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Question DetailsAsked on 6/18/2011

Where do we start to build green?

We want to include as many eco-friendly features as possible when we build our next home, but we aren't sure where to start.

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2 Answers


Check the U.S. Green Building Council for a listing of all LEED certifiers and accredited providers in your area. Currently, Maureen Mahle of Steven Winter Associates is responsible for LEED certification in New York. There are also builders who specialize in 'building green.' Try Greenstreet construction. Or check with the local Built Green chapter for a list of green builders.

Answered 9 years ago by Angie's List


Start by working with a licensed Architect. While LEED certified designers are an option, the LEED program is not cost effective or well suited for single family residential construction. While a LEED certified architect may have training and information on more eco-friendly practices, typically architects in general stay trained on proven, reliable systems.

The site of your home will have as much to do with the sustainabilty and carbon footprint as the design and features. So by starting immediately with an Architect, they can help you with site selection, building location and building orientation. Having eco-friendly interior materials won't matter if the building is over/under heated by the sun, disrupts the natural stormwater flow or requires high energy to light, heat, cool or run. The location will also affect the eco-friendly materials; while bamboo is renewable and 'eco-friendly'; bamboo shipped from Asia then driven 500 miles to your site loses all eco-friendly properties to the amount of disel fuel burned. . .

The size of your building will also be a consideration. A two person family typically doesn't need a 5-bedroom house, and a low carbon footprint building often utilizes combined/shared spaces to minimize the footprint that needs to be heated/cooled and minimizes the amount of construction materials.

Eco-Friendly is also a marketing ploy. Make sure you do your research; many low VOC paints typically last a shorter period and take more processing or have more waste than standard paints, so in the long run you use more paint and harm the environment with your 'eco-friendly' choice. Low flush toilets that must be flushed three times to clear do more harm than a standard toilet. Many vinyls cannot be recycled, so they end up in the landfill. The list goes on. Again, an experienced architect can help you find a qualified builder so these decisions are made early and are budgeted.

The first place to start is with a licenced Architect, preferrably one who is also NCARB certified. Check with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for an architect near you. LEED certification is a plus, but not a requirement.

Answered 9 years ago by Kenny Johnson

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