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By Erica Konieczny
April 10, 2016
Getting started in green building requires you to understand it, and there's no better place to start than with a definition. Once you are familiar with all the facets of green building, you can start to find entry points matching your business goals and personal commitments.
Green building is the process of creating structures that exist in harmony with the natural environment that use resources responsibly throughout their lifetimes. A green building is often called a sustainable building. But, green buildings come in many different shades of green.
An extremely green building requires minimal resources to construct and classed as zero-energy-use, meaning it doesn't require any energy beyond that created by its own systems.
Most of the materials used and the resources invested in these buildings during construction and over their lifetimes will also be recoverable for other uses when the building reaches the end of its useful life.
A minimally green building only modestly reduces the materials and resources used in its construction and requires less energy over its lifetime than a building where sustainability isn’t considered at all. This type of building largely becomes waste at the end of its lifetime.
Somewhere between those two extremes are moderately green buildings. They have more green features than the least green, but fewer than the most green.
Green building schemes try to put a method to the madness of constructing and measuring just how green a building is, in which the U.S. Green Building Council has certification levels for both buildings and the people who design and build them. Green Globes is a "building environmental design and management tool."
Many communities, and other governmental subdivisions have their own initiatives to foster sustainable building within their areas. The National Green Building Standard, or ICC 700, advanced by the National Association of Homebuilders, helps stakeholders build and understand high-performance construction in residential building.
If you want to get started in green building you need to know your entry points. A contractor who builds single-family homes might begin by developing a model green home that fits the market and then include that home in its offerings. A contractor building commercially might seek out green projects to get experience that will then translate into becoming a sought-after green builder in that market segment. It takes some planning and investment, but definitely worthwhile.
Understand your motivations. The most successful green builders have a personal interest in building green that goes beyond the bottom line. Turning the profit is important, but at a deeper level truly green builders want to help their customers, and be environmentally responsible.
Green buildings benefit customers not only by helping them feel responsible about what they are investing in, but also by saving them costs over the lifetimes of the buildings. When a builder is inspired by creating structures that take minimally from the earth during their construction, that inspiration transfers to employees, subcontractors, suppliers, and other stakeholders in the building process. When your motivations are transparent, others see that sincerity and despite their own opinions of building green will support your commitment to the process.
Green building is as much about the builder as it is about the building. If you have unsustainable practices, the building process won't be as sustainable as it could be. Old, worn out equipment that spews fumes and leaks fluid will degrade your sustainability efforts. So start by making your business equipment as sustainable as you can before trying to sell sustainable structures.
Try to see where existing processes could easily be transitioned into more sustainable processes, but keep it simple at first. If you only focused on reducing waste on the job site you could find many opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle. But what about your people? Are there people on staff who already think green and have an interest in it? What if you could help them get certified in aspects of green building so they could become the experts for both you and your customers? Green building is a very complex subject and if you have just one person who understands it comprehensively and keeps up with the latest developments, you will be ahead of the competition.
Do you want to simply be knowledgeable enough to include green options when asked for them by customers or, do you want to be a "green giant" who focuses very highly on green construction. Of course, there are places between the two. In fact, you might simply begin gathering knowledge and skills on green building while gradually increasing your level of competency until you are the expert.
Green building is a very different way of thinking about the construction process and the structures you build. Framing a wall differently so it can be insulated better requires the people who do the work to change traditional practices. It's easier for people to adopt the unfamiliar if they first adjust their perspective and attitude. When people have the proper attitude, the right behavior will follow.
Make it easy for them to make the change by explaining the reasons and benefits of the new practices. If there are also aspects to the changes that reduce the work or labor, be sure they understand those as well. Green building is constantly evolving and changing. If you consider it a journey, instead of a destination, you will receive much more satisfying results.
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