<p><img src="/files/images/structwall_0.jpg" width="280" height="221" alt="Digital Be-In" /> <br />The strategy of "open building" can be traced back to European and Japanese roots. While it has been widely adopted in those parts of the world, it is only relatively recently beginning to see any use in North America. However, an increased interest in pre-fabricated construction is helping to expand awareness of this approach to building.</p><p>The principle is to maintain a separation between the different aspects of the building in order to be able to make repairs and do upgrades with a minimum of interference with other elements of the building. Open building stipulates separate zones or chases for different functions and services. This will, for example, make it easier to change plumbing systems without needing to repair other systems that cross or interfere with access to the necessary parts of the plumbing system.</p>
<p><img src="/files/images/greenbuilder_0.png" border="0" width="235" height="170" /><em>Editor's note: In <a href="/blog/2007/04/25/how_to_find_a_green_builder_part_1">Part 1 of "How to Find a Green Builder,"</a> Philip addressed some of the general concepts underlying green homebuilding; today, he discussses specific guidelines for green homes, and the professionals that can implement those ideas.</em> </p><p>Looking for a builder may not be the best first step, either. Working with an architect, rather than having a builder try to "green up" an existing plan that they have built before, may lead to a much more satisfying project in the end. Builders may believe that they can add some green features to their existing product line, but I think much better results are had when a client works with both their architect and their builder in order to create a green building as a team. </p><p>Architects are perhaps better situated to offer their clients advice about the variety of options they are considering without trying to sell them something. There are also issues such as passive solar design that require a much broader approach, like an architect offers, than what most builders can offer. Much of green building already incorporates "not doing more work but doing more thoughtful work." Working with an architect engages that thoughtful planning process, and leads to better and more fully considered plans and better homes. </p>
As part of the activity around Earth Day, we've been getting press releases forwarded to us from all manner of companies who want to get their name out in association with "green." And, while it is good that so many companies are recognizing the growing importance of green in all our lives, some of the announcements are full of excitement about what turns out to be some pretty weak activity.
I got one press release about a globally recognized brand, Fortune 500 company announcing that they are spending $3 million on green upgrades for their headquarters building. And that's not a bad thing; we love it when companies take green steps. But is it truly newsworthy, or is it closer to "greenwashing"?
Editor's note: Thinking about building green? Philip's two-part series (second part on Friday) explains the many variables you need to consider before signing a contract with a "green" home builder.
I recently received a message from a reader asking for help with finding a local green builder. Unfortunately, she is looking in a city two time zones away from me. And while I'm gathering resources and collecting information, the information I have is not that widespread. I don't have a vast database to help point people looking to do green building find the people who can help successfully execute those projects. But perhaps I can offer some guidelines about finding the right people to work with.
Her question is not entirely unique, either. I am in the middle of a two-day conference on green building (Midwest Green Building Conference) right now. One of the sessions I attended this afternoon had this very question come up during some of the discussion: "How do you find a green builder?" And, we found, there are a number of things that make this question difficult to answer. But there are some things you can do to find architects, builders, and specialized tradespeople who can help make a project turn out the way you want.
I've got a couple small items to share today. These are both regional items; just further manifestations of the old adage of "Think Globally, Act Locally." But, though they both have a regional focus, they will both have wider interest for all who are interested in green building.
New York House magazine is organizing the first regional residential green building contest. The program is open until the end of the year, but they already have 40 homes that are going to enter. The contest is open to homes built since January 2000. Architects, builders and homeowners in New York City and the surrounding counties who have been involved with a green home in the region are asked to submit them for this contest.
According to information we received, some of the homes are zero net energy users, which is a category we'd like to see more examples of, particularly in the single-family residential category. The criteria for the contest are based on the LEED for Homes guidelines: