If you’re interviewing a Seattle home builder for your custom home, here are some questions you might add to the list you have about finishes, budget and communication style:
#1: Know where they stand on energy performance. ASK: how often do you blower door test the homes you build and how do they turn out? If they don’t have a laser sharp answer then probably it’s not something they focus on, and you will end up with a home that leaks energy through windows, doors, walls, and the roof. Your poor energy performing home will feel cold in the winter and too hot in the summer and your energy bills will be higher than needed. Leaky homes were acceptable back in the roaring twenties but so were horse drawn buggies. You want neither. Code minimum in Washington state is 7 ACH (air changes per hour), and soon to be 3 ACH under new energy codes. For perspective, a super energy efficient passive house is only 0.6 ACH, and that cute craftsman house from the 1920’s is double digits, which is why it’s so drafty and expensive to heat.
#2 : What about your Seattle custom homes specifically is eco-friendly? Almost every builder will tell you they do eco-friendly green building, it’s really caught on the last couple of years to almost every aspect of contracting, and sometimes it’s just talk. Caveat emptor (may the buyer beware), because your idea of green building for your new amazingly energy efficient home may be very different from that of your builder. So ask. What exactly do you do for your homes to make them stand out, or what specific strategies make your homes more energy efficient than the ones next door? In Seattle, there are incentives to build using Built Green 4 star in some cases. So your builder will advertise this, but dig deeper. Built Green 4 star is better than not doing it at all, but it is also not the most rigorous test, particularly if your goal is to drastically reduce energy consumption for the long term. I’m not picking on Built Green. There are lots of standards and each measures different things. Take the time to figure out what’s important to you and make sure your builder is doing that. For example, it is possible to reduce your home’s energy consumption to about 20% of the otherwise identical new home next door, if you wanted to do that. And I think you do, now that you know it’s possible.
#3: Ask to see previous results: Tour homes built, ask for examples of standards achieved, budgets not exceeded, performance verified. And interview the homeowners!
We’re back in a boom as proven by all of the cranes on our skyline. Perhaps one of them will belong to you.
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