There are many ways that you can educate yourself about green building and gain the credentials to market yourself as a green builder. I've mentioned a few examples below, from easier steps to greater levels of involvement.
Online and Off-line Publications
A relatively easy and inexpensive way to start learning about green building is through websites, magazines, and books. BuildingGreen.com is an extremely informative website; many of its resources are available free of charge, but I highly recommend subscribing to the online BuildingGreen Suite ($199 per year, or $12.95 for one week) or to the print newsletter, Environmental Building News ($99 per year for small businesses). Since you're a builder, you also might want to take a look at Green Builder magazine and look for the green articles in Fine Homebuilding magazine. For more in-depth or comprehensive information, see GreenHomeGuide's book recommendations (displayed in the sidebar to the right).
Becoming a member of a green building organization will give you access to additional information and will help you connect to a broader network of green building professionals. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the largest national organization in this industry, and the Council has chapters throughout the country, including a Northern California Chapter with many active committees. Another strong organization that's based in the Bay Area is Build It Green.
Green Building Guidelines
Start using a set of green guidelines on your projects. Several green building rating systems are now available, including the USGBC's LEED for Homes, Build It Green's GreenPoint Rated (for projects in California), the federal government's Energy Star Homes, and the NAHB's Green Home Building Guidelines.
Online and Off-line Training
In the Bay Area, many organizations and venues host educational programs for aspiring and active green building professionals. Many of these programs are free or low-cost. Providers include: the PG&E Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco, Green Building Exchange in Redwood City, Building Education Center in Berkeley, and the Solar Living Institute in Hopland (and San Francisco). Or if you'd rather do most of your learning from the comfort of your home or office, you could take advantage of the increasing number of online learning programs, such as the Boston Architectural College's online sustainable design courses or the "webinars" offered by Environmental Design + Construction magazine, the USGBC, and others.
You could also attend a green building conference; major regional and national conferences include West Coast Green, Greenbuild, and the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) National Green Building Conference.
To go a step further, some builders choose to become a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) by taking the USGBC's rigorous accreditation exam. This is currently the most recognized and prestigious national standard. One way to prepare for the exam is to attend one of the USGBC's LEED trainings, which are offered in various locations throughout the year.
Within California, Build It Green also offers a certification through the Certified Green Building Professional program. In addition, several colleges and universities now offer green building degree programs. (For a selection of Bay Area programs, see the Local Educational Program Providers section at MLandman.com.)
Marketing Your Green Business
Once you've gained some green credentials and green project experience, a good way to market your services is to have your business listed in one or more of the online directories of green building professionals, such as GreenHomeGuide's directory of green pros.
Best of luck on your green building journey. And welcome to the green building community!
For more information:
See my list of recommended green building resources-including some that are specific to the San Francisco Bay Area-at MLandman.com.