Several speakers at the recent NAHB National Green Building Conference in Salt Lake City called attention to an often-overlooked but important aspect of green building: homeowner education.

Builder and HGTV host Mike Holmes
Builder and HGTV host Mike Holmes

Keynote speaker Mike Holmes, host of the HGTV series Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection, told pros that educating consumers about the benefits of green building is crucial to the future of the green construction industry. “We need to educate the homeowner because they’re the ones buying the house,” he said. “The builder wants to build green, but often nobody wants to buy it because they don’t understand it.” Once the owner has moved in, education is even more crucial, said New York architect Laszlo Kiss in an educational session at the conference. “Great design can be negated by not transferring information about how the house works to the owner.”

Because a home’s performance can fluctuate by as much as 40% depending on how it’s operated, pros must help owners understand how each systems works. And customer satisfaction in saving money on utility bills and living in a comfortable space will lead to more referrals, said Marla Esser, a St. Louis-based LEED AP and NAHB Certified Green Professional.

Esser said a homeowner orientation packet--whether compiled in a three-ring binder, on a USB drive, via a customized Web site, or on a CD--should include:
--General information about energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and water conservation
--Pre-drywall photos showing the location of framing, plumbing, ducts, and electrical equipment
--Green certifications and a complete product list
--Product manuals and warranties
--Maintenance and operation checklists
--Emergency and utility phone numbers
--Contractor contact information

Esser said she has even videotaped walkthroughs and posted them on YouTube for future reference, such as when it’s time to change filters or do other maintenance. Homeowners can view their personalized videos to see how to handle routine upkeep instead of calling the builder or simply not doing it at all.

“The more information you can give them up front, the less callbacks you’ll have,” she concluded.

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor, Online for EcoHome.