This Southside Chicago brick home, renovated by Om Development, exceeds Energy Star requirements by 80 percent. It generates a tenth of the heating and cooling costs of comparable-sized homes in the city, largely due to the building's highly efficient envelope.
This Southside Chicago brick home, renovated by Om Development, exceeds Energy Star requirements by 80 percent. It generates a tenth of the heating and cooling costs of comparable-sized homes in the city, largely due to the building's highly efficient envelope.

Pick your battles.
Just because a green product or design can be done doesn't mean it makes sense. To truly be sustainable, a project has to be feasible and meet its budget. On a case-by-case basis, you have to make intelligent, financially responsible decisions about the best products to use. Choose your materials and techniques wisely.

Be open to new relationships.
Working on green projects may mean a contractor can't always stick with his tried and true partners. It can be difficult to find proactive suppliers who want to educate themselves about green building. "You might have to find new suppliers or partners willing to make the extra effort," says Bhatia.

Promote your services.
As a value-added service, contractors should educate project owners about the best way to maintain their work. For instance, owners should know they can prevent parapets from leaking by tuck-pointing the brick every few years. "Your effort establishes you as the go-to person for maintenance," Bhatia explains, "and promotes the service aspect of your business."

Educate your partners.
"Many GC's find value in knowing they don't have to use their limited resources to make sure everything performs the way it's supposed to in a green building," he says. Sub-contractors should be experts on the products they use, and share this information on the job.

Bhatia cites a recent example of Pine Hall Brick, who provided him with a sheet explaining all of their products' green uses. "This is the type of company I want to support," he says. "It makes me greener to work with someone who approaches green construction intelligently."

Click here to see Pine Hall Brick's brochure on permeable pavers, or visit their Technical Paver Web site, www.claypaver.com.

Marty Bhatia is founder of OM Development, a sustainable construction leader in Chicago. His group also operates as a builder, real estate brokerage, and building supply company. Contact him at 312-850-9911 or marty@OmHomesOnline.com.