Recommended Reading

Famine to feast. Used to be, home owners had to scramble to find reliable information about green building and remodeling. Now, the online and print media are waving the flag.  There’s a glut of information. So much information! How do you sift through all that stuff to find the nuggets that apply to your home? Which product claims are green washing, and which are real? It’s easy to be confused.

In this blog post, I’ll tell you about several top-notch resources you can count on.

I spent many years working as an information designer and tech writer, where my job was to take the arcane and complex and make it simple. So I’m quick to applaud when I find good information that’s well done.

Start with the big picture

If you’re like me, you want to start with the big picture first. I love a good overview that lays out the important elements, explains the relevance of each piece, and tells why I should care. Once I have a grasp of the big picture, then I want to drill down into the topics that are important to me.

Here are three good overviews:

Getting Started in Green Building – A Primer for Beginners

At, there’s a very nice primer for beginners that walks through 20 questions about green building. It’s succinct and written in a clear and simple style, and it answers that why-should-I-care question.

Green Builder Magazine -- Homeowner’s Handbook

When GreenBuilder Magazine lands in our mailbox each month, we sit down and read it cover to cover. Kudos to the editors of this fine magazine.

A recent issue contains a homeowner’s handbook that presents the fundamentals of how to make your new or existing home environmentally friendly. It’s readable. It has good graphics. It’s online. And it’s free. You can even get PDF versions of sections of the handbook.

While you’re there, take a few minutes to browse around the Green Builder Magazine website. You’ll find some blogs and some free, useful information. You’ll also discover that much content is available only to subscribers.

7 Steps to Green Building

We are lucky folks here in central Texas, where the Austin Energy Green Building Program (AEGB)provides a wealth of information for our area. The 42-page 7 Steps to Green Building booklet is available online. Whether you want to build new or improve your existing home, this guide walks you through the steps to assess your needs, form a team, design, choose materials, build, landscape, test and maintain your home. The guide is well written, and it contains valuable links to other resources.

While you’re there, also see A Green Home Checklist.

Ready to drill down?

Want details? Okay, then roll up your sleeves and dig into our local Austin Energy Green Building Program rating system. This gets technical, but if you’re curious and hungry, go for it. (Did you miss my blog post last month about Green Rating Systems? If so, you might want to circle back and catch up.)

First, stop and get yourself a copy of the rating scorecard for single-family homes. This worksheet is an Excel spreadsheet. If you plan to rate your home, your builder and designer will undoubtedly use this worksheet during planning and design.

Now -- for an explanation of the items in the worksheet -- go to The Guide to the Single-Family Home Rating. This 73-page guide explains and clarifies the building measures on the rating worksheet. The guide “reflects best practices known at this time by the Austin Energy Green Building staff for design and constructions in the conditions of Central Texas.”  Just so you know:   The guide gets technical, and the details can make your eyes glaze over.  However, it’s great information and contains many links to additional resources.   If you’re a geeky kind of person like me, you’ll love it. If you’re not so technical, that’s okay -- you can still poke around and pick out the topics that interest you most. Are there other resources you like that would useful to other home owners? Help me out by leaving a comment on this blog post, or drop me an email at