Looking for GREEN General Contractor, Plumber, Electrician

6 Replies

Hello all,

I'm looking to do some sustainable remodeling in the Providence area. I want to find a general contractor who specializes in green remodels-diverting waste from the landfill, replacing windows, insulating the attic with scrap textiles or soybean foam. I will need an electrician who can hook up solar and a battery pack, and a plumber who can hook up a rainwater capture system. 

Anyone know someone who might fit the bill?

@Tara Gupta

I'm an engineer and have worked on solar projects numerous times with a local solar installer/company.

To be honest there's not a ton of tribal knowledge in doing a solar project from an electrician perspective.  The biggest possible gotcha is the LV wiring between panels and to the inverter.  The way the industry is structured from my experience the electrician often 'may' oversee the project, but typically you engage with a 'turnkey' solar type company to do all of the following:

  1. front end financial analysis
  2. get through the regulatory process and most utilities require filing what's called an 'interconnection agreement'
  3. bring in an engineer like me to draft plans, as required
  4. then once the interconnection has been approved, they shop the install to an electrician
  5. often in house resources from that solar company are used to actually mount panels and do most of the LV wiring, and they will leave the 120/240 etc wiring to the electrician

Granted, the above process unfortunately has a lot of 'soft costs' built in that drive up the cost of these types of projects for a homeowner, but they still do pencil out in some cases.  

On most of the 'other' stuff you mention, insulation and window replacement isn't something that really requires a specific type of contractor. 

Proximity to a landfill may drive feasibility for diverting waste to fuel...  I doubt many landfill suppliers are going to open up that can of worms to the public.  They are top down entities and any methane or whatever fuel reclaiming they do, my belief is that they will want to work very closely with other aligned institutions - not homeowners.  Unfortunately that's my ground level observation of how most of these industries work.

@Tara Gupta you can spend a million on that Green remodel, but it will have zero affect on the environment. An unethical person will take you to the cleaners by telling you they are "green," then take that stuff to the landfill. Soy bean foam? Probably cost twice as much but doesn't save twice the energy. Beware of scams is all I'm saying.

Do you have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in your area? They may know of contractors who prioritize green building practices. In fact, some of those contractors will be ones who will donate materials there. Now, that being said, those contractors may not necessarily be the most skilled. I tend to get regular bids, look on Angie's list or that sort of place, vet the contractor the regular way, looking for the best, and THEN when deciding between several contractors, see who has the best green building practices.  Interestingly, those who work more on new construction might be most familiar with the most modern energy saving methods.  Not sure about soybean foam, but it shouldn't be hard to find a NABCEP certified electrician, and a plumber who knows about saving water.

Thanks for the help everyone. Tanya, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a great idea. And Anthony, it is a tricky thing to balance environmentally friendly and financially smart, thanks for the reminder to be smart about it. Jim, good to know, I will look for a solar company that can fit my needs instead.

@Tara Gupta , if this is an interest of yours, and you're not yet familiar with the USGBC and/or LEED, then you should start there.  First, keep in mind that much of green building starts with green design--  the Contractors simply do the bidding of the design team (which in this case, may or may not be you.)  I'm sure that a local chapter of the USGBC can refer you to a reputable GC/Design team in the area.   

That said, I agree completely with his words, but  I might disagree with the underlying sentiment of @Anthony Dooley .  Caveat that most of my work is in commercial real estate, and therefore the activities of a full overhaul of a new school to be certified LEED Silver or better are certainly not applicable to you--- that would certainly be overkill and would not help your property.  Anthony's also correct that "double the money doesn't mean double the savings." (Cost or energy).   I think that most people in the industry understand this. It's a standard to try to achieve, but we're not there yet by any metric.
    However, I have also been involved in creating studies where LEED Certification and/or building under green standards, generally can been found to be minimally more money on the front end (Construction) with all  the savings/value on the back end (Consumption, maintenance cost, and resale values) that we would hope to achieve by undertaking a project of this scope.  

Anthony's final words are dead on-- avoid the scamster at all costs.  I'll repeat my own warning as well-- don't allow yourself to be over sold.  Start with the USGBC.  

Finally, I note that you're in VA, but the project is in Providence? as in, RI? I may be able to introduce you to a few people in the Boston area, if that'd help. Feel free to reach out.

Good luck!  

@Tara Gupta , please feel free to contact me at your convenience.  We can handle most of the items on your list right in house.  The windows, insulation, and electrical won't be a problem at all.  I would have to discuss the rainwater capture further with you, depending on what you choose, but that shouldn't be an issue.  

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