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Green Building

What should I consider when choosing green?

  • Re-used or recycled content
  • Natural content
  • Durable and low maintenance (a product that lasts longer or requires less maintenance saves energy because manufacturing is very energy intensive; no need for re-treatment, painting, etc.; contributes less to solid waste issues)
  • Manufacturing process
  • Embodied energy (the energy associated with the manufacturing of a product)
  • Sustainably harvested
    End-of-life (can it be reused or recycled)
  • Energy efficient
  • Health/toxicity (worker and occupant health; reduces off gassing/pollution)
  • Locally or US sourced (reduces energy and pollution generated by transportation)
  • Shipping/transportation distances and carbon impacts
  • Vetted by credible sources


How Do You Go Green?

  • Identify what aspects of green building/sustainable living are important to you.
  • Talk with a professional (contractor, architect, landscaper, real estate agent) about building and living green.
  • Ask your local supplier to stock green building products.   

Go Green Now Without the Commitment of a Major Remodel or Building Project

Here are five easy ways to get started:

  1. Use low or no volatile organic compounds
  2. (VOC) paint, adhesives, and finishes.
  3. Install compact fluorescent bulbs.
  4. Install water-saving devices.
  5. Select Energy Star appliances and furnaces.
  6. Use products with renewable and recycled content.

Why should I consider green design and construction?

The responsibility for sustaining our world as a healthy environment rests with all of us. By incorporating green building and sustainable living practices, you’ll provide for your needs now and the needs of future generations. Choosing green design and construction can:

  • Increase resale value of your property
  • Save you money through lower operating and maintenance costs
  • Make a healthier home through improved air quality
  • Reduces environmental impact by being resource-efficient and minimizing waste

Doing your homework/research 

Green design uses up front planning and research to create a design with wide-ranging benefits. Start by assessing existing conditions of your home. You can do this through a:

  • Home Energy Audit
  • Home Health Assessment
  • Asbestos Testing & Abatement
  • Site Assessment 

Next, determine how you want your home to perform and identify your priorities. What’s important to you? This can include:

  • Accessibility
  • Comfort & beauty
  • Durability
  • Ecological benefit
  • Efficiency
  • Health
  • Space
  • Usefulness

Selecting the right team of professionals

Having the right team for your project is crucial. Find your designer, engineer, contractor and subcontractors through personal referrals, certification programs and the Better Business Bureau.


Conduct an interview to ask about their training, certification and accreditations. Ask about other green projects they’ve completed and how they’ll approach your particular project. Ask to see their contract documents.


Defining cost

High quality materials and products are often used in green building, resulting in higher upfront costs, but overall savings. In addition, utility incentives for new and renovation projects are often available (see Additional Resources section).


Building green requires a new way of looking at costs through:

  • Life-cycle and long-term savings vs. only upfront costs
  • Value of ease of/lower maintenance
  • Conservation (with lower utility bills, for example)
  • Durability (longer lasting materials with less frequent replacement)
  • Rebates from local utilities; federal rebates
  • Value of better health

Understanding the Design/Construction Process


Before you start contacting contractors or applying for permits, it’s important to decide what you want and your project scope.


A typical design/construction process includes some or all of the following steps:

  1. Preliminary research
  2. Professional selection
  3. Pre-design
  4. Permit pre-application
  5. Conceptual design
  6. Schematic design
  7. Design development
  8. Permitting & construction documents
  9. Construction
  10. Occupancy
  11. Maintenance

Green Building Certifications

Several certification programs are available for residential projects and offer guidance and verification of best green homebuilding practices.


  • Built Green(Washington) – a residential green building program of the Master Builders Association developed in partnership with King and Snohomish Counties. Also available in Pierce County.
  • Energy Star® - product labeling through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency focused on quality, performance and energy savings.
  • Enterprise Green Communities - national green building program designed explicitly for the affordable housing sector.
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homesa national rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance homes.
  • Living Building Challenge – a regenerative focused program that consists of seven performance categories including place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity and beauty.
  • National Green Building Standarda third-party verification program for homes, apartment buildings, or land development focused on achieving high performance in six key areas: site design, resource efficiency, water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and building operation & maintenance.
  • Passive House - a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building's ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling.

EnviroHouse Information

(253) 573-2426




Tacoma Recovery & Transfer Center
3510 South Mullen Street
Tacoma, WA 98409


Beth Jarot, Resilient & Green Building Specialist

(253) 208-4351