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Community and Q&A

How to get started on a Green Home?

PaulStone | Posted in General Questions on

Hello fellow GBAers. I’m reaching that point in my life and career that the next home I build or buy might be the last. As such, I’ve become very interested in the aspects of green building and putting the investment into a home that’ll last 30-40 years. 

The problem I am having is trying to figure out what exactly I can afford and I can’t get any traction on this front. Searching the internet, cost estimates for $/sqft seem to be all over the place. This weighs heavily on lot selection and the balance/distribution of my budget. For example, I have no idea if a $150k lot with $350k house or a $50k lot with $450k house will meet my needs. 

For those that built, how did you get started? Should the starting point be a floor plan that I am happy with and talk with local builders on pricing? Or should the starting point be a conversation with a builder about performance goals and have them pitch a general $/sqft number? 

Thank you for any light that you can shed on the process.

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  1. jberks | | #1

    In my opinion, Building a pretty good green house is marginally more expensive than a pretty good non green house. The difference being design choices like air sealing, insulation, windows, HVAC/water heating, etc. And more importantly the willingness of the people actually building the thing. You coming out waving your cellphone with a blog post to your absentee GC isn't going to help either. Most contractors have never seen building this way before. They'll think you're an idiot or just getting in their way.

    Your starting point should be with an architect. You'll need to do it at some point anyway. Try to find one with green practices in mind. Design a house and then you can take those specs to builders for quotes. Adjust the design if necessary.

  2. ssnellings | | #2

    Developing a budget is less linear than people want it to be. It's more like a game of battleship, you take a few shots at it and narrow in towards your target as you learn the value of various trade-offs.

    You know where you want to live, so what do lots cost there? Are they improved lots (utilities like sewer and water already available at the street) or rural unimproved lots? These are all items you can strike off early, before even thinking about the building, and then you can look at what's left in your budget for the home itself.

    It's like figuring out the zoning setbacks when starting to design a building. If you first develop your constraints, the field of possibility narrows enough to make the job more approachable.

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