I’m going to forecast something that is somewhat against the tide — I’m not going green. That doesn’t mean I’m completely shriveled up and brown, like in dead, but I’m a little queasy around the gills at the thought that if I can’t sell green, I’m history, dead in the water, kaput, blighted, out of touch and out of business.

I’ve said this before in the column, but that was at the height of the panic to find out any and everything about being and selling and building and remodeling green. We are now seeing around the edges, and there is some wilting. I believe what is at the center of the flagging of interest in going wildly green is a lack of understanding.

Communicate to sell green

Last month we talked about communications, and that is what we have to do to sell green products. There are a lot of people that are maybe not completely skeptical, but worried that some of the green talk is just that, talk. Now more than ever, you had better know your product — and that means how it performs for its cost or its value.

For sure, most people really do care about the environment and resources but to the degree that is reasonable. There is however, in my opinion, a bit of mania attached to being green — it is not a panacea, and it does not replace good design, planning and investment. Green should be viewed as an additional option to the client. Very few clients are showing interest in paying premiums for specialty products that do not offer the value for the cost.

Efficiency is important

No, I am not bashing the importance of energy efficiency, resource and water conservation. What I am saying is that you should prepare your presentation to allow your clients to view, question and understand the options of going green. Frankly, my approach is to interview the client, establish the budget based on normal specs of energy efficiency, and make sure the job will work. Then as the job progresses toward a cost total that satisfies the client’s need, you can introduce some green options to consider.

You had better be prepared to show not only what are the advantages in additional energy efficiency, resource sustainability and water conservation but also the return on the additional investment these options require. Remember it’s only our representatives in Washington who can spend without concern for where the money comes from; our clients for the most part don’t enjoy that luxury, or at least mine don’t seem to.

In teaching NAHB’s green building and remodeling courses all over the country, I have met many builders and remodelers who say they have been pretty green long before it was called that — and so was I.

Return on investment

Understanding the mechanics of return on investment is one of the keys to selling the more reasonable parts of the green product line. Further, I believe the remodeler who doesn’t presell his or her ability but rather demonstrates it through knowledge and explanation of product performance has more credibility.

One of the most sensitive areas with which to deal is that of moisture intrusion and control. Keeping the building envelope properly flashed, drained and weatherized all make HVAC more functional. And believe me, everyone you sell to is an expert on HVAC. This is probably the most important area of concentration, and it’s green whether you call it that or not.


Talk about putting my size nine-and-halfs in my mouth, both at once. In last month’s column I listed a number of people with distinctive communication skills — one of them was intended to be the actor, James Earl Jones, one of my favorites. Instead, I wrote James Earl Ray, the assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A kind reader, David Allen of California, pointed it out. I apologize to all concerned. Believe me, I know the difference, while you’re here…

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