Just when we thought there couldn’t be any more how-to manuals for green building – LEED, GreenPoint checklists, the Title 24 Residential Compliance Manual – along comes another one that might be the best one yet. The 2008 Residential Remodeling Guidelines from Regreen.org (a partnership between the ASID and the USGBC) is clearly written, persuasive, well-organized, and sensible.
(Above image used by permission of Dormer’s only Construction Corporation, based in Wyandanch, NY.)
It’s both holistic and practical, simple and direct. Here’s a slightly paraphrased version of their intro statement:
“It is easy and tempting to boil down green building to simply product selections [while] ignoring the challenges of green building as a process…Green building is almost always about how systems work together to reduce environmental impacts.”
This guide even addresses the “design” part of green design by asserting that beauty is part of sustainability, because if people like a building, they’ll be less likely to knock it down later on. Using less energy by itself is not enough, either. Good design means that it meets the user’s needs:
“…you cannot have a green project that is not also a quality project… For example, you can’t have just efficient lighting; it must also be effective lighting.”
Described as a “best practices” manual, it’s a method that includes structured questions and decision checklists to be addressed early on. It’s organized by remodeling project type (kitchen, bath, bedroom, living/working room, finished basement, building performance improvements, new additions, gut rehabs, energy retrofits, and outdoor living).
For each of these project type, there’s a predesign checklist, a scope section with a list of strategies to choose from, a slew of case studies to serve as templates for each type of project – and then you can refer to a complete “strategy library” with synopses of practices such as insulating your water heater or zoned heating controls. Each option is described along with potential issues – which might be the single most valuable thing in the entire guide.
There’s one other noteworthy aspect of a high-quality green building approach, and that is people skills. In a holistic design approach, you can’t just treat each system or assembly as a separate engineering task; you have to ask the clients what’s comfortable FOR THEM. Since many clients may not know exactly, the builder or designer must be skilled at eliciting this information, empathic enough to comprehend the client’s unique perspectives, and patient enough to allow sufficient time for this part of the process.
About the author
Rebecca Firestone has been working in the Bay Area since 1998 as a technical writer, business content developer, architectural filing lady, marketing director, and sorcerer’s apprentice.