What are friends for? There are lots of answers to this question, but here’s one: to help you achieve your goals and realize your dreams. Having a friend on the board to which you are presenting can be the difference between an approved project and a sad evening.

Obviously not everyone can be so lucky as to have a friend who sits on the review board. In fact, most of you will not have such a relationship, and that is okay. I am not actually suggesting that you become friends with the board members as a means to move your project forward. What I do suggest, however, is that you learn about the board members before you present your project. Take some time to visit the board meetings before your own. See what each board member seems to like and dislike. See if you have something in common with them.

A great example is in what the board member’s personal beliefs are. If they speak those in the hearings, you may find that your beliefs line up with theirs. I’m not talking about religious beliefs or political points of view. I’m addressing the areas of direct concern to your project approval: home size, green qualities, design criteria and so on. If you see that certain board members are willing to sacrifice a specific design criteria to allow for additional green quality, then you can use that to your advantage. As an example, your design review committee may have some standards in place to keep all mechanical system machinery on the back of the house. This is a fairly common requirement, however, a problem if the front of your house faces South and you want to use solar power.

Having a clear indication of who to cater to in your project approach may help you gain the approval of the entire board. The best way to win over a board is to not do any of the talking. This is very hard to do as you will usually be the only one who really knows your project; however, if you submit a very complete application with all of the board’s questions answered in advance, you may not need to give much additional information to the members. Couple this with a fan of your work sitting on the board, and you may be in the clear. I once went to a board meeting for a project of mine and was amazed to hear one member of the board answering questions about the project for me. She answered them almost exactly as I would have yet her answering from behind the table had a bigger impact on the overall board.