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Engineering a Greener Home

Not that long ago, contractor Jon Alexander was doing some pretty odd things around his job sites.

"People thought it was a little strange that we were concerned about recycling our construction waste and we paid attention to things like energy efficiency and dust removal," he says.

Now, 17 years into his career as a leader in "green" construction around the Seattle area, Alexander has become part of the mainstream. "Everybody wants a healthy home, whether they're building a new house or just adding on a room," he says. "The world has caught up with me."

The desire for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly construction has zoomed in the past five years as utility costs have soared and an awareness for all things earth-related has increased. Among the most popular seminars at construction trade shows have been those on green building practices and how to market them.

So, if you've decided to stay put in the current real estate market and remodel rather than move, how do you find a green contractor? And will this person be any different from the guy who finished your basement last year?

"Ideally, he or she has spent time learning about everything from the best way to insulate a particular wall to how to keep dust at a minimum," says Brindley Byrd, a construction consultant in Lansing, Mich. "Contracting is evolving. What we call 'green practices' now will be the everyday way to do business in a few more years."

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