When Silvia and I resumed the planning for our house after a four-year hiatus, we knew we’d need to surround ourselves with a competent team.
That was partly because we’d parted ways with our architect, and knew we still needed professional help. But you could say it’s mainly because I needed professional help of a very different sort — that is, I got the crazy idea to act as our own general contractor.
Green building science geeks are big on cooperation and collaboration. In fact, LEED for Homes — the certification program we’re using for our project — encourages any builder seeking certification to meet to put together “Integrated Project Team” and to meet with that team regularly from very early in the design phase through construction.
This makes a lot of sense and not just for green projects. Building a house in a thoughtful way requires planning for all the materials and systems to complement each other.
So I set about last year assembling what I consider to be an all-star green homebuilding team. I wrote in my previous Journal entry about Lisa Manka of Hestia Construction. Two other key members of our team also come with very strong green construction credentials:
• LEED rater Carl Seville is a national authority on green homebuilding. He helped to design the Southface Energy Institutes’s highly successful EarthCraft House certification system, and last year he and fellow Atlanta consultant Abe Kruger literally wrote the book on green homebuilding: “Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction.”
• Architect Lori Bork Newcomer earned the first LEED for Homes Platinum rating in Athens, Ga., for her work on her own house in 2011. The project had a lot of similarities to our own: Partial deconstruction of early 20th century bungalow, and a renovation and addition that converted it to modern-Craftsman hybrid. A graduate of the Rice University architecture program, Lori interned under famed star-chitect Cesar Pelli in New Haven, Conn., before moving to Athens in 2005.
The idea is to have a lot of professional support even though — indeed because — I’m taking on the role of general contractor. It’s a DIY project in the sense that we’re coordinating the planning, making subcontractor decisions, managing construction, and doing some of the work ourselves. But we’re not flying blind either.
It’s too bad that we didn’t assemble this team from the start, though. Last year, when Carl, Lisa, Lori and I finally met on the porch of our house to begin our reboot, we discovered a slew of issues with our design that ran counter to the core environmental aim of our project. If only we’d known then what we know now.