GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted
Green Building Curmudgeon

Green From the Start, Part 1

Stress has been one of the defining characteristics of my career in construction.

Each year my business model shifts a little (or a lot), often having nothing to do with any actions that I take. Lately I have been certifying homes under several green building programs including EarthCraft House and LEED for Homes. Working with builders who have a wide range of experience in green building gives me an opportunity to teach them how to make their homes more sustainable, and most of them appreciate the opportunity to learn and improve their work.

One recent builder, whose client hired me to help “green up” his house, was very resistant to my suggestions, and it was a constant battle to get the builder to make any significant changes in his work. While that experience was annoying enough, what continues to frustrate me is getting called in too late in a project schedule. This usually means coming to the table after the plans are finished, sometimes even after construction has started, and being asked—then—to help make the project more sustainable. My internal struggle to avoid making rude comments about the plans reminds me of an old definition of stress—“The feeling that overcomes you when you resist the urge to choke the crap out of some idiot who desperately deserves it.” Too often I end up working on a project that can’t be any better than fair, but if only someone had considered the implications of their design decisions, could have been a good, or even a great house.

The stupid things I see all the time: Huge expanses of unshaded west-facing windows that pretty much cook the inside of the house in the afternoons. Bathrooms spread out all around the house with no consideration of how to run hot water efficiently. Obscenely complex roof and wall intersections that are almost impossible to flash effectively. No place to run HVAC ducts. And let’s not forget about the size of some of these houses. While I believe that it is important to make every house as green as possible, why are we building homes over 5,000 (and sometimes over 10,000) sq. ft. for three or four people? At some point we have to stop calling these starter castles green—they just can’t be green when they have consumed enough materials to build five to ten normal-size homes.

I admit that I am guilty of having made many of these stupid decisions throughout my career in construction, but I have seen the light and will not willingly do it again. Stay tuned for more rants on the subject.


Log in or create an account to post a comment.



Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |