not to like about taking a standard remodeling project and turning it into a high-performance home that is more comfortable, healthy, and efficient than most new homes?
As I have said many times, it does not cost much, if any, more than legal, quality construction work—follow codes and installation instructions and you are most of the way there.
Remodelers do know how to sell upgrades—they’ve been selling fancier granite counters, high-end cabinets and appliances, and special floor finishes for years. The cost of any one of these features can exceed the cost of making a renovation project green. So what’s the problem? Well, green remodeling just isn’t sexy. And in most cases, you don’t see it. Homeowners can’t show off their improved comfort, lower energy bills, or reduced allergies.
Doing It the Right Way
There’s a third strike against green remodeling: Most people don’t understand it enough to know that they want it. The industry needs to understand it and start selling green remodeling as the right way to do things, not unlike the evolution of design/build in the industry a generation ago.
When we began offering design/build projects in the 1980s at my remodeling company, hardly anyone knew what it was. Most projects were either designed by architects or were not designed at all. We made a conscious decision to become a design/build firm because we believed it was a better business model. It wasn’t particularly easy, but eventually we got to a point where we were able to get consumers to understand the design/build process, and by doing so, we were able to create demand for those services.
Over several years design/build went from something unusual to one of the standard delivery models for remodeling. It worked because it allowed us, and other remodelers, to provide high-quality client services, a superior product, and higher profits. We can do the same with green remodeling.
There are some remodelers throughout the country who are committed to doing most, if not all of their work green. Otogawa-Anschel Design and Build, in Minneapolis; Meadowlark Builders, in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Risinger Homes, in Austin, Texas have all dedicated themselves to high-performance construction and remodeling and have succeeded because of it. They are dedicated professionals who saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. Just as many of us did with design/build many years ago, these contractors, and others like them, are in the process of redefining the industry. When we no longer need to constantly explain and justify green remodeling, and customers are asking for it, we will know we have succeeded. —Carl Seville is a leading authority on single and multifamily green remodeling and certification. He is co-author of Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction. sevilleconsulting.com.