Being the GC for my Custom Green Home

In addition to my full time job running a PR and marketing firm, I have been the general contractor (GC) on the Green Life Smart Life project. My reasoning for this at the beginning made logical sense:

1. This is the third house I’ve built from design (designed a fourth that never got built) through completion and the third house (plus one office building) I’ve remodeled. Therefore, I am an experienced homeowner/designer/builder.

2. In all of these projects we’ve spent significant time being in a state of disgruntlement/rage with the hired GC for being disorganized, not scheduling subs, errors, cost overruns, etc.

3. In all of these projects we’ve incorporated one or more of the elements we are bringing to this home. (This is my final home, the home that I expect to be buried on the land [assuming we get the permit] in my bio-degradeable casket.)

4. Because we were on a budget and we wanted to go through LEED-H certification, the cost of interviewing the subs, investigating all of our options that I like to refer to as the “if-this-then-that” scenarios; the cost of having a GC was too restricting for me. I didn’t feel like I could explore Geo Thermal, Solar, PV and then the various outtakes on each such as radiant floor heating, hydro-air, oil, gas, and so forth wiht a GC in place. I couldn’t have them looking at recycled polymer imitation shingles verses 50-year recycled asphalt shingles.

All of these things would have driven my costs so high, we’d have had no shingles at all.

So I decided to be a GC, and today I forgot to order Sonotubes. Except I didn’t know we needed Sonotubes, or really what a Sonotube was before today (well I did once explained; they are the tubes for pouring the footing for the decks). I also didn’t know how critical it was that the height of the Sonotubes be determined in relation to the exact grade of foundation when final grade must be 12 inches below top of foundation for a LEED point, but you also have to consider the step down from the house floor level, plus the deck material and the 2×10 structure and the post that will actually make this whole thing not be a nightmare. The decision: 56.75 or top of Sonotube must be 12 inches from top of foundation which is 57.75 . That took 3-hours today. It took the architect, the landscape architect, the excavator and the builder to contribute; but it took me 3-hours. Why? Because I am the GC.

All done.

Welcome to my new GC, Bob Leonard from Merchant Construction. Bob was the builder (Yes he can! – get it?), now he’s the GC and the builder.

Bob the Builder, not THE "Bob the Builder"

Bob the Builder, not THE "Bob the Builder"

I am still going to be the Green GC (hey – I should trademark that…). All things green go through me; and I share them with Bob.  I am in charge of all the LEED-H paperwork, providing the SOW’s including LEED specs for bids and making sure we meet the LEED checklist, but Bob has to deal with Sonotubes, headers and whether or not the lumber order got placed.

I like my job way better.

Thanks Bob.

KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster


2 Responses

  1. Great blog and post about building a green home. I would love to talk to you about your process of product selection (Green Building Materials / Products) and where you found them. I am very interested in understanding if this was an easy task to complete or not. In the end, you’ll have a great house – the best things in life are always the hardest to get!

    Good luck,

    Brian Townsend

    • Thanks Brian – It was not and is still not easy. We have only gotten thorugh about 40% of the materials and most of them are exterior, framing or dealing with systems. I have my EPP list in place and have first and second choices that I am working through. It is not easy since there is no steadfast rule. We are working with recycled content, locally (500 miles) made, and third party certifications. But in addition I am looking at the company’s overall business philosophy and VOC content to frame my entire decision picture.

      I’d be happy to talk to you.

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