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Saving Cash On The Construction Of Green Homes

December 7, 2008
If youve been researching your options for building a home thats considered green, you know already that this can be a very costly undertaking. Depending on how you personally define green, the materials and systems required to make a house fit the description can be quite expensive. There are steps you can take, however, that can keep costs in check and still afford you the home of your dreams.

One of the best ways to enjoy a green home without giving up too much of your own green in the process is to consider building it yourself from the ground up. No, this doesnt necessarily mean foregoing all contractors and doing all the work yourself. It can, however, prove quite beneficial to your wallet for you to have land in place on which to build and then to act as the owner builder on the project. This can cut some major expenses right off the top of your home construction project and enable you to keep more money in your wallet or put more back into the construction of your home.

What It Means To Be An Owner Builder

When you act as an owner builder, youll have to do a lot of the things a general contractor would normally handle during the course of constructing your green home. This doesnt necessarily mean youll have to swing a hammer or frame a room for drywall. It does, however, mean that you will have to take the lead on your construction project. This is not a job for the squeamish or disorganized, but it can save you some serious cash on the building of your home. Owner builders who completely replace a general contractor will save on these fees right off the bat. The work involved includes, but isnt limited to:

Getting permits As the owner builder, you will have to make sure you have your plans in place and that they meet code. Once you have these, youll have to apply for building permits before a lick of work can begin on the building of your new home.

Hiring subcontractors It is typically a general contractors job to line up specialty trades workers to handle different phases of construction. This might include such trades as plumbing, electrical, masonry and so on. It will be your job to get quotes, sign contracts and oversee work if you act as the owner builder on a project.

Making sure insurance is in place Having the right type of coverage to protect people and your investment during construction is important. General contractors sometimes take care of this. As the owner builder, the burden will fall on your shoulders.

Scheduling You will have to schedule all phases of construction and make sure proper inspections take place when they are supposed to.

Working as the owner builder on the construction of your green home is a big job. It is a job, however, that can save you a bundle of money. When you call the shots, your cost savings can be quite appreciable.

Before you dive in to building your green home, there are major considerations that youll have to take into account. The first step in the project will involve defining what you mean by green. This can directly impact not only construction, but also the bottom line.

Define Your Project

Before you can even seek out plans or have an architect draw them up, you need to define in your mind what you mean by green. This is a rather subjective term when it comes to building a home. In the strictest sense of the word, it would mean a house that has the lowest possible environmental impact. Options you might want to consider for a green house include such things as:

Using recycled materials It is possible to rely on recycled materials in some areas of home construction. This can actually save you money and might not even have an impact on design at all.

Creating energy efficiency by design Some people define green by how energy efficient a home happens to be. This can include using structural insulated panels during construction, making certain a home is well placed on its property to protect against the elements and even ensuring that other insulation features go above and beyond in their ability to function.

Building in solar energy use When a home relies completely, or in part, on solar energy, a green factor definitely comes into play. To make the most of solar energy, it is wise to include it in the actual planning and design phase of construction. If an architect, for example, knows you want to use solar, he or she can place a home on its lot to take the fullest advantage of this type of system.

Considering water sources Some green house designs call for complicated systems to collect and reuse water. If this is to your liking, youll need to make sure its included in the designs.

Once you have your brain around what you mean by green, you can proceed with the next vital step in the pre-construction phase getting your plans.

Design Is Essential In A Green Project

The options you will have available to you for getting your blueprints and plans for construction will depend on the type of green home you have in mind. The complexity of the project and how customized you want to go will generally be the determining factors. In general, you have two main options. They are:

Purchasing stock plans There are companies that specialize in the creation of stock plans for building green homes. These plans are available for direct purchase from architectural firms, for example. The cost associated with buying ready-made plans are generally much lower than having custom blueprints drawn up. Just make certain the company you choose to buy from is reputable. Check into such things as licensing, background and experience before making the final decision to buy.

Working with an architect If you have a specific idea in mind for what you home should look like or how elaborate its green features should be, drawing plans from the ground up makes sense. While an architect might cost more, this selection can get you exactly the plans you want. To save money on this process, take the time to get multiple quotes. Make sure your architect specializes in green construction. Licensing and reputation should also be considerations in the final decision.

The Real Money Savings

As the owner builder on your green home project, you will be able to take advantage of a number of money saving opportunities. Some of the things you can do to cut corners on cost without hurting the quality of your home include:

Taking on some of the work If you are the owner builder on your construction project, you will be able to take on as much or as little of the actual work yourself. If, for example, you know how to put on a roof, you can cut these labor expenses out of your bottom line by doing the job yourself. On the small scale, you might want to do such minor things as painting, installing flooring or even putting in your own appliances. Any project you can take away from a subcontractor will save you money. Just make certain you are skilled enough and have the time to handle the job

Buying the materials Its worth the time to see if you can get better pricing on materials than your subcontractors can. Call around and get multiple quotes before making the decision. Sometimes subcontractors do offer better pricing. In some cases, however, their markup on supplies can cut deep into your bottom line. Depending on the materials that will go into your home, you might even be able to get donations. Some green designs, for example, call for the use of recycled tires for the walls. These can be donated to the project at no cost to you if you take the time to generate a little publicity for your project.

Hosting a workshop When green home construction is under way, it can be a curiosity in some areas. A completely green house that relies on rain water, solar energy, wind power and other features, for example, can be a big draw in the local construction trade. It is possible to gain free manpower by inviting pros to learn the process of building a new design by working on your home. This has been done in some areas much to the benefit of homeowners.

Building a green home is a great way to save money in the future and do your part to protect the environment. This undertaking can be costly during construction, however. To keep costs low, you can act as the owner builder on your project and do some of the work yourself. If your home design happens to be unique, its even possible to get creative in cutting costs by hosting workshops and accepting donations toward construction. Any piece of the project you can take on yourself will end up saving you money.