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Pretty Good House Consultant in CT

david_solar | Posted in General Questions on

Edited to clarify what I’m actually looking for! I have a builder who seems like a capable guy with a network of good-enough subs, but I think some of the details we’re asking for are uncommon or entirely new to him – like ERVs or flangeless windows. Does anyone have experience with a consultant sitting in on the design process to help facilitate discussion, and maybe do some site visits as well while the job’s under way?

The PGH book literally directs you back to GBA, and the other resources (PHIUS, USGBC) skew way heavier to architects and design/build groups as opposed to consultants. Thank you!

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  1. rockies63 | | #1

    If you have zero interest or time to oversee any of the construction, what are you hoping to track? The builder will inform you when each stage of the project has been completed, what is needed next and when payments are due. Any other information pertaining to the actual construction (details, products, methods) will probably not be understood by you since you say you have no prior construction experience.
    Before looking for a generic document you can adapt to Track the build, you should decide on what your goal is for the building. Do you want a near passive house, a net-zero house, an all-electric house, etc and then look for documents relating to that particular building method.

    1. david_solar | | #3

      Yeah, looking back at my post I should have worded it differently. I think I'm more looking for a list of things that a builder less familiar with high-performance homebuilding should look out for. Things like, hey, if you've never installed a flangeless window, make sure you follow the manufacturer's installers to the letter or you'll have water issues. Or, oh, you've never put EPS under a slab? Here's how to make the connection between the exterior basement insulation and your big chunk of foam.

      I'm confident the builder is great with time and task management, and that his subs are of adequate quality. I'm just concerned that I'm the guinea pig for some of the things we're asking for, and I have zero way of knowing if the work's any good.

  2. walta100 | | #2

    Seems to me if you have no interested in the details and supervising but want a PGH consider paying a consultant to do the work.

    Could you make the time to read the book?


    1. david_solar | | #4

      Yes, I guess at the end of the day I'm looking for a consultant. I have the book; I've read the book, if you can believe it the book tells you to come here and ask. So, does anyone know a PGH consultant willing to do site visits in CT?

      1. Expert Member
        Michael Maines | | #7

        Why is it hard to believe that in the book we direct people to GBA?

        1. david_solar | | #10

          It's not hard to believe that! I was being a bit snarky because my question was, "hey, can anyone help me build a PGH?" and I got a response of, "read the book," when in fact I'd read the book - which I first heard about here on GBA - and came back here to ask for help as per the book!

          It's an amazing book and definitely a great resource to have! I only wish there was a bigger network of consultants who helped with this sort of work. There's clearly architects who are passionate about this work and will draw up plans, help you pick your subs and then monitor your job for you, but there are no empty lots where we're moving in CT, so unless you're knocking something down, they're not a great option.

          Most custom builders don't have experience with performance building, and my guy's already griped about how tight houses are nowadays, but he's not going to reduce his margin to help me pay an additional 15% of the build cost to Trillium or some other well-respected architectural firm in the area.

          1. Expert Member
            Michael Maines | | #12

            Ah, got it. I'm glad you're enjoying the book. One downside to not having a central agency charging dues and providing training is that we don't have a way to vet potential "PGH-qualified" professionals. I guess we could do it on a volunteer basis but it's just more than we can take on at this point. I think we suggested using the PHIUS list and other green building program member lists as a starting point if you don't know any practitioners to start with.

          2. david_solar | | #13

            Michael, in your experience, do you think customers can be successful relying on a consultant? I've talked with three architectural firms who do high efficiency building in CT, and none of them will work with another builder to just provide plans. We're going to be spending a load of money to build a home, and I'm nervous it won't go well and that there's little I can do to change that.

          3. Expert Member
            Michael Maines | | #15

            David, I do think it's possible--I've often had clients I consulted for, usually owner/builders but also some high-end architects and builders. Invariably, every question I answered generated two more questions; answering those generated additional questions, ad nauseum. I found it too hard to manage that process so now I'm only doing full-service design, which I find much easier to manage and make a living at, though there is definitely a need in the market for consulting. I know a couple of folks here in Maine who do consulting on a limited basis but there is room for a lot more.

            I'm not sure what you mean by, "none of them will work with another builder just to provide plans." Can you clarify?

          4. david_solar | | #16

            "I've talked with three architectural firms who do high efficiency building in CT, and none of them will work with another builder to just provide plans."

            It's quite possible I'm misunderstanding something, and if that's the case I apologize. I take what you call "full-service design" to mean working with a client to come up with plans and stamped drawings, assisting with soliciting bids from subcontractors, and acting as oversight for the entire build phase. If we're using the same definition then what I'm trying to get across is that "full-service design" isn't an option for people like myself who are trying to build in an area where available lots are captive with a builder.

            My builder is fine if I use my own architect to produce drawings or to use an external consultant I pay for to review plans and subcontractor SOWs, but part of the way he makes his money is by managing the project himself. There aren't any architects I can find who 1) are experienced with high-performance design and 2) will just work with me on the plans.

            There are a few local high-performance architecture firms, but none of them will just work with me on a design. All of them only do "full-service design" where I pay them 15-20% of the build cost of the house to do everything.

            So, it's hard to find someone to help me ensure the plans make sense from a performance perspective, and it's hard to find someone to review the subs' work and ensure that, yes, they're following the prescribed designs.

          5. AndyBower | | #18

            "So, it's hard to find someone to help me ensure the plans make sense from a performance perspective, and it's hard to find someone to review the subs' work and ensure that, yes, they're following the prescribed designs."

            I sent you an email, but when I read this, Christine Williamson came to mind. She is typically hired by architectural firms to review their catalog of standard details and assemblies, though. But she also seems like the type to enjoy working on a variety of projects, so if it doesn't take her too long, she might be willing to do a plan review. It will probably cost quite a bit for just a couple weeks' of work, though. And she likely won't do site visits.

            But, she might also know someone who could do what she does and do site visits.

          6. Expert Member
            Michael Maines | | #19

            Got it, thanks for explaining more. I know that model is common in the US but not here in Maine where I work. 15-20% is extremely high for design fees. I have done a couple of 15% projects and they were super-custom with expensive materials. You are correct about what I mean by full-service design; for me and the architects I compete with, it's usually more like 6-10% of construction costs. I realize that's still a lot of money but that's just what it takes to do the job right.

            Do you have HERS raters or PHIUS consultants there? Skills vary widely, but either of those could be potential advisors for you.

  3. finePNW | | #5

    I’d be curious if anyone knows one in the Pacific Northwest too :).

    1. Expert Member
      Joshua Salinger | | #9

      We do consulting for this exact issue all the time. Feel free to reach out via

      1. finePNW | | #11


  4. nynick | | #6

    Be careful. I too am in CT and in the middle of a 2 Phase project; one new, large outbuilding and one major renovation. Most, if not all of the builders I talked to are not energy efficiency minded. They are fine to build to code, or even above, but most are non-believers in very tight homes. That's not to say i didn't like the GC's, or even hire one (or two!), its just they don't normally build to those standards and it's a bit of a battle to get them to pay attention to those details.

    And their subs aren't used to those energy efficient standards either, and they have their favorite subs.

    Do yourself a favor and instead of trying to get a consultant to get the GC to do what you want, which is different than what the GC usually does, find one who builds energy efficient homes as a matter of his day to day business. I found one, but he was too busy to take my job.

    And don't expect any bargains; we're in CT after all. I'm in Middlesex County, BTW.
    Email me if you want some contacts.


    1. david_solar | | #8

      Thanks for the reply, Nick - I read through your comment history and your experience sounds like exactly what I'm worried about.

      I can't figure out how to view e-mails on here - feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Thank you!

  5. paulmagnuscalabro | | #14

    You might also try reaching out to Building Science Corporation. They have the building science knowledge and a really solid knowledge of constructability, and have always been really great about working with what's presented to come to the best reasonable solution.

    1. david_solar | | #17

      That's a great suggestion, I took a look and didn't know they did consulting. Thank you!

  6. bob_swinburne | | #20

    I give out copies of the PGH book to builders. I make clients buy their own though. It helps the builder understand what the client is really asking for.

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