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Residential Construction Contractor's Guide

#12 - Quick List

This checklist addresses a range of residential building-related issues and offers low waste and/or low impact alternatives and resources you may consider incorporating into your operation.

LAND USE: Siting and Impacts

Could the structure be developed on a previously disturbed site like an unused urban or commercial lot?
Will consideration be given to potential impacts such as construction vehicles and equipment, trailers, site access by workers and visitors, grading, surrounding vegetation, and storm water runoff?
Does the site plan work with the landscape to minimize earthwork?
Does the site plan minimize road length and total ground area used for improvements?
Does the structure avoid stream channels, flood plains, wetlands, steep erodible slopes, and mature vegetation?
Will the soil and groundwater at the site be tested for past chemical residues from agriculture, industry, or other possible contaminants in the vicinity?
If the structure will be placed along a slope, will extra measures be taken to stabilize soils?
Will it be determined if the area is subject to natural hazards (e.g., flood plain, high winds, swelling clays)?
Will the site be investigated for documentation of wetlands and endangered species?
Does the site configuration incorporate run-off, wastewater, and especially wetlands in the planning and design process?
Does the construction plan preserve as much natural vegetation as possible and use its protective advantages?
Is the structure sited to place entrances away from high wind areas?
If vegetation on the construction site is disturbed, does the design plan include activities to restore native landscapes and vegetation?
Is the structure sited to minimize solar shadows by area vegetation or other built structures?
Can the structure be sited to use alternative energy sources such as wind or hydro power?
Does the plan position the structure to maximize the benefits of passive solar for heating and utilities?
If the building is sited near a roadway or other structures that may increase external noises, can topsoil left from site excavation be used to create a protective berm?

LAND USE: Utilities

Does the building site take advantage of other area structures or homes (clustering)?
Will utilities be consolidated along previously disturbed areas or along new roads or sidewalks to provide service access and minimize unnecessary clearing and trenching?
Can the site utilize a gravity sewer system as opposed to a pump system?

STRUCTURE: Foundation

When determining the proper foundation for the building, will such factors as local soil conditions (structure and compactibility) and geologic features be investigated?
Can a frost-protected shallow foundation be used?
Will the block or bricks used in the foundation be regionally produced?
Will the foundation be constructed with concrete containing waste fly-ash?
Will reusable aluminum forms or rigid insulation forms that provide permanent insulation be used?
Does your concrete supplier recycle waste concrete and incorporate it into future batches?

STRUCTURE: Materials

If virgin lumber is to be used, is the wood from sustainably managed forests?
In assessing lumber needs for the structure, does the design incorporate woods from fast-growth forests versus such old- growth timber as redwood or cedar?
Prior to purchasing building materials such as lumber, doors, windows, hardware, and other fixtures, will sources for salvaged building materials be researched?
Will the structure use locally produced brick, indigenous stone, or synthetic stucco?
Will the structure include durable materials that can be reused or recycled in the future?
Will the walls be covered with recycled-content sheathing and siding with a minimum of 50% pre or post consumer content?
Or will oriented strand board (OSB) made from scrap wood or faster growing trees be used?
Has the use of fiberboard for non-structural uses that is made from 100 percent recycled newspaper or agricultural waste been considered?
If allowable in the community, consider adobe, strawbale, or rammed earth construction. They are resource-efficient and inexpensive.
Does your community have incentives for builders to use recycled-content building materials such as decking, fencing, and roofing (cost-savings through reduced charges for trash removal or discounts on other public support services)?

STRUCTURE: Design

Does the design plan optimize use of interior space?
Is the structure designed to maximize use of materials, reducing waste during construction?
Is the house designed to run efficiently and effectively with a minimum use of resources, i.e. open floor plan, centralized plumbing and electrical, etc.?

STRUCTURE: Framing

Does the structure plan avoid the use of large dimension solid lumber (2x10 or larger) in floors and roofs?
Has engineered or composite lumber been considered for beams, joists, headers, and other structural components?
Hav steel studs and joists been considered in lieu of wood?

STRUCTURE: Insulation

Will structural insulated panels be used for walls or roofs?
To save energy expenses, will the exterior doors have proper insulation and infiltration seals?
Has an insulated metal door with weather stripping been considered for outside entrances?
Has fiberboard insulation made from 100% recycled paper been considered for underneath carpet or under roofing?
Will basement walls be insulated to at least an R-10 rating?
Will insulation contain a minimum of 25% recycled content?
Has energy-rated, toxic-free natural insulation such as cotton or cellulose (newspaper fibers) been considered?
If rigid foam insulation will be used, is it CFC (chlorofluoro-carbon) free or made from less polluting HCFC (hydrochloro-carbon) or is it at least made from recycled polystyrene?
Is the insulation that will be used formaldehyde-free?
Will reinforced foam-formed walls containing cement with waste flyash be incorporated into the structure?

STRUCTURE: Flooring

Will designers consider finishing a concrete slab as a floor?
Will the sub-floor and underlayment be constructed with recycled-content materials?
Will oriented strand board (OSB) made from fast growth material be used for sub-flooring?
Will urea formaldehyde-free sub-floor and underlayment be used?
If the structure contains hardwood floors, will they be from 3rd party certified, sustainably harvested sources?
For carpeted areas, will recycled-content carpet pad and carpeting be used and will it be tacked rather than glued?
If recycled-content carpet is not used, will natural material carpet made from cotton or wool be installed?
Will natural linoleum be used in place of petroleum-based vinyl flooring?
Will recycled-content ceramic tile containing broken light bulbs or windshields be used, and if so, will it be secured with low-toxic mastic and grout?

STRUCTURE: Other Interior/Exterior

If tropical hardwood trim, doors or cabinets are installed, will they be from certified sustainably managed forests?
Will formaldehyde-free particle board be used for inside finishing work and cabinets?
Will water-based urethane and lacquer finishes be used on wood floors and other interior woodwork?
Will the use of factory prefinished wood products be considered for the structure?
Have recycled-content paints and finishes been considered as an alternative to new finish products?
Will paints and finishes containing minimal VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or airborne toxics be used?
Does design avoid placement of carpet near main entrances?
Does the exterior structure design allow for use of resource saving recycled lumber made from 100% recycled plastic or a combination of plastic and wood scraps?
Will minimum thirty year roofing material that includes concrete, slate, clay, composite or metal be used?

ENERGY USE: Structural

Will energy-efficient lamps and equipment be used during construction?
Have you offered your potential buyer a 30% more energy efficient home as certified by EPA's new Energy Star Homes Program?
Does your utility provider offer billing credits for installation of energy efficient support utilities (e.g., solar or wind), lighting, and appliances?
Has a photovoltaic system that converts sunlight into electricity been considered for the structure?
Will the south glass area of the structure be between 5-7% of total finished floor area?
Will the structure receive advanced sealing in addition to basic sealing (advanced sealing adds protection to top and bottom plates, corners and between cavities at penetrations for plumbing, electrical, and ventilation)?
Will solar-rated/energy efficient double-paned or extra glazed windows and doors be installed to reduce heat loss and minimize external noise?
As an alternative to double-pane windows, will Low-E windows be considered to provide greater insulation values?

ENERGY USE: HVAC

Will a furnace or air conditioner with a high energy efficiency rating be installed?
Is the heating and cooling system being considered sized appropriately for the structure?
Will a combination gas water/space heater be considered for the structure?
To improve indoor air quality, will a sealed-combustion furnace or boiler, and water heater be installed?
Will a programmable thermostat with a switch for a furnace fan be installed?
Will the HVAC system accommodate 2 or more heating and cooling zones?
Will the structure include return air ducts in at least every bedroom?
Will a whole house fan or several ceiling fans be installed to improve air circulation and heating and cooling efforts?
Will bathroom fans be installed to minimize indoor air pollutants?
Will the kitchen range be vented to the outside?

ENERGY USE: Appliances

Has the structure been planned for current or future solar hot water heating?
Does the gas water heater planned for the structure have an energy factor greater than 60%?
Will the hot water heater be installed within 20 pipe feet of dishwasher and clothes washer?
Will hot water pipes be insulated to conserve heat?
Will a gas range and oven with electronic ignition be installed, and if not, has the buyer been made aware of the energy and cost saving benefits?
Will a refrigerator rated with estimated annual electric costs under $66 be installed?
If appliances are not included in the structure, will a list of energy efficient appliances be supplied?
Will an energy saving gas clothes dryer with electronic ignition be installed?

ENERGY USE: Lighting and Interior Design

In warmer regions of Montana, will light colors be used for exterior walls and roofing materials to reflect heat?
Will windows and skylights be positioned for maximum day lighting or natural light?
Will the interior be decorated with light colored carpet, wall and ceiling coverings to reduce artificial lighting needs and creating of heat during the day?
Will the structure incorporate use of compact fluorescent or halogen (on a dimmer system) light fixtures?
Have can lights been eliminated from insulated ceilings?
Will light occupancy sensors and dimmer controls be installed to save power when rooms are vacant?

LANDSCAPING

If trees are cut at the building site, will they be mulched and used on-site?
Is the structure protected from wind and severe weather by evergreen trees (e.g., pine, spruce, and fir) on the windward side (often the north)?
Will topsoil be set aside during excavation and be reused for fill and landscaping?
Will you offer ideas for xeriscaping or minimal landscaping?
Will you provide a list of native, drought-resistant plants?
Does your community have tree planting and preservation programs that can be recommended?

WATER USE: Outside

Has the structure been sited to utilize existing water lines, sewage, and septic systems?
Will a sprinkler system be installed?
Will the site be graded to direct rainwater towards plantings?
Has a system been considered that will capture rain and snow melt to be used for watering and other outdoor tasks?
Will permeable materials such as gravel be considered for walkways, patios, and driveways?
Is landscaping planned that uses native vegetation, and will not require excessive watering?
Will lawn areas be planted with water-saving grasses such as fescues (check with local nurseries)?

WATER USE: Inside

Will water-conserving showerheads (2.5 gpm), faucet aerators (1.5 to 2.0 gpm), and low-flow toilets (1.6 gpf) be installed?
Will water saving appliances such as a front loading, horizontal axis clothes washer, or dishwasher (maximum water use 8.5 gal./load) be installed? If not, will a list of available equipment be supplied to the buyer?

SOLID AND HAZARDOUS WASTE

Does your community offer opportunities for construction and demolition recycling or a reusable waste exchange program?
Does the work site have recycling bins for lumber scraps, cardboard, etc. that can be either recycled or reused?
Does your company reuse construction site waste? If not, can the usable materials be donated to local recycling programs?
Have you created a process to re-use smaller scrap lumber on-site as landscaping wood chips or mulch?
Have you requested that your contractors and suppliers minimize packaging and reuse shipping materials?
Does the design include kitchen space for temporary compost storage, and an outside system for household and yard waste composting?
Does the kitchen design include built-in recycling containers (for plastic, glass, and aluminum/tin) or space for containers in common areas, garages, or carports?

TRANSPORTATION

Is convenient access to public transportation considered when siting a new house or development? Or is the development close to walking and bicycle paths that connect to support facilities like schools, grocery stores, etc.?
Have you instituted an incentive program that encourages your employees to car pool and minimize trips to work sites?
Is your company or organization purchasing retreaded tires for company vehicles?

GENERAL

Does your county or community offer any pollution prevention technical support and educational programming?
Do you have a checklist of environmental product questions to ask your suppliers?
Is there an effort in your county or local community to promote green building practices?
Many of the ideas in this checklist were adapted from "Build for the Future" a publication of the Colorado Pollution Prevention Program.

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