A green builder should be treated the same as a coroner or dentist. You don’t call them if you don’t have to.

The greenest building is to not build at all. At the industry’s current evolutionary state in building it is best to avoid building if possible because building inevitably consumes resources and destroys things.

So as green contractors in Brooklyn whenever we are asked to do a renovation (we don’t do new construction) in a Brooklyn brownstone the first question we ask is: “Do we need to renovate!?”

We are reluctant builders!

Why build when it will just reduce the planets’ natural beauty even more. After having seen the destruction around the globe that a Brooklyn brownstone renovation creates (forests, metal mines, oil…the list is long) I am convinced that no matter how beautiful your renovation is it will never make up for the beauty destroyed.

Being a reluctant builder is part of the Built It Forward mentality. If our building is meant to give to the future generations then the best gift is to not use up their resources in the first place.

So we resist the renovation if at all possible. Do you really need that new kitchen? What is wrong with a simple face lift? And so on.

After seriously pondering if a renovation is really needed and the answer is a resounding yes then we proceed to the next step and ask the exact same question: “If we are renovating then do we need to renovate this part? Or this part? Can we not renovate this area?”

In this process we ask our client to really consider the motive for building. We don’t become their shrink (“Are you renovating because you hate your father?”) but we do try to gauge their reasons.

Is it a real need? New child. Toxic environment. Something is broken. Terrible air or solar design. Need more nature. It is important to maximize the positive elements of your environment and green building does it better than any other.

Or is it something else? Self esteem. Need to change ones’ life. Relationship problems. A raise in income. Bored. Frustrated.

I used to travel a lot and I know that you can change you environment but your baggage always comes with you. So if your motives are baggage driven then no amount of green building will help until you deal with the underlying issues.

We ask these questions because it has direct impact on our business model of the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. All three need to profit in order for us to do the job, or at the very least two need to strongly outweigh some minor issues of the third.

Profit is pretty easy. Does the renovation make us money? Yes.

But the people and planet needs to be clarified before going forward.

In terms of people, does the renovation benefit the client? If they are doing it for the wrong reason then no! and we have not satisfied one of three bottom lines. We would not be able to justify doing the job since it wouldn’t further the success of our company.

However, if we feel the renovation would benefit the client then great.

And the planet? Ideally our building reverses ecological damage by removing material from dumps etc. So if the client insists on Brazilian Cherry flooring (Amazon clear cutting etc) instead of our Eco Brooklyn Flooring Special from a dumpster then it does not matter how much money we get or what great benefit the client is attaining, it simply does not enrich the planet and the job should not be done.

But if the client understands the importance of Build It Forward and appreciates the beauty of salvaged materials etc then great! In that case the triple bottom line is satisfied and we can proceed with the job because it will further the success of the company and the world.

And as a side note, what we like about being reluctant builders is that we plant ourselves firmly on the side of the client. Although for different reasons we both want to spend as little of the clients money as possible. And that is a very powerful building block for trust and doing a great job.