Green building is the only good news left in the building industry. Are you prospering or struggling in today’s market. From coast to coast, builders and remodelers who are clearly identified with green building are not only staying busy but growing in these tough economic times.
How to Get Into Green Building
First you need to know what is selling in your market. This recession is very diverse in its impact. The southwestern new home market is dead. The Midwestern remodeling market is still strong in places. Even in the Detroit market a remodeling company that emphasizes its energy retrofit services has doubled in size. Where you are and how you market your company is key to success.
Next you need to comprehend what are the “inevitabilities” in your market. What is most pressing? In cold climates it is energy costs in winter. In the Rocky Mountain region it is water availability. In New England it is fuel oil for heat. Recycling is important in the crowded East Coast cities due to the closing of land fills. These issues drive consumer purchase decisions and city policies. You want to find the sweet spot in your area.
Do Your Market Research
Every salesman knows that the most important skill is to listen carefully to your customer’s needs. Green consumers are not easily categorized. They have a wide variety of requirements for their homes, sometimes contradictory. New moms are particularly concerned about indoor air quality (see green nursery project). Everyone is concerned about energy prices. Understanding how to do energy retrofits is key. Others are very committed to recycling. They want to know that you are too so recycling waste on the jobsite is a must. The important element is to find out what your customer’s “hot buttons” are and speak to those issues when selling and designing the job.
Your past customers are a great place to start. Ask them what their priorities are. What would they ask for now? How would they have done their project differently? Do they have overall feedback for your company and your process? Often since time has passed, they will be more objective and offer constructive feedback.
Once you feel you have a direction, pick an area to get good at. It may be energy retrofit for example. Do your homework on what that entails. Become a “house doctor” and learn all the simple techniques for saving energy for your clients. There are many books and magazine articles that go into details. (see How to Futureproof your house)
Now is the time to get Green Advantage certified. The two day course goes through green building in detail and explains how to see a house as a system. Just doing green things doesn’t make the entire house green. Understanding how all the components in the house affect overall comfort, health and energy efficiency makes you a better builder. The deeper this information goes into the company the better your jobs will progress. Green building doesn’t have to cost more if you can plan more effectively up front and eliminate the head scratching on the jobsite.
Once you have decided on your company’s mission and vision for becoming a green building company it is time to look at your marketing materials. You want to let the world know of your commitment and how you incorporate green into all your projects. If it is just an “option” your customers won’t believe you are serious. The companies that have proven their commitment to green building in the marketplace are staying busy during tough economic times. They have customers in line waiting for their turn with the builder. That is because one of the primary customer frustrations across the country is not being able to find a green architect or a green remodeler that can satisfy their needs. This is a discriminating customer so you have to prove you are doing more than being politically correct.
Keep on Learning
At first glance green building seems simple enough. Change the paints you use, stuff more insulation into the building, install low flow toilets and you are done. It is a fatal mistake many professionals make. Buildings are complex systems in a constantly changing climate. Nothing is as static as it seems. Each topic we discuss has layers and layers of depth to be explored. The field is constantly evolving. It is a renaissance in the building industry today with more change and more rapid innovation than ever before. Stay tuned and keep learning.