2. Search out like-minded pros.

Since residential green architecture and building is a fairly new concept, finding pros who walk the walk can be a challenge. Even green-savvy Michele and Michael followed an indirect route while assembling their team. The couple had already met with several architects when Michael called David Webber, who had designed Michael's office building, to ask for referrals. Turned out Webber himself had loads of residential experience and was a member of the local green building program. He met with the couple and won them over by sketching exactly what they wanted in 20 seconds. "Every other architect just pointed to the green jobs they'd done," says Michele, "but this showed us he had a vision in line with our thinking."

If you don't live in a place brimming with green pros, you can find architects and builders accredited in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.?based nonprofit that certifies green buildings, at usgbc.org. Also, websites such as thebeam.com and moderngreenliving.com provide nationwide directories of green builders, designers, and contractors, including their credentials and affiliations.

Michael had the right instinct—referrals are always a good way to find building pros. But you can also try contacting the closest green building organization, even if it's far away, to see if they know of someone in your area. Or find a green home tour in your region, where the pros are often on hand. It was during one such tour that Michele met Bill Moore, a general contractor who is a veritable rock star in the Austin green community. "Getting Bill was the defining moment, since he has a reputation for high-quality work and design sensitivity," says Michele. While Moore has decades of green building experience, you might end up with someone who's eager to learn and get a green project under his belt—or who's at least open to new ideas.

3. Do your research.

It's important to approach green projects armed with as much knowledge about systems and materials as possible. If your pros are seasoned green builders, you'll be able to articulate your goals and stay engaged in discussions with them. And if they're neophytes, you'll be in a better position to educate them.

Michael and Michele attended green house tours whenever possible; visited building supply stores to research things like Energy Star appliances, recycled materials, and efficient lighting; and read anything about green they could get their hands on.

A good place for any green renovator to start is the local utility company, which may offer information along with incentives and rebates (dsireusa.org, a Department of Energy?sponsored website, provides state-by-state breakdowns of these). State and local government websites may also contain advice and links to resources. You might also want to attend a green building show, such as the U.S. Green Building Council's annual conference. And there are more and more books and articles (including TOH's own Green House column) that introduce readers to green philosophy and developments.

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