May 18

What to Look for in an Eco-Friendly Building Contractor

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The transition to sustainability is happening in every industry. Building and home contractors are also making the switch to become more environmentally friendly, from the tools and materials they purchase to the sustainable practices implemented in the work they perform. However, as a customer, it can become complicated when you’re looking to hire an environmentally-friendly contracting service. 

Depending on what kind of service you need — remodeling, building from the ground-up or something else — finding an eco-conscious contractor can be difficult. Since sustainability has become a global movement, some see it as a trend and only use the word to draw people in without actively enforcing green practices. Luckily, there are steps you can take to find the best eco-friendly contractor that’s right for you. 

Research

The initial phase of conducting research allows you to figure out what work you need to complete and how you’d like to do it. As you research, you’ll see how green building can fit well with your desired task.

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio.

What exactly is green building? It involves a structure’s efficiency regarding energy and water consumption, as well as sustainable material usage. To reduce environmental impact, contractors and builders need to use proper design, operation, construction and maintenance techniques to ensure they are preserving the natural environment, limiting pollution and chemical runoff, and ensure that impact on human health and wildlife is kept to a minimum. 

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After you research your area of interest, you’ll see how a green contractor will go about the project. For instance, if you’re looking into replacing your home appliances for ones that conserve water efficiently or are more energy-efficient, you’ll find that light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs or low-flow showerheads are viable options. Then, you can apply this knowledge when finding a contractor. If their business practices or materials don’t line up with your research, question it. 

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This initial step sets up the rest of the process. Once you have your priorities in order, you can move on to the next phase. 

Verify sustainable practices

After research comes applying what you know. When you know what you’re looking for, what you need and the inputs involved, you can verify whether contractors are carrying out green business practices.

During this stage, you’ll need to watch for greenwashing, which occurs when companies claim they are eco-friendly by marketing the positives, while diverting attention to their hugely negative practices. Their business philosophy is essentially an act and marketing propaganda, and they aren’t really reducing their environmental harm.

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If a contractor advertises that they use eco-friendly products and materials — tankless water heaters, energy-efficient heating systems or software solutions instead of paper goods — then you can take that as a good sign. You can go a step further and look into their portfolio. If their past projects show evidence of these practices, they are most likely genuine in their approach to sustainability.

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Another way to gauge a contractor’s commitment to environmental sustainability is through certifications. A certificate from the National Association of Home Builders or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry shows a dedication to and verification of green practices. Additionally, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications and credentials are good signs of a green contractor. Remember, green contracting applies to building, plumbing, remodeling and so much more. No matter what you’re looking into, there’s always a greener option!

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Compare and contrast

Chances are, you’ll find multiple potential contractors. Since sustainability is becoming a necessity in the construction industry, you’ll start seeing more eco-friendly contractors pop up. Finding the best one for your needs will depend on a few things: level of skill and experience, pricing, degree of eco-friendliness and customer reviews.

Reading the reviews for any contractor will be helpful. You’ll see how previous clients and customers feel about the contractor and what environmental practices they’ve used for various projects. These reviews may turn out to be useful in your process of narrowing down your options. 

You’ll also want to get quotes from each prospective contractor. If sustainable contractors’ prices fluctuate in comparison to one another, it’s important to figure out why. What makes one more expensive than others? Is it the materials they use? Is it their qualifications and level of expertise? Make sure you’re getting what you pay for. 

Cross-checking your list of contractors will show strengths and weaknesses regarding environmental advantages, too. Does one company have better benefits than others? 

Credit: Thiago Matos.

It’s also important to consider your project’s requirements. For instance, heavy construction may bring about more environmental harm than smaller projects due to emissions. However, there are still ways to make this process more eco-friendly. An electric boom lift, for example, can extend up to 60 feet and won’t release the harmful emissions that fuel-burning machinery does. 

Consider these things when choosing a contractor, and you’re sure to find an eco-friendly match. 

Get started

Once you select a contractor, you’re on your way to getting started. There are just a few more things to keep in mind while initiating the partnership. First, you’ll want to double-check their commitment to good environmental practices by reading through the contract. 

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In the contract, you’ll find the plans, budgets, policies and more. If something is different than what you agreed to, it’s important to question it and straighten it out. The agreement should emphasize the focus on sustainability. Remember that contracts should include a section regarding handling the unexpected — which will always happen with contracting! 

Whether it’s renewable energy, insulation or the use of green space, you can make it an eco-friendly project if you do your due diligence and look over the fine print.

Execution

One of the best things you can do in the climate change era is to focus on minimizing your impact in your building projects and in daily life. Hiring an eco-friendly contractor will affirm your commitment to sustainability.

Often, sustainable practices and materials — non-toxic paint or insulation, and fuel-efficient machinery, for example — can protect human health as well as your return on investment (ROI). Your project will then save you money while reducing harm to the natural environment. 

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Cover image by Charles Deluvio.

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