Green Construction Needs to Go Viral

April 26, 2011

Afraid to be Green

Many people, (me included) are intimidated by the unknown.  Green construction has been one of these unknowns.  There is so much to know and so many facets of green design and building that it typically seems to just scare people away.  Up until recently I thought green building contractors were exotic species of the construction trades. 

I was deterred by thinking that I had to get this or that certification to be a green contractor or that every house I built or remodeled needed to have photovoltaic panels on the roof, or each material component needed to be analyzed in a complex matrix of comparison to like materials to determine which the greenest choice was.

Maybe You Already are Green!

Recently I started selling memberships to a local non-profit green builder’s organization here in Lake Tahoe called SiGBA (Sierra Green Builders Association) whose mission is to “educate and promote environmental building and business practices for a sustainable lifestyle in the Sierra Nevada communities”.

I also voluntarily started their Facebook page; “sigbatahoe”.  So lately I have been approaching the other contractors in my area and talking with them about green construction. What I have found is that even the contractors whom I perceived as being green do not consider themselves to be green builders.

Maybe I have seen them at the grocery store with their own bags, riding their bikes everywhere or I have admired some reclaimed wood they are used on their latest project. But to them it is just a normal way of life and they do not see themselves as fitting into a “green organization”. This mentality (how do I make them sound bad!?) really hurts the momentum that is needed to educate and transform our communities to being more enviro-conscious as a whole.

Do You “like” Green Construction?

As long as you are thinking about being efficient in the use of any resource; then you are making a difference.  When you think about options and their associated costs to not only your client’s budget but to also the environment; you are definitely green as far as I am concerned. 

And once you realize this, then the revolution can begin.  It is great to keep to yourself and just do the right thing but why not become an advocate for what you believe and help the green fire spread?  By simply “liking” a cause or organization on Facebook or re/tweeting a green story you are helping to educate the masses through the amazing realm of social media and its viral nature.

The Oldest Green Motto; “Waste Not. Want not”

I tell my clients that if you plan, design and build something right the first time you are not only going to save money in material resources but also in human resources/labor in the long run. Anyone that has gotten an invoice from a contractor understands what “labor” cost’s are and start to listen about how you want to green up their project by reducing waste.

It is very important that the designers and architects get it right the fist time to understand and convey the wants and needs of the client into the design. As a contractor who hates waste and inefficiency I am always thinking of primarily how to build to last. Once you start thinking like this then you can start looking for the greenest material components that will not take away from your design. 

If we can use less of anything we are being green. If we can live in a smaller house then we have required fewer resources to build the house and fewer resources to maintain the home, heat, cool etc.  If we can always think of using each resource and material to its fullest extent (“recycle. reuse”), to use the best/most fitting resource for each component and to minimize the use of any resource whenever possible; then we are building and living responsibly with the environment.

Let’s Let Green Construction Go Viral

This is just the tip of the (green building) iceberg. Of course there are so many important choices to consider when choosing a building element.  However if we can get everyone taking some small steps I think it will equate to much more than just the current few that are going the green distance.

Making and designing zero-net homes, living off the grid and building a LEED certified home are incredibly awesome attainments but do not let it dissuade you from getting your feet wet in the green design and building area.  Green building is not rocket science.

So if you are a builder get out there and be proud of what you do to conserve, reuse and recycle and let others know about it so that what you do becomes what other might do.  If we can start to educate and help each other then it becomes easy.

Can you think of anyways that you are green by coincidence or common sense and you never thought to “tag” it as being green? Do you belong to and support any local green organizations?



Dan Sheehan

Dan Sheehan is the owner of DS Construction in Lake Tahoe California. DS is a general contracting company engaged in all aspects of residential construction focusing on sustainable practices. Dan has a background in environmental and energy Economics and is an avid snowboarder and mountain biker. He is also works and volunteers for the non-profit SiGBA - Sierra Green Builders Association.