I just finished reading the ReGreen Residential Remodeling Guidelines. The document provides some case studies and numerous guidelines to follow when doing any work on an existing home (it’s a quick read if you just look at the case studies). I did pick up some useful information and helpful tips for any redesign we do on our eventual new home, but the most important thing I took away is that there are some things that are best left to professionals.
Many of the guidelines were simple and intuitive (like choosing low-VOC paints or selecting high-efficiency toilets) and I feel confident that I could do a reasonable job of taking care of these on my own. There were many other suggestions though (like assessing the vapor profile of new assemblies or using computer modeling to determine heating and cooling loads) that seem well outside the scope of a typical do-it-yourself type effort.
For something more complicated than painting walls in a new home, I think it makes sense to bring in a professional to help. This upfront cost can also pay for itself by improved planning and avoiding mistakes that have to be repaired later (and the quality of the work is likely going to be much higher than if I tried to include capillary breaks between all concrete and sill plates for the very first time on my own exterior foundation walls).
Not that a professional will necessarily be cheaper or hassle-free, but especially with green design issues there seem to be so many things to be aware of and experienced with that there’s no way I would want to devote the time and energy to doing this myself (even if I could reconfigure plumbing to distribute domestic hot water efficiently — which I can’t). My ego is intact though since I can create a lovely website of the redesign process when it’s finished 🙂