Question from TB
How do we find a contractor who will use non-toxic materials and decoration to finish our basement in the Naperville, IL area? We have children on the autism spectrum and want to convert our basement into a play area, a sensory gym area, and a therapy area…we need a kitchen, a bathroom, and a workout room as well.
I’m lucky. I have my own personal green contractor—my husband. He and I have been remodeling houses to be healthy and eco-friendly for almost twenty years now. But if I didn’t have Larry, I would need to find a contractor who could build to my health and environmental specifications. Sometimes I do need to hire subcontractors.
Green building is a large field that encompasses everything from healthy indoor air quality to using resources efficiently and choosing building products made from ecologically sound growing and manufacturing practices. Most contractors don’t have training, experience, or even awareness of these issues, but more and more contractors are learning about the subject and offering their services.
In some areas of the country there has been enough interest in green building that there are now quite a few contractors and other building professionals who have some kind of experience and training in building green. In areas where there are no experienced or trained contractors, look for someone who has done at least something that shows they have some interest and willingness to learn about and use green products. Stay away from contractors who express doubt or uncertainty about green products.
Nearly 250 general contractors across America have completed the requirements for LEED Professional Accreditation. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the leading organization that is establishing standards for green building in the U.S. and certifies building projects according to these standards. Accreditation identifies individuals who have demonstrated detailed knowledge of LEED project certification requirements and processes and a command of integrated design principles by passing a comprehensive exam. (To access their database of accredited general contractors, go to http://www.usgbc.org/, then click on “Education”, then “LEED AP Directory” in the navigation bar.)
If you don’t need (and don’t want to spend money on) a contractor who can help you pass the LEED requirements for certification. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is gearing up a green contractor program to serve the average homeowner. NARI is working on a national program to train general contractors to add green options to their projects—things like Energy Star appliances, low-e windows, FSC-certified hardwood floors, and cabinets that don’t outgas formaldehyde. They want their contractors to be familiar with green building products and offer them to their clients. NARI has local chapters so contact your local chapter to find out about green contractors in your area.
Some areas already have their own local education and certification programs for contractors. Ask around at places like local natural food stores, hardware stores, or a green building materials store, if you have one in your community. GreenHomeGuide is now building a directory of green building professionals across the country, so that is a place to look too.