Building Green

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major gaps in proper caulking technique.” Of course, remodeling can focus on using the practices mentioned as well as exchanging old appliances for energy-efficient ones.

Walk the Walk, Don’t Just Talk the Talk

Although certifications are a wonderful way to set you apart from the builder down the street, there are practical measures you can take in your own business to show clients you really do care about environmental impact by minimizing your own (and that of your business). Consider your next company vehicle purchase and invest in an electric car. Jeff Dinkle’s vehicle fleet runs on biodiesel fuel. He admits, “Although the cost per gallon is equal to diesel, it is just the right thing to do.” With a nearby biodiesel fill-up station that uses converted cooking grease, it makes sense for Eco Custom Homes to employ this practice.

Another tip from Dinkle is to use computerized imaging of properties and plans to minimize errors in ordering materials. By cutting the excess, costs for the client are reduced, and waste on the jobsite is reduced as well. Consider chipping any scrap lumber and using it as a soil additive on the property. Utilize online bill pay and computer-generated invoicing to clients to cut in-house paper use. With these steps in place, clients will more readily buy into you being their “green” builder.

These in-house changes will lead builders to embrace even more sustainable building practices they can pass on to their clients. If cost of doing business or the price per square foot are your primary resistances to utilizing these techniques, you may be misinformed. In fact, a collaborative research effort by Southface and the Virginia Center for Housing Outreach found in their report, The Impact of Green Affordable Housing, “The green developments averaged a total development cost that is approximately 5% lower than non-green developments. However, when broken down into hard costs (materials, labor and equipment directly used in the construction of the building) versus soft costs (design and construction fees associated with the management of the development process), the green development hard costs are approximately 2% higher and soft costs are more than 13% lower than non-green developments. These findings contradict the industry perception captured in our survey. Survey respondents generally agree that hard costs for green-certified buildings represent a 10% cost increase and soft costs represent a 3% cost increase over typical construction.”*

With client education and builder commitment, green building is achievable at any price point. As Schofield observes, “You can be ‘as green as you want to be’ with so many standards and materials from which to choose. “ Furthermore, “The more builders pursue green building practices now, the more ready they will be to lead the industry in ten to fifteen years when many of these practices become code standards,” adds Dinkle.

So what green practice can you employ in your office or on your next build? Is there room for continuing ed hours in your schedule to pursue a certification? The more we embrace and practice sustainability together, the better our professional will become as we all “go green.”

*For a full read of the Southface and the Virginia Center for Housing Outreach

report, The Impact of Green Affordable Housing, visit: