Green Home Builds and Renovations Part 3: How to Choose the Best Green Builder

Green Building: a comprehensive process throughout a building’s life cycle that adheres to techniques that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and when required, demolition.

As humanity becomes more aware of how our smallest decisions can impact everything, the term ‘Green Building’ has become a bit of a catchphrase within our industry. More construction and renovation companies than ever are claiming to be ‘Green Builders’. While the Greater Vancouver Area has many builders taking the high road and doing the right ‘Green’ thing, there will always be the risk of you choosing a builder who claims to do the right thing, but doesn’t. And choosing the right home builder or renovator impacts more than your living space or mortgage. It impacts the long-term health of your home, your city, and the environment.

In Part 3 of our educational three-part series on Green Homes in Metro Vancouver, we’re going to finish up our series on sustainable home builds with five must-have requirements needed to choose the right Green Homebuilder. Even if it’s not us. When you work with a construction firm who provides a solution that works in harmony with its surroundings, both inside and out, everyone wins. Here’s how to better choose a construction team committed to building a happy home, that helps to keep our planet happy, too.

 

Choose a construction team that is sustainable, in more ways than one

 

A great project requires a great team. We believe that we have one of the greatest groups of people in the industry, all working towards a common goal. Even our supply driver is loved so much that Kennedy clients rave about his involvement.

A large renovation and a new build require advanced skill sets, many of which aren’t obvious to those outside the industry. Some important team traits include; experience managing construction permits,  experience in managing subcontractors, and experience managing large-scale projects to keep our team on track. If one of these skills is under-represented, it could lead to a lot of headaches down the road – like a permit delay, or a subcontractor making costly errors without proper instruction.

 

“One missed step in the lead up to the project could mean days, weeks, or months of lost time. One missed delivery or miscommunication on site could mean a day of paid labor out the window.”

Jess, Project Manager at Kennedy Construction

 

Ask about your Green Builder’s – or their team’s – experience with project management, securing permits, logistics, and managing tradespeople. Your builder should be able to give you insights into their team’s skillset or let you know who they plan to involve to make sure everything goes smoothly.

 

Opt for a responsible Green Home Builder that reuses and repurposes material where they can

 

Renovating is not always a process of destroying and rebuilding. While using a sledgehammer to solve a problem is sometimes the right call, it can just as often be the lazy option. A good Green Builder will attempt to deconstruct and repurpose whatever they can, which saves you both time and money. While this approach requires more up-front time and planning, it can mean a lower bill in the long run if you get to re-use materials or components instead of re-buying. It also means that there is less to dispose of – which could lead to less waste in the landfill.

From Kennedy’s perspective: “Sometimes you’ll get a general contractor that just wants to get the job done, so they’re thinking shorter-term than they should be. That could mean tossing away a fixture which can be re-fitted or modified, costing you extra money for no reason.”

Ask your builder what their reclamation and re-use strategy is. It could mean more savings for you, and less waste in our landfills. You can also ask what sort of things they expect to be able to salvage if they’ve done a walkthrough of the site and had some early-stage meetings about the project.

 

Dig into your Green Home builder’s certifications and accreditations

 

Hey, starting a construction company is easy, right? Toss together a website and throw up a Facebook advert and see the clients roll in.

Wrong. Becoming an established and trusted firm in our field takes years of consistent, reputable practice. A ‘handyman’ is a far cry from a Licensed Residential Builder in BC. While certain trades, like electricians, need their own tickets to operate, some trades don’t need any accreditation.

We can break a general contractor or home builder accreditation into three categories: government-regulated, opt-in, and specializations.

Government-regulated accreditation is what you need to legally operate in BC as a Licensed Home Builder or a tradesperson. The ITA has resources for homeowners so that they can check on a tradesperson’s accreditations, which can be found here. To become a Licensed Home Builder, mandatory for new builds, there are multiple steps involved to get initially certified, which includes providing proof of third-party warranty backing. There is also a yearly renewal Licensed Home Builders must complete.

Opt-in Accreditation is extra credit that can help a builder improve their skills and stand out against the competition, but has no bearing on their right to work in BC. The accreditations could include things like memberships – Kennedy Construction is a member of the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders Association, for example. This could also include third-party certifications like RenoMark, which is tied to a code of ethics and conduct. While opt-in accreditations don’t guarantee that your Green Builder is going above and beyond, it can be a good sign that they’re making extra efforts to stay current and connected.

Specializations are opt-in accreditations that signify a builder is especially skilled or educated in a certain area. As Kennedy Construction works hard to be a forward-thinking builder of eco-friendly and passive homes, we’re accredited by BuiltGreen and Passive House Institute. From time to time, a builder may not always want to continue on with their accreditation. While this isn’t always cause for serious concern, it may be a question worth asking if your builder has had accreditations or memberships lapse.

Ask what your builder’s accreditations are and if they’ve had any accreditations or certifications lapse.

 

Trash Talking with your Green Home Builder

 

We’ve all been there – that moment where you’re about to toss a bag of garbage into the trash chute and see a soda can at the top, *sigh*. You have a choice – you could stop, open up the trash, pull the can out, recycle it, and finish up with the garbage. Or, you could just toss the bag and walk away. Nobody is really going to notice. Most of us want to do the right thing. We know that our choices matter. If we take the high road, we put in the effort, if we take the low road, the bag goes in as-is.

The same sustainable mentality should apply to your Green Homebuilder too. How much trash is your chosen construction firm creating, and what are they doing with it?

As home builders and construction professionals, we are responsible for making ethical choices that affect our planet over and over and over again every day, at a massive scale.

 

Hiring a firm, builder, or contractor that chooses to do the right thing has a greater positive impact than most choices you make on a daily basis

 

Construction waste accounts for 5% of all waste generated in Metro Vancouver. While our region has some of the better recycling rates in the industry, it’s still not perfect. There are logistical stresses that may be lead a builder to not take the high road when it comes to waste management, which it’s good for potential clients to know about:

 

Space constraints

While a properly managed build should generate waste in easy-to-manage ways, it takes more space to set up the infrastructure for pre-disposal sorting. Multiple storage bins are needed, taking up precious square footage on the ground.

 

Time constraints

Planning and executing and waste management strategy does take more time. It’s more labor-intensive to have a crew separate their waste into different piles in different spots on site. This problem is compounded by poor planning or a lack of experience in waste diversion.

 

But it’s not all bad news! There is more reason to hire a builder with a good waste reduction strategy than it is the right thing to do – there may be some cost savings. By separating materials and creating more recycling, a good builder saves on per-pound disposal and sorting costs that come with the cleanup.

Weighing up the experience and education of your chosen Green Home Builder.

As with any other industry, construction is constantly evolving. Every day, we could be learning about a new legal requirement, technology, vendor, or partner.

That evolution is most obvious when it comes to Green Builds. As the government tightens up its rules (see our article about the STEP Code for more about that), advances are made in technology and building techniques to accommodate. Just a few years ago, home automation would have been only for the wealthy – now, you can get a smart assistant in your home for less than it costs to go for dinner.

At Kennedy, our key personnel are always learning, and we are happy to talk about what we’ve been studying lately.

A builder that’s brushing up on new advances and techniques will make better decisions for your project. They’ll be thinking one step ahead so that you can improve your home easily in the future. They’ll make room for upcoming technologies and add-ons which may not yet be market-ready, but could be available to leverage soon. Take Andrew Kennedy’s home for example. By installing a metal roof, solar panels can be easily installed at a later date. Preempting future additions such as this – even if not required right now – means that Andrew’s home can be seamlessly improved in years to come.

(Want a tour of Andrew’s home? Check out this post!)

 

Conclusion

If you are making the conscious choice to hire a Green Builder, you’re taking a step to a better home, neighborhood, and world. Make sure that you’re partnering with a builder that walks the walk instead of just talking the talk. You’ll be glad you did.

Have any questions? Just reach out to us at 604-986-3244 or email info at kennedyconstruction.ca. We’re happy to help.

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