Tuesday, June 25, 2013

LEED Certification in Home Building

LEED (or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certification may seem like an unnecessary designation to have for a home, but registering and certifying a project means that you will reduce the expenses associated with energy consumption and maintenance of your household, and the designation can significantly increase your property value.

Certification for a LEED home is done by the U.S. Green Building Council. Harmon Builders would work with a Green Rater during the design process, who is there to ensure that the design specifications will meet the intended credits for certification. Then the project would be registered.  The Green Rater is there to verify that the goals of your environmentally conscious home design are met during the building process. Technical services are available through the U.S. Green Building Council throughout the project and their expertise is available to assist on the project during the building phase.

Certification is achieved through fulfillment of a number of credits. The credits pertain to various aspects of the design and construction. These may have to do with indoor air quality, sustainability, water efficiency, or management of materials and minimizing waste, to name a few. There are different certification levels available depending upon the number of credits met by the finished project.

Registration and certification fees for a single family home are minimal. The total for both comes close to $500 in in many instances. Extensive information about LEED certification is available from the US Green Building Council, which Harmon Builders is a member of.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hiring a Contractor

Many people don't know where to begin when it comes time to find a contractor for their home building or renovation project. The first step is to find referrals, then get estimates and check references to prepare for a successful outcome.

Many people start by getting referrals from friends or family members who have had a successful project. There are other resources to consider that tap into expert opinions about about contractors' quality of work and professionalism. If an architect or interior designer is already involved, they will recommend the best general contractors for your needs. If you don't already have a design professional involved, you may choose to find one. Another reliable source may be a plumber, painter or other tradesperson that you already have experience with and trust. Also consider contacting the building permit department in your municipality for information about who they consider reputable, as they will have vast experience with people in the industry.

Choose a few contractors to meet. Get estimates and references. When you contact references ask whether or not the job was on time and on budget. Weather or changes a homeowner makes to a contract may cause the schedule to slip or budget to grow, but still reflect good customer service. If these issues arose, be sure to find out why. Of course you will want to know if the homeowner was satisfied with the outcome.  Find out about the communication between the contractor and the homeowner--how it was done and if it was done effectively. There may also be details that are important to you, such as cleanliness or keeping particular working hours. Once you have collected your estimates, be aware that sometimes (but not always) the lowest bid may come with a sacrifice in quality and professionalism. Balance the figures with what you learn from the references to get a full picture of the value for the work you will receive. Hopefully you will have an opportunity to visit a previous project to see completed work for yourself, as well.

Reputable builders should be members of pertinent trade organizations and hold all the legally required licenses and insurance. For example, Harmon Builders is a member of the US Green Building Council and has Green Advantage Environmental Certification. All contractors in Maryland must be licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission, receive a MD-HBR (Maryland Homebuilder) Certification Number, and they must be certified "Lead-Safe" by the EPA. Find out if licenses and insurance are up to date--if not, assume that this is a strong warning signal that something is not right. Other signs of unprofessional conduct are implications that you must act quickly to avoid putting your home or family at risk, as are any other high pressure tactics that push you to make a decision without taking time to think it through.

You should be thrilled with the result of your building or remodeling project. The best way to see this end result is to pave the way carefully. Take these initial steps to find out about who you will be working with.