Green Building Pitfalls

Photo: THOR/FlickrThanks to growing social awareness of how much trouble the planet is in, more and more people are building green and demanding enviromentally-friendly options in their housing. An entire industry had risen around green construction, including contractors, products, new materials, and certification programs to set and enforce standards in green construction. A green home or remodel is everyone's dream these days, it seems like, but Fine Homebuilding has some cautions: it's important to know what you're getting involved in before you start, because otherwise, you could get in serious trouble.

Cost. Building green will cost you more money, up front. The materials are more expensive, and often the contractors charge extra for their specialized labor. You should do your research carefully so you know the precise nature of the cost differential before you make an informed choice about how to proceed. Maybe you just really want to go green and don't mind if it doesn't pay out in the long term. Maybe you do care about saving money, in which case some green technology isn't quite there yet in terms of offsetting its own price, and you might want to wait.

Quality. Lots of green technology is still new, and contractors aren't born knowing everything under the sun. If you use inexperienced contractors without training, your project may end up with serious problems, including problems that require costly corrections. Make sure to check your contractor's references carefully before you commit to working together, because you want to make sure that both of you are on the same page with the project, and that your contractor can actually deliver.

Certifications. If you want your house to qualify for a certification in order to receive rebates or incentives or to create an advertising point that will increase its market value, make sure you know the standards before you start. Talk to consultants who specialize in compliance with that certification to get their advice on homebuilding, and consider the fact that the standards may change while you're developing plans and building your home. Check to see if any planned changes are under discussion so you can be one step ahead.

New materials. New green materials are coming out all the time. Many of them are untested, and you don't know much about their long-term performance, which is something to consider. Maybe something will be a great alternative to traditional building materials, with an excellent long-term life ahead of it. Maybe something will fall apart within months or just a few years, necessitating a costly fix. Think about whether you trust the manufacturer, and ask smart questions about testing procedures and other steps taken to confirm material viability.

Time. Building green can take more time. Sometimes there are delays with materials, or extra steps that have to be taken. Make sure your contractor provides an accurate time estimate on everything from installing your San Diego green roofing to finishing the basement, because if you're operating under the impression that your home will follow a conventional construction schedule, you might be in for an unexpected surprise.

This text on project planning and cost estimating for green building can help you make the right choices as you proceed with a green home or business, and it could be available through your local tool library if you're not ready to buy a copy!

Katie Marks writes for

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