Q&A with Sustainability Consultant Rachel White, Production Manager Cador Pricejones, and Products and Finishes Coordinator Karin Mahdavi
Ask Byggmeister Sustainability Consultant Rachel White, Production Manager Cador Pricejones, and Products and Finishes Coordinator Karin Mahdavi what renovation consumers should know about choosing eco-friendly materials and you better pull up a comfy chair. From PVC to paint, air quality to energy efficiency, they are passionate about helping people make informed decisions about what they use inside and outside their homes. This crew will even talk dumpsters if you want to go there.
Are clients truly more green-minded now?
Rachel: Byggmeister's top priority is what impact the product is going to have on the occupants' home for the lifespan of that product — issues like durability, energy and water use over time, can it be recycled, and does it give off dangerous chemical gasses.
Some building materials release dangerous chemical gasses into the home?
Is the customer aware?
How do you find alternatives?
Rachel: But some have the phenol-formaldehyde, which is less concerning....
Cador: So, that's what we look for.
Rachel: But, you know many of these decisions are behind the scenes. Do we really need to talk with a client about structural plywood and the trade offs of choosing one kind over another?
Cador: The choices that go into a simple remodel — it's crazy, so we often make the decisions about using the best materials and it always serves the client better every time. It's like the disposal company we use. They recycle versus just taking everything to the landfill. The client doesn't need to know that. It's just the way we do things and it doesn't impact the bottom line.
What are the most common misconceptions about building green?
Rachel: For certain products it's true and for others it's not. Appliances have made huge progress in efficiency and Energy Star rated products have advanced to the point where they are cost competitive.
Karin: Even faucet choices — most manufactures offer a water-saving version at a comparable price.
Cador: There are lots of non-green choices that are much more expensive. Talk about tile, some of the prices can be crazy and it's nothing to do with green factor.
Rachel: Yeah, but it's also about impact. Using recycled tile versus an energy-efficient floor plan and addressing the building envelope — the tile is like icing on the cake?
Building envelope? You're slipping into geeky industry speak.
Rachel: Admit it — you are installing more PVC windows than you'd like, right?
Cador: We aren't greenwashing here. Sometimes PVC may be the best choice for a house.
What are the issues with PVC products?
What else can you use?
Rachel: I have cast-iron plumbing. It's quieter, so that's another selling point. For windows, people choose PVC because it costs less and is more durable than a wood window.
Cador: I wouldn't say it's more durable than a wood window. This is New England and there are plenty of houses with 100-plus year-old original wood windows. They can last five-times as long as a PVC window. The selling point is efficiency. They are more energy efficient.
Rachel: So, cheaper and higher performing, but extremely polluting.
What about finishes such as paint?
Cador: That's a decision where the client really needs to be part of the conversation. Very often, we are matching existing floors in the house and those were finished with an oil-based product. We are trying to steer them toward water-based, but it is harder to match that way.
Rachel: The perception is that oil-based is better in higher traffic areas.
Cador: And, actually, our suppliers say that's not true anymore. They are doing commercial spaces in water-based polys and they hold up. They have a different look because the finish doesn't build up with the same thickness, but the build-up doesn't actually help with wear, it's just what people are used to seeing so clients think they need another coat when they actually don't.
Karin: That's a tough one because it's such a messy job redoing floors, so clients only want to do it once.
Cador: And, they want to go with what they know has worked before.
Rachel: We just have to be educators to make sure they understand the tradeoffs and help them make the decisions.
Has any client said they want to do a remodel using green products across the board?
Cador: That's Karin too.
Karin: I started my project with Byggmeister in 2001 and started working with them in 2002 after that first one was finished. Cador did it in reverse. He was part of Byggmeister and then became a client. I tell Paul all the time — we're like Hair Club for Men!
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