While many of today’s architects have some experience in sustainable and eco-friendly structures, it takes a special skillset to successfully design greener homes. Until recently, architectural schools barely considered topics like green design, passive solar options, and resource conservation at all.
So how can you find an expert with the talent to make your green building vision a reality?
Step 1: Look for Local Architects Who Match Your Vision
In the quest to create the perfect sustainable building, sometimes the toughest step is finding someone who shares your specific goals. The architect you decide to work with should be able to realize your green vision for you, understanding the desired result for your project.
Start by searching for architects capable of designing the kind of building and features you want — one architect may have expertise in air quality solutions, while another specializes in solar implementation. You and your architect should be on the same page, when it comes to the priorities for your eco-friendly project.
Use online resources to start your search. The American Institute of Architects provides search options to help individuals find local architects by criteria. You can locate “LEED Accredited professionals” through the professional LEED directory.
Step 2: Review Portfolios in Depth
Once you’ve tracked down a few architects that match your eco-friendly goals, examine their levels of experience with green building processes. Ask your favorite architects if they can point to specific projects in their portfolio that resonate with your own ideas. Find out if their schooling, or additional training, represents a devotion to environmentally friendly processes.
Be sure to find out if the architect works with contractors that purchase green products. Ask about the measures taken to minimize contamination, enhance indoor air quality, and promote sustainability over time. If you have a particular set of requirements in mind, outline those to your potential candidates to see if they have the experience you need. Some concepts are still quite new to the building industry, so you can never be too thorough in asking about a candidate’s skills and experience.
Step 3: Check for Licenses and Green Initiatives
Ensure the professional you’re working with has licensure with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Ask about any specific green credentials your potential architects hold, such as whether they’re LEED accredited.
One particularly good question to ask is whether your chosen architect is linked to the “2030” challenge — a global initiative designed to reduce the overall greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints of new buildings. A connection to this ensures that your chosen architect has devoted him or herself to reducing major emissions by around 50%, compared to the regional average — just more evidence of a professional focus on the environment.
Step 4: Remember the Importance of Passion
Remember that although looking at portfolios helps you narrow down the available eco-friendly architects in your area, you can earn more comprehensive insight by speaking to each individual — and considering their available references. If your chosen architect is unwilling to provide references, this could be a warning sign. Professionals proud of their work are generally happy to offer testimonials.
After examining the reviews thoroughly, speak to the architect and look for signs of their commitment to both your project and overall environmental sustainability. One good way to find out is to ask about how their business operates — someone who recycles in the office, or uses environmentally responsible materials in the workplace, is more likely to have a strong devotion to green building measures.
Step 5: Build All of Your Green Concepts into the Contract
All architects have standard “specifications” included within contract language, which lay out the orders for everyone involved with building your home — right down to selecting materials for your kitchen cabinets. These specifications can change according to your needs, and you should ensure that your contract covers all the bases of your green initiatives.
If you’re unsure, consider having a legal expert look over the documents for you, as they can be quite complicated and tedious to review alone.