A Darien realtor has earned a distinction that he hopes will not only help his career, but will help his clients to choose energy efficient homes and help the environment at the same time.

David Popoff, a realtor with William Raveis in Darien, has earned a green building certification with two of the leading U.S. green certification standards, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and National Association of Home Builders.

The distinctions, which are the result of weeks of study and a certification exam, will allow Popoff to better serve his real estate clients, especially those who are looking for homes that are more energy efficient or that are built with greener materials.

"What's really interesting to me is every day there's a new system or product you can implement," he said. "If you're spending $3,000 a month on heating oil, what if there was a way to spend only $1,000?"

Popoff, who is a builder by trade and decided to switch careers several years ago to focus on real estate, should know a thing or two about building materials. He and his wife live in a renovated 1928 home on West Avenue, and he helped make his home green by using materials such as recycled newspaper and shredded denim jeans as insulation and gas-filled windows to create a virtually draft-free home.

"We were being green, and we didn't even know it," he said. "A lot of green building comes down to common sense."

Popoff, who moved to Darien when he was in third-grade, grew up in Rowayton and graduated from Norwalk's Brien McMahon High School in 1982. Throughout high school he worked at Rowayton Seafood helping run the catering and wholesale business there. He learned the building trade by working during his time off for local contractors.

From there, it was off to Canada for college at Queens College in Ontario, where he ran a chapter of College Pro construction, a student-run business that helps build, paint, and renovate houses. There he learned valuable lessons in how to market, plan, and to deal with customers and employees.

"It was a lot of fun and it was like a crash course," he said. "It taught me to stand by your word. There was no slacking off and that has followed me ever since."

After college he came back to Darien, where he worked for several local contractors, Paul Stanley in Rowayton and J. Baldwin in Darien. In 1988, he decided to get his real estate license and worked for Professional Realty in Norwalk.

Construction was his first love, however, and he started his own business, David Popoff Carpentry, doing mostly high-end cabinetry and trim work. The slowing economy of the mid-2000s took its toll, and he was forced to close in 2009, leading him to rethink his career.

He decided to reinstate his real estate license last year after 60 hours of classes and a state exam. He went even further by enrolling in a Norwalk Community Class on green certification, and began studying about new laws on the books and new building techniques available to help make homes more energy efficient and healthier. He can tell you, for example, all about the formaldehyde that is released into the air from plywood, plastics that flake in the air in a house, radon gas that builds up, and new laws concerning containing lead when renovating a house.

"This better allows me to advise clients when they buy a house and also to get along with the builders," he said. "Not many people understand it."

With the downturn in the real estate market, one would think his choice of a new career might not be smart, but he said the market in Darien is actually up by 37 percent. In addition, older realtors who are retiring and an upswing in clients who are interested in greener technologies are positioning him in a strategic place.

"It's working out for me that I am stepping in," he said. "New blood is good. I can help people save energy and live a much more healthy lifestyle."