It all comes together on the construction site. You put your vision and plans in the hands of the builders and watch your project rise up amidst dust and machinery. An integrated design process and green specs give you confidence that the contractors are on board with your vision, but you still need to follow through to get the job done right.
- Make sure that both your general contractor and your subcontractors have the skills and information to turn your design into a high-performance green building. If your contractors lack green experience, consider sharing the cost of training. You can also look to a contractor with a strong green background. Green Advantage® Certified contractors have demonstrated their knowledge about healthy, high performance buildings by taking a course and passing an exam.
- Then. focus on the elements that require attention during construction
- For the building: tight envelope, adequate mechanical ventilation, familiarity with energy and water efficient mechanical systems, and low and no toxic materials and finishes; and
- For the site work: landscaping--with native and drought resistant plantings--stormwater management, materials use, and waste management.
- Finally, evaluate the work as it proceeds, from start to finish, to ensure the quality that will make this development and your future projects green.
Capacity and communication are key
Even if your contractor has significant experience with green building projects, it pays to make sure that the crew can do the job right. After all, one worker's mistake can result in years of moisture problems, or a building envelope that leaks away your investment in efficient heating and cooling systems.
- Make sure that the builders are comfortable with systems and materials choices and techniques, such as advanced framing. Ask during team design meetings and again as you prepare and review the construction documents. If your contractor lacks experience, offer to arrange for job site training.
- Make construction documents as clear and detailed as possible. Emphasize proper installation of insulation, careful sealing, and detailing.
- Go over the specifications and construction documents with contractors and subs to resolve issues up front. Set up lines of communication to answer questions quickly.
- Your architect and engineer should make frequent site visits to provide both support and oversight. Your commissioning agent will make scheduled inspections of the work.
Construction site and process impacts
Construction itself has considerable environmental impacts: stormwater runoff, air pollution from dust and exhaust, damage to trees, and waste.
- You can minimize many of these affects by requiring your general contractor to carefully manage the site: maintain silt fencing, restrict truck idling, and fence off trees. (See the Site page for details.)
- Minimizing construction waste can save money in tipping fees. Post your waste management plan on site and establish central waste sorting and recycling areas or hire a firm that will sort it for you if you are tight on space. (See the Waste page for details.)
- Efficient material use is perhaps the best way to reduce waste. By posting cut lengths, using scrap where appropriate, and effectively storing materials on site, you can save resources and cut costs. (See the Materials page for details.)
- Use of prefabricated framing and structurally insulated panels (SIPs) reduces waste dramatically and also saves significant time in the construction process. (See the Innovate page for details.)
Inspection and performance testing during construction are essential to ensure that your affordable housing development will truly be green. Go to the next page for a discussion of evaluation approaches and tools. To learn from your current project and to make your next project even better, have your whole team evaluate the completed project.