What Does It Take to Be a “Green” Contractor in the Hudson Valley?

What does it take to be a green contractor in the Hudson Valley? First of all you have to care about many things:

Have a deep connection to the environment, physical health, the local economy and progressive building methods to help nurture these concerns. Knowing how to communicate your commitment to all of these things is really important to establish relationships and long lasting trust with your community/ patrons. Getting educated in an aggressive manner and then bringing this information to your clients for their benefit. Building smart, energy-efficient, non- toxic, environmentally friendly and competitively is what the patrons of the Hudson Valley want.

Think of the environment before building

Parks, local wildlife, bodies of water, plant life and underground aquifers are in the active minds and daily events of most of the Hudson Valley residents. They are fighting the “Fracking” for gas, pollution on the Hudson “river keeper” and greedy developers from building on land with endangered flora and fauna. I firmly believe that many people that hike, bike, swim, climb or ski in the Catskills and “Gunks” want to help protect these places, whether they are weekenders or long time residents. Enjoying the “green” is often what starts a “green” lifestyle. I spent most of my teens and twenties hiking, back packing and swimming during my weekends and vacations. I believe that is why I went green with my business and life style. Equally, that is why most clients want green contractors in the Hudson Valley. It is there lifestyle that dictates this.

Thinking and planning with the environment or specific site location should always be part of the green contractors planning method. Understanding the lay of the land along with a desired home site location is important. How can we build with the smallest impact environmentally? Can we position this house so we have solar advantages? Can we use the elevations for irrigation or wind power? Can we use a creek for Hydro power? How will we minimize waste or silting on the site? There many more considerations to take into account about site planning and positioning houses.

We can build healthy
Health is a big issue for many in choosing a green building project. Sure… fear is often a motivator for big choices concerned with health. There are so many horror stories about the side effects of off-gassing(formaldehyde or Poly urethane)carpeting and floor finishes and Petroleum based insulation or plastics can really do some damage. If your going to drink bottled water, go to the gym and eat healthy, then it is only logical to approach a building project the same way.

I always approach this topic with kid gloves. I often probe my clients with questions like ” what does green mean to you?” If it means non-toxic materials, then I read it as a green light to offer countless health minded materials. Yet, if a client says energy efficiency, then I modestly mention that I can also offer health minded materials and leave it up to them to ask for them. A contractor should be sensitive to this and relate the feeling that he or she is just concerned for them and not trying to overload the budget. There are some things that a contractor should insist on. One of which is an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation) unit which is used to control fresh air in a “air tight” house. It also controls humidity levels to avoid mold, mildew and structural rot.

When you insulate green, such as in a Net-Zero home, you definitely have a well sealed insulated envelop or in a Passivhaus, you have insulation levels up R-60 all the way around all six sides of your home. The insulation is usually integrated with mostly cellulose on the inside(between wall studs and in the attic floor) and Poly-Iso- rigid foam board all the way around the outside of the house and under the foundation and basement slab. All the windows are triple glazed with foam sealing around all windows, doors,vents and miscellaneous penetrations. It is like having your head in a plastic bag and hoping for fresh air if you don’t have a HRV system in place. All of my projects include HRV units with super insulation( Cellulose primarily and integrated rigid and spray foam.)

So the local economy is not as strong

The local economy is not as strong as it was during the housing boom or real estate boom. Ok, so what does this mean for contractors? Often, it means leaning out, cutting back on spending and re-positioning business. I did all these things and discovered that it was still difficult and then I decided to get educated in green building once again…
Instead of just being a green builder general contractor, I became a green contractor who specializes in not only General “green” construction, but also, solar and Green insulation(dense packed cellulose.) I have found that designing a cost effective project for a client who is price conscious often involves a strong focus on insulation, cost effective- high efficiency windows and tax rebates and energy star rebates. Once we get all of that in the pot then, we discuss renewables like Solar electric and Geothermal. You have to weigh all the variables in initial cost and long term payback. For instance: If I have a client that is really excited about Solar electric and Geothermal heating and Cooling and they just can’t wait to sign on the dotted line, I take a step back and ask a couple questions. Number 1 is: how much energy are you using already? and have you had any weatherization projects performed in your home recently? The bottom line is that if you don’t have the proper insulation in your home, you will be wasting your money on a renewable energy system install. Don’t put the cart before the horse… of course you could beef up the solar modules and increase the loops and heat-pumps for your geothermal system to keep your house running yet, it is like that old gas guzzler in the sense that you will pay for a huge install cost and maintenance costs will be crippling down the road.

The right methods for construction

Contractors need to be using the right methods. The old stand by of conventional construction worked for the clients that just wanted square footage and luxury at a competitive price. The new clients want energy efficient, luxurious, technologically fitted and cost effective homes. How do you give it to them? Read up on Net-Zero building, Passivhaus and Permaculture. Get educated and specialize in something green. I consider myself to be in school for eternity. We have to keep up on building technologies. You don’t have to be a contractor blogging to all hours of the night, but, you better read some of them on the subject of green building.

Be the right kind of person

You have to be the right kind of person to be a green contractor. You have to really believe in it. Care about the environment, people and their health, understand the economic condition, educate yourself endlessly and educate your clients. Put your heart into it. You must always keep your clients best interest in mind… That is a sustainable method to live by.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/5688148

How to Find Top Green Contractors For Your Remodeling Project

Green remodeling is becoming more and more popular, and for very good reasons, it:
* Saves money on building materials
* Offers a less polluted environment
* Conserves energy with better natural lightening
* Emphasizes better ventilation

So, even though going green is the simple choice, finding a good green contractor that will help you achieve your desired end result is not so simple.

Green construction is still a relatively new branch of construction, so getting a contractor that does not only know what you need and how the achieve it, but also has prior experience with similar projects, is very important.

Look for green contractors that offer you the following –

* References from clients with finished green projects, similar to the one you are planning – Don’t settle for pictures, ask to see for yourself, and talk to the owners. If you are planning to remodel your whole house, ask to see a finished project that has a similar size scale, not only a green roofing construction.

* Ideas – You don’t have to accept everything your contractor offers you, but check to see that he or she have ideas. With green remodeling, you will need a contractor that can pick the best materials, offer you tips on what to do and what to avoid. For example: placing a large glass window on the wrong side of the house can result in hotter summers and colder winters – more energy consumption and a bigger electricity bill, which can all be avoided with proper planning.

* Qualified contractors – Qualified contractors are actually pre-screened contractors. You can check to see what the programs available in your area are for green contractors and what criteria do contractors need to meet in order to become qualified.

* Work Volume – This part is a bit tricky, so you might need to get a couple of contractors in order to compare. You are looking for a contractor that is not too busy but also had his share of recent green projects. This guarantees that your contractor is up to date with the latest materials and green building methods, as well as not too busy, so he can pay attention to your project.

The best thing to do when looking for green contractors is to get price estimates which you can compare. Ask your contractor questions so that you will also notice how well he answers, how green remodeling savvy he is.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3200322

2012 will be toughest year for construction industry – GVK

According to the recently released FNB/BER Building Confidence Index for the first quarter of 2012, building confidence amongst building contractors, manufacturers of building materials and quantity surveyors has increased. The results suggest that the building sector has bottomed and is indeed recovering, albeit slowly.
Richard Williams, CEO of the Gordon Verhoef and Krause Group of Companies (GVK) warns that what transpires in Europe over the next few months will give a better idea of the direction in which the industry is heading. “Our most likely industry scenario is a gradual three year climb back to pre-recession levels of activity. However, this will be the toughest year for the industry.”

State funded projects are crucial

Williams says one of the biggest factors that could put the industry back on track and provide sustainability is the releasing of state funded projects. “We are optimistic about the government’s plans for infrastructure development and believe that it will have positive spin-offs for the industry as a whole. The big question, of course, is whether they will be able to deliver this in the timescale that they anticipate. Many of our colleagues in the industry are sceptical; however, government has shown a new determination to make this happen.

“We have reduced margins, looked at all opportunities to reduce costs, but have refused to enter into the realms of suicidal tender prices. Like most companies, we are now starting to pick up more work. It takes substantial cash resources to fund that increase in work GVK has been fortunate in that we have been very prudent with preserving cash and are able to fund the additional work that we are securing,” shares Williams.

Looking at opportunities in Africa

In order for GVK to ride out the recession, it explored new markets both in client type and geographical spread. “This is starting to bear fruit, both in terms of taking on work in industries in which we have not previously worked and also opportunities in Africa.” The new avenues that GVK have pursued during the downturn have facilitated a more rapid recovery for GVK. For instance, as a result of pursuing work in neighbouring countries, they have recently secured work on several projects including a substantial one in Namibia valued at R70 million.

GVK also used the downturn to sharpen skills in all aspects of the business and green building in particular. “With green building gaining momentum over the past four years we have sought to gain experience as green contractors.” To this end, one of the group’s companies was involved in a pilot project to introduce green building principles and methodologies in the eco-sensitive Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.

Live streaming master classes for African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo

The fifth annual African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo will take place at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Gauteng, 23 -24 May 2017. 45 countries, along with 9,000 qualified buyers and sellers, are expected to participate in the mega construction and infrastructure show.
Africa’s largest gathering of built environment professionals returns to Gallagher Estate.
Africa’s largest gathering of built environment professionals returns to Gallagher Estate.
The expo offers a workshop programme and provides free hands-on-technical (HOT) training sessions for the built environment professional. Some of these sessions offer the platform for organisations and individuals to fulfill more than half their annual quota for continuing professional development (CPD) accreditation for architects, engineers, project managers and quantity surveyors.

Indoor / outdoor exhibition

The show caters for the entire built environment with an indoor / outdoor exhibition featuring six new dedicated zones: Concrete and Cement; Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP); Surfaces and Finishes; Tools and Equipment; Digital Construction; and Construction.

The show will also feature the AfriSam Contractors’ Corner providing live streaming master classes for contractors to boost both hard and soft skills covering topics from tendering to waterproofing.

This year the show is co-located with Captains of Construction and Infrastructure Leadership Forum; Digital Construction Expo; Smart Buildings & Infrastructure Africa Summit and Women in Construction Awards.

Construction sector confidence lowest since 2012

The FNB/BER Civil Confidence Index lost 17 index points to 35 in 4Q2016, meaning that, barring 1Q2016 when the index was at 28, confidence is at its lowest since the beginning of 2012. The fall in the index means that 65% of respondents are dissatisfied with prevailing business conditions.
Jason Muscat, senior economic analyst at FNB
Jason Muscat, senior economic analyst at FNB
The lower confidence was as a result of deteriorating growth in construction activity as well as keener competition. According to Jason Muscat, senior economic analyst at FNB, “This was a perfect storm. The weaker activity as well as increased tendering price competition took its toll on overall profitability. In fact, the index measuring profitability declined to its lowest level in two years.”

Civil construction under pressure

“The survey results confirm what we have suspected for a while, that the civil construction sector remains under pressure,” noted Muscat. According to Stats SA, annual growth in the real value of construction works contracted by 1.5% in 3Q2016, in addition to the 0.3% decline recorded in 2Q2016. A large part of the weaker demand stems from a fall in government capital expenditure (capex) amid mounting fiscal pressures.

Muscat stated that, “The slowdown in government investment is unlikely to be a short-term phenomenon, despite government’s recent commitment to invest more than R900bn in infrastructure over the next three years.” Construction work by the private sector, mainly mining, was probably also lower during the quarter.

Improvement expected next quarter

Despite the deterioration in their fortunes, civil contractors expect some improvement in activity next quarter. This is somewhat supported by the constraint measuring new demand which, although reasonably high, is below its five-year average. “While it is important to take note of respondents’ expectations, the underlying economic fundamentals do not suggest a much improved civil construction sector in the near future,” said Muscat.

The fall in confidence this quarter was easily substantiated by the deterioration in construction activity and keener tendering competition, which led to worsening profitability. Overall, the civil construction sector likely weighed on GDP growth in 4Q2016, with only a small chance of some respite over the short term given current economic (and fiscal) conditions.

Motheo, WBHO sign agreement

As part of the Voluntary Rebuilding Programme (VRP) concluded with government in October this year, three major black-owned contractors have signed a development agreement with WBHO.
Construction industry representatives at the signing of the development agreement.
Construction industry representatives at the signing of the development agreement.

The VRP commits the seven listed construction companies to either ensure that, within seven years, the equivalent of 25% of their annual local turnover will be carried out by black-owned contractors, or that over 40% of their local business will be sold to black shareholders.

WBHO had opted for the former. With a current building and civil engineering turnover of R11bn, which is expected to increase to R15bn over the next seven years, the equivalent 25% equates to R4bn a year to be executed by Motheo Construction Group, in addition to Fikile Construction and Edwin Construction.

Transformative milestone

Addressing the official signing ceremony, Dr Thandi Ndlovu, CEO of Motheo Construction Group, said: “We see this as a transformative milestone in the construction sector, and an excellent way forward for our companies and consortium members.”

Dr. Thandi Ndlovu, CEO of Motheo Construction Group.
Dr. Thandi Ndlovu, CEO of Motheo Construction Group.

Dr. Ndlovu has also been elected to the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC) council. She was a founding member of South African Women in Construction in the early 1990s, and won the Businesswoman of the Year Award in the Entrepreneurs Category in 2013, as awarded by the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa.

Her long association with SAFCEC extended to her role as president of the Black Business Council for the Built Environment (BBCBE) in 2012, when both SAFCEC and the BBCBE began engaging the construction industry about VRP, in conjunction with the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee (PICC).

Louwtjie Nel, CEO of WBHO
Louwtjie Nel, CEO of WBHO
Tackling SA’s infrastructure needs

“We have known the management of all three companies for many years, and have a high regard for their skills and expertise, and look forward to being the catalyst for their growth. We look forward to working closely with the teams at Motheo, Fikile and Edwin in tackling South Africa’s significant infrastructure needs,” WBHO CEO Louwtjie Nel commented.

Motheo Construction Group’s twenty-year model of transforming into a “truly-empowered” company is not only a first for the South African construction industry, but sets a benchmark globally, according to Dr Ndlovu, who established the company in 1997 to focus initially on housing projects. In this regard, it boasts six black female (and one black male) shareholders, with a collective 54% stake.

Is Green Construction Making You Sick?

The recent arrival of the green construction movement has ushered in a host of new concepts in both construction and design. Although the ideals of green construction are well intentioned, in practice, numerous safety and liability concerns come along with these trends. Some sources have even questioned whether sustainable practices and occupational safety can coexist.

There’s an assumption that green construction is safer and healthier, but that perception is not always true, said Matt Gillen, Deputy Director of the NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) Office of Construction Safety and Health. He also pointed out that green construction does not always equal sustainability, either. True sustainability is broader and should include safety and health. Unfortunately, green construction doesn’t always include these elements, as quoted by Laura Walter in Green Construction and Safety Don’t Always Go Hand in Hand.

In seeking to close this gap, there is a movement to revise the definition of sustainability and to have occupational safety considerations included as part of what it means to build green. The development of LEED credits to address various safety issues may well be what the green construction movement needs to continue its development.

Many property insurers are unsure how to properly manage risks posed by new green construction methods (See, Green Construction Wave Brings Green Liability). Seeking to address these safety issues through NIOSH’s vision is to have occupational safety and health recognized as a fundamental dimension of true sustainability, said Gillen. This could entail developing LEED pilot credits to address safety issues, adding safety and health language to existing credits or developing new safety credits.

This discussion also comes amid recent concerns that instead of being healthier, green construction materials and methods may actually be contributing to health problems. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has established numerous programs to properly address aspects of green construction and to ensure the health, safety and welfare of people working or living in green construction projects.

For example, by tightly sealing spaces (a measures taken by contractors to achieve high levels of energy efficiency), builders could inadvertently wind up creating problems with indoor air quality, moisture and fresh air ventilation. Likewise, “an improperly sized and installed high efficiency (air) unit is not efficient” said Todd Witt, HVAC Expert, as quoted by David Worthington in Could a Green Home make You Sick?.

Additional considerations when building a green home include:

* Demanding documentation of your home’s Manual J Load Calculation and Manual D duct design.

* Demanding fresh air ventilation and returns/jumper ducts in every bedroom.
* Demanding a static pressure test, interior pressure testing, and air balancing.

* Having the depth and density of your attic insulation inspected and having attic rulers installed throughout your attic.

* Eliminating traditionally vented crawlspaces and replace them with closed crawlspace construction.

Green Construction Company Services

There are different services you can get from a green construction company. These are companies that specialize in sustainable construction to ensure no harm is done to the environment. They use methods that reduce the amount of solid waste generated. They also minimize on wastage of resources by using alternatives such as solar energy for electricity.

A green construction company can provide you with services when you want to start a new construction project. This can be for simple projects such as building a family house or even more complicated ones like complex medical facilities. When building Santa Fe Green homes, the company can offer additional services that include installation of water catchment systems. This means that there are no electricity bills to pay for in the homes.

In addition, the green construction company can also eliminate the need to spend on energy by installing sustainable energy systems. These include solar and wind energy generation. They will also offer services in building infrastructure such as roads, and drainage structures. New Mexico green builders ensure that these are built using the right methods by supervising and directing construction. Apart from building and supervising, they can also provide services such as making a budget.

New Mexico green builders have a lot of experience when it comes to planning land use. Therefore, they can offer creative advice for land use plans. They know all the laws regarding land use in the area. They can use their knowledge to provide useful target models. They will give a temporary budget to show the land owners what they expect to spend. This will help them remodel the plan accordingly so that the budget fits what they want to spend.

You can also have a green build contractor remodel your house. If you already have a house that you are not satisfied with, you can have it remodeled. This allows you to have a new home while saving on building costs. The green build contractor will carry out an inspection of the building and check the areas that can be changed. This will ensure that the house has been remodeled to your specification while within the budgetary limits that you have set.

The contractors also help you in obtaining approval from the regulating bodies. These are necessary before any building projects begin and without them, you might not be able to start. The construction company can also take on the responsibility of notifying those in the neighborhood of the upcoming construction.

Designing is also another service that you can get from green construction companies. It is necessary that homes are carefully designed before they are build. You may have a general idea but you do not know how to bring it out in a design so that you can have a home like that. Therefore, those looking to own Santa Fe homes, can get green build contractors involved right from the design stage. This results in an efficient building that is a pleasure to live in. The contractor will also refer you to qualified and trusted professionals who have specialized in design.