What to Ask Your Contractor Before Tackling Eco-Friendly Projects

ECOS 11/12/2015

So you’re ready to tackle a home renovation project, you want to do it greener, but you’re hiring someone else to execute it. How do you make sure they’ll take the planet and your health into mind to the degree you want? Even if they claim to be green, how do you know they’re eco-friendly and not eco-fake? Even though you’re not doing the actual work, you’re probably going to have to be very hands-on. Here’s what to ask your contractor before tackling eco-friendly projects in your home.

Are you certified?

The National Association of Home Builders has a Certified Green Professional program and the US Green Building Council has LEED certification. Does your contractor have any certifications?

Does anyone working on your team hold certifications?

Depending on the size of the firm, you may or may not end up the owners/managers on site – leaving lower level contractors in charge. You’ll want to make sure that whomever’s on site doing work understands your priorities.

How many years has the contractor been offering eco-friendly renovations?

This answer to this question is a bit tricky because people who’ve been in the field longer might be working under outdated protocols, but it’s still a good question to ask. Dig deep and ask how they keep up with the ever-changing landscape of eco-friendly renovations and building.

Do they have a portfolio of eco-friendly projects?

Ask to see photos and have them describe what made the space eco-friendly. Oftentimes you can find the eco-fakes simply by listening to their lack of detail about their projects.

Can they provide references of other happy customers?

You don’t want to be the guinea pig for a new green builder. Ask for references.

Next questions and steps? The good people at Green EcoCommunities have fabulous advice:

First, ask to examine the types of materials that your chosen contractor will use in constructing or reconstructing your home.  Not only should you examine the final products that you will use on an everyday basis – appliances and the life – but also the materials that will go into actually constructing your home.  It is not enough to simply buy a few appliances that promise to be green; it is more important to ensure that everything used by your green builder is designed to have as minimized an impact on the environment as possible.  Some examples of green supplies include remanufactured or recycled wood, energy efficient appliance that may also be constructed of remanufactured or recycled parts, and material that is designed to not cause harm should it breakdown.

Second, ask to examine the methods your chosen contractor will use when constructing or reconstructing your home.  Specifically, you’ll want to watch for wasteful or harmful behavior by either the builder or his hired crew.  Do they minimize the amount of energy used when working on your home?  How are excess products handled?  If a hazardous substance cannot be avoided, how is it approached or disposed of?  Ask your builder to walk you through his construction process step by step to determine if he is truly observing green principles or is simple taking one or two steps that are valuable for appearance sake only.

Our final advice is twofold:

  • Put everything in writing. Don’t assume that a great first conversation or two will continue through an entire project.
  • Keep tabs on the project. Call your lead contractor regularly for progress reports and even consider dropping by unexpectedly to ensure everything’s on the eco-track you want it to be.

Your dream eco-renovation is within your grasp. Follow these tips and perhaps even keep a checklist of what to ask your contractor before tackling eco-friendly projects and you’ll keep everything on track. Have other tips or questions or experiences? Please share them in the comments to teach others!

CATEGORIES green renovation|LEED building