Green (or high-performance) building is the next step in quality
"It’s possible to build a quality home that’s not green, but you can’t build green without adding quality." 

Green building is an approach to building that guides every step of design and construction, from choosing a building site to installing a heating system to selecting toilets to disposing of trash and debris.  Green building is alternately described as 'sustainable' building or 'high-performance' building, and ultimately this may be a more accurate way of looking at it.  Because of the overuse of the word 'green' and the subsequent 'greenwashing,' I prefer to call the green custom homes we build in Roanoke and at Smith Mountain Lake 'high-performance' homes. 

Whether it is the initial design and planning, specific required product installation procedures, certification inspection checklists, or the third-party inspections, green certified homes have measurable quality built-in from the ground up.  At Jeff Sowder Incorporated, we believe that green / high-performance homes are better homes.

High-Performance building starts with design and construction planning
It’s safe to say that most houses are built the old-fashioned way.  It goes something like this: A designer or architect draws up floor plans and elevations for approval by the owners; the plans are turned into detailed construction drawings that can be passed along to a builder; the builder hires specialty trade contractors, and builds the house.

High-performance homes require a different design process.  High-performance homes should be collaborative efforts.  The best results happen when the owner, architect, designer, builder, and trade contractors work together as a team, starting early in the design phase.  This design process has been called 'integrated design' or 'whole-building design,' a collaborative approach that treats the group of people building the house as a team rather than as independent freelancers.  In integrated design, the HVAC, plumbing, lighting and wiring, site planning, framing, and insulating trades are viewed as interrelated parts of a whole-house design.

Huddling up early in the design process can lead to proportional savings and better building efficiency.  Designing for outside dimensions in 2 foot increments can be determined for material resource efficiency.  Floor joist material selections (I-joists, open-web trusses) and advanced framing techniques can be discussed and specified.  Beam locations (dropped, flush) and their impact on HVAC ductwork can be coordinated.  Mechanical room locations and sizing can be determined to maximize the efficiency of the duct runs and water distribution lines.  Keeping the ductwork in conditioned space can be problematic if not discussed early and integrated into the design.  High-performance insulation strategies require careful planning.  

For example, by working independently, if floor framing is left to the truss vendor and duct sizes and runs are left to the HVAC contractor to figure out on the job site, the chances of achieving high performance are low, at best.

Successful coordination is more likely to happen when people talk with one another.  No one completes their work alone or in one step.  Each trade refines the systems for which they are responsible based on information others provide along the way.

As green / high-performance professionals, we know the value of making the right decisions early.  Buildings work better, last longer, energy bills are lower, and in many cases initial construction costs are reduced.  There is no downside to starting early, other than perhaps having to actually think a little differently.