How to Choose a Green Builder

You're doing the right thing by building green. But selecting a contractor for any project is always tough. See more home design pictures.
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Choosing a contractor is tricky enough without adding "green" to the conundrum. From tracking down builders' certifications to investigating past work to examining proposed prices under a magnifying glass -- the selection process is anything but elementary. Where do you start?

First of all, there's nothing like the past to predict the future. The problem is that green building is still pretty new, and green building codes are new as well, which means there's more wiggle room in the execution of green building than with traditional buildings. It also means it's easier to wind up with a greenhorn green contractor who doesn't know what he's doing. What can you do to make sure your builder isn't too new to the game?

First, look at his previous work. Have you seen green houses or remodels you like? Ask for those builders' names. If there's a green building home tour in your neck of the woods, tag along to see what you like. Picking a builder from a list? Ask to see green work the builder has done in the past, preferably in person or at the least in a portfolio. Most states require four years of on-the-job experience before granting a contractor's license. You might consider requiring the same years of green building experience of a contractor for your project [source:].

Similarly, when granting a contractor's license, states require that references vouch for the work experience a builder claims. You can do the same; talk to your prospective builder's past clients. In addition to asking them about the quality of the work, ask them to evaluate their builder's process. Was construction completed on time and within budget? (If not, why not?) Was the contractor willing and able to roll with the inevitable punches of the building process? Then, don't forget to check with your state consumer protection agency and Better Business Bureau for any complaints.