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Engineering a Greener Home

Despite the popularity of green building, it's not uncommon to find resistance to environmentally friendly remodeling plans. "Many contractors who aren't comfortable with green practices will give you a very high quote to discourage you from your plans," says Alexander. "Or, they'll look at it as a marketing opportunity without really doing much environmentally, which is known as 'greenwashing.'"

The best approach is to have a green contractor talk to you about your project and its energy needs and also about topics you may not have thought about, such as the indoor air quality.

"There are around 120 individual materials that are used to make a kitchen, and if you or a family member is sensitive to one of them, you may have a problem living there," says Alexander. "Fortunately, we have healthier substitutes like low-VOC volatile organic compound adhesives and other products that work just as well."

Construction dust is becoming a big issue for contractors, since it can affect not only the family who lives in the home being remodeled, but the workers, as well. "Any visible dust needs to be cleaned up, and extensive sawing or cutting should be conducted in a well-ventilated area," says Byrd. "It goes without saying that if you're checking out a room the contractor's demolishing or remodeling, wear a mask."

So if you decide on a green contractor to make your next home improvement, are you looking at paying premium for a healthier home?

"Not necessarily, most good green contractors can work within your budget," says Alexander. "For a simple room addition, you could spend 2% to 4% more than you had planned and end up with a very environmentally friendly project."

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