a Green Gab podcast with Marla and Tony
Marla and Tony discuss the need for teams, missions and goals in everyday homebuilding and green home certification. Marla notes that the trend of elevated construction costs leaving builders having to justify price increases to the homebuyer through substantiating better, more high end finishes and incorporating more value for the dollar. Marla recalls a past interview with Suzanne Shelton with the Shelton Group, where they discussed the impact Millennials are making on the building market. Younger buyers and Millennials tend to incorporate their values and beliefs into their buying habits including the expectation that sustainability will be incorporated into the homes they purchase. Companies are now waking up to the power of taking a stand for green sustainable homebuilding practices and following through with their actions; caring about the heart of the company and not just the bottom line. For the Millennial, sustainability is the added value that makes all the difference.
Steps to Green Certification
Laying the groundwork for added value, integrity and quality throughout the entire building project are certifications and standards. Tony lists the set of industry practices incorporated into the green certification process that guarantee the integrity of the entire building project. The National Green Building Standard certification goes well beyond “saying” a home is energy efficient; it provides independent, third-party verification that a home or building, is designed and built to achieve high performance in six key areas: Site Design, Resource Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Building Operation & Maintenance.
Tony emphasizes that this holistic methodology is not just applied to one part of the house but the entire systemic approach, from the practices, processes and products purchased to educating the homeowner how to properly operate and maintain the home.
Project Team Mission Statement and Goals
One of the first critical practices mandated in the green certification process is the Project Team Mission Statement and Goals, which Tony emphatically states calls out the necessity of good project management. This motivates the homeowner and builder to work together in developing a unified vision for the home, and then assembling a team of experts and contractors needed for the project. The team then collaborates on creating a list of synergistic S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely). When all the contractors are on the same page, with each person understanding how their actions affect each of the other teams or the whole project, there is a better chance everyone is going to think more about how their job orders affect the total outcome, timing, and finances of the entire building project.
Marla recalls that in commercial building people learn about construction management and its importance as they earn their degree and credentials. However, “in the homebuilding industry the need for good project management is rarely addressed.” However, Marla states because of the mandated practices, “anyone going through the Green Home certification process is getting an added level of monitoring and control, which is why green homes sell faster, at a higher cost and why they maintain their value; they are trustworthy from initiation to closure.”
Including the Homeowner as a Part of the Team
“Being the primary stakeholder”, Marla, “encourages builders to make the homeowner or homebuyer a part of the building team at the beginning of the Project Initiation process.” Tony notes that unless the builder knows exactly how the homeowner wants the home to look and operate and how they plan on using it and living in it there can be no unified mission statement. Take for example the myriad of preferences in the technology field where some homeowners want no tech or low tech homes and some want highly sophisticated smart homes. Rather than the basic questions regarding the number of bedrooms and bathrooms desired; the builder needs to thoroughly interview the homeowner regarding every aspect of the home.
Likewise, the homeowner has the responsibility of putting themselves through the research and thinking process regarding their specific priorities, the function and feel of the home, the level of sustainability desired, the style & esthetics of the interior, and of course, the budget and finances needed for completion. Per Marla, the builder and homeowner must also consider the “why” behind the various preferences and decisions.
The homeowner must also take responsibility for communicating not only with the builder but also with the various contractors such as the cabinet builder, the electrician, painter, plumber and technology integrator, making sure everyone stays up-to-date regarding the project’s various alterations, delays and progress.
In her experience, due to the amount of time it takes to build or remodel a home, builders and remodelers become like members of the family, therefore good relationships and healthy communication is vital.
Working the Plan
Tony’s big take-away from his Project Management class is “the more time you spend planning the less time you spend executing,” and those two aspects work in conjunction with one another to save time, resources and money.
Both Marla and Tony agree that it’s not only vital to plan the work but to work the plan. Working together with the builder in developing a team, a unified clear mission and collaborative set of goals so the homeowner owns the house rather the house owning the homeowner, and it all starts with… A PLAN!
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