Carl Seville, a former remodeler and current consultant on sustainability, says that remodelers are facing the same challenges with green remodeling as they did with design/build remodeling. "We transformed design/build from 'what is that?' to one of the stronger ways to deliver remodeling services to the market. We need to do that for green," he said.

courtesy Jeffrey Lee

Educating homeowners is the key to getting them to understand and adopt green practices and products for their remodeling projects. Seville cited the popularity of the Whole Foods chain of grocery stores to show that consumers are willing to pay a premium for something they consider to be healthier. Remodelers need to pitch green renovation as a value proposition. They need to show clients that their firms are equipped to act as a house mechanic and tune up their houses.

First, remodelers need to understand the definition of green. According to Seville, green remodeling has four aspects:

  • High performance: energy efficiency, renewable energy
  • Resource efficient: use fewer materials, use recycled and renewable materials, recycle waste, water conservation
  • Durable: longer life, fewer repairs, less frequent replacement
  • Healthy: indoor air quality, free of pollutants, improves productivity
Kristen Speights

Of the four, high-performance - efficiently handling air, moisture and heat - is the most important and must come first. "The energy you don't use is the most efficient form of energy. If this is not first, you are putting lipstick on a pig," he explained. "You need to have strong building first, then green materials."

He challenged remodelers that every project that is not green is a missed opportunity. There are several ways remodelers can educate themselves. They can take classes themselves, and train employees, trade contractors and vendors. They can review existing green guidelines - much of this information is in the public domain. They can also test to confirm performance after a green remodel. Another important aspect is to work on local initiatives and if a green remodeling program does not exist in their city or area, they can start one.

Seville suggests that once remodelers access the information, however, they need to take incremental steps in applying it to their work. Otherwise, it becomes overwhelming. "Don't drink from the firehose," he says. "Even if each project is 10% better, that is great. Then, each change can become standard practice at your company. Once you do it, you can't go back," he said. A good place to start, Seville says, is with Home Performance by Energy Star. Other sources he recommends:

Southface Energy Institute
EarthCraft House
Building America
Energy and Environmental Building Association
Sustainable Building Industries Council
Building Science Corp.
Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing
U.S. Green Building Council
ReGreen Guidelines

To reach Carl Seville, contact him at Seville Consulting.

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