Pioneers like Thomas Edison have been excited for decades about the use of solar power. “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that,” Edison anticipated. Starting this Fall, the first of many Green Canopy's Net Zero Energy homes will be available on the market in Seattle - with a commitment to offering these high-performance homes at a price that is on par with code-built new construction homes.
Green Canopy is a mission driven Portland and Seattle infill homebuilder. The Company has always built resource-efficient homes to a standard far beyond building code requirements, keeping our communities and planet in mind. In order to serve their mission, it is important to continually be changing, improving, and innovating. The Company has been conscious of this, and it is now advancing yet another significant step forward.
Zero Energy Bills, Less Negative Impact on the Environment
Net Zero Energy homes are revolutionizing green housing. Every Net Zero Energy home is modeled to produce as much power as it consumes over the course of a year using solar energy. They typically look like other modern and minimal homes except that they come with an abundance of benefits many people don’t realize. The thought of buying a house that is modeled to cover the electricity bill is cool, particularly in hot housing markets that feel hard to keep up with, like Seattle and Portland. By soaking up the sun’s rays these homes generate enough electricity to power the home over the course of the year. Solar panels on each roof are among the many applications that make this possible.
Higher Level of Comfort and Less Expensive to Own
Net Zero Energy homes are also more comfortable because their high-performance envelopes (the wall, roof & floor systems) are ultra-efficient; The cold spots and drafts common in simple code-built homes tend to disappear. Furthermore, the advanced appliances and ventilation systems help to ensure evenly displaced temperatures throughout. Due to the intense efficiency and solar power generation, these homes cost much less to operate, offering homeowners, even in the PNW temperate climes, hundreds if not thousands of dollars in savings in their electrical bills.
Understanding the Challenges and Breaking Through
As one would expect, building Net Zero Energy homes require a dedication to mastery. Most importantly, the roofs must be designed large enough to fit all the solar panels needed to offset the amount of energy needed. Additionally, most housing envelopes aren’t efficient enough so achieving net zero energy isn’t possible in most existing homes in the PNW climate. For example, the average Seattleite’s home has roughly 1,500 square feet and three floors and consumes about 28,000 kilowatts per year. To fit around 100 solar panels needed to offset the energy consumed by the average heat-leaking, Seattle house, it’s roof would need to be four times larger. However, if a 1,500 square foot Net Zero Energy home consumed </= 8,000 kilowatts a year instead, it would require roughly only 32 panels for the net annual energy consumption to be zero. Getting to this level of efficiency and performance requires a thoughtful and dedicated approach. To accomplish it, Green Canopy had to recalibrate several of its processes and checklists relating to feasibility, designs, estimating and purchasing, and project management.
Other builders have risen to the challenge over the years. However, a search on the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, revealed only five (5) of the tens of thousands of homes sold over the last 20 years have claimed to be a Net Zero Energy home. Though custom homeowners have built more Net Zero homes, they very rarely enter the market for sale. The building science and technology needed to make Net Zero Energy homes possible has finally caught up to the times. As a result, these homes will likely be available to buy at a far greater rate than over the last 20 years, and Green Canopy is set on blazing the trail to help transform the market as quickly as possible.
Green Canopy itself has built several certified Platinum LEED for homes, Earth Advantage Platinum homes, Built Green homes, and Net Zero “ready” homes in the past. Net Zero “ready” homes are efficient enough to be Net Zero if the homeowner installs solar panels—the most obvious and expensive part— after buying the home. Additionally, on occasion, a home will be built to offset the electricity use but not the natural gas used for heating, cooking or domestic hot water heating, so the homeowner stills pays for non-renewable energy.
Net Zero homes are the future of home construction and ownership, and Green Canopy is determined to accelerate their arrival on the market. Evidence indicates that Seattle and Portland homebuyers are early adopters, technologically savvy, educated people who care and think about the environment and their long-term, financial investments. The Company’s commitment is to offer Net Zero Energy homes not just to higher-end markets but also to markets that young families and first-time buyers can afford, priced on par with new construction, code-built homes. “We aren’t looking to offer our homes outside of the current market’s range for homes,” Co-Founder, Sam Lai, states. “In every market area, there are run-down homes with single-pane windows and oil heat furnaces that sell for less than average. Likewise, code-built, new construction, well-designed homes with high-quality systems are selling for higher than the average at each price point in the market. We believe our Net Zero Energy homes will demonstrate enough benefit and value to homebuyers that they will be excited to experience the lifestyle, while being able to acquire them within the market range.”
The New Standard
Green Canopy’s first Net Zero Energy home represents the future for the Company as it rotates its entire pipeline to build only Green Canopy Net Zero Energy homes in the coming months and years ahead. This wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the dedicated team and partners such as Evergreen Certified, Van Wyck & Porter, and Northwest Electric and Solar. This is also made possible due to the Green Canopy design, purchasing, and project management teams that are so efficient the Company is able to maintain cost control far beyond industry standards. The Green Canopy team is a highly motivated and passionate group that follows a tight, quality-control system performing more than 50 quality inspection checklists throughout the time of construction. This ensures that Green Canopy’s homes are quality built, focused on craftsmanship and sustainability both inside and outside the walls.
For these reasons, Green Canopy Homes is proud to now be able to call themselves today and moving forever forward, Net Zero Energy homebuilders. "Our vision is to help make Net Zero Energy homes the new standard and broadly accessible across the income spectrum." – Aaron Fairchild, CEO.
Green Canopy is a Portland and Seattle urban infill homebuilder, developing environmentally advanced and thoughtful homes for sale to a broad range of communities and income levels since 2009. It is a certified B-Corp company with the impact investing community making up 100% of shareholders in support of the movement. Their mission is to inspire resource-efficiency in the residential market, with a vision to transform homebuilding and urban communities across the nation.
When Green Canopy began, our region was in the grips of a housing crisis. Streets were filled with “for sale” signs that wouldn’t budge. It seemed as though everyone wanted to sell before the market dropped further, and that no one really wanted to buy a home. Green Canopy’s solution was to acquire existing homes and deeply remodel them as certified Built Green Remodels for sale. The Company’s mission is, and has been since that time, to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets. Remodeling existing homes using sustainable methods and materials and certifying the home Built Green, was at the time the most viable and sustainable method for accomplishing the mission during the last housing crisis. However, as the market began to shift, Green Canopy began feeling the symptoms of a new emerging market crisis. Today’s housing crisis is a result of a shortage of supply and there are more people looking to buy than there are homes to acquire. The market economics have changed, making it no longer viable to buy homes, remodel them to a rigorous green building standard and remain in business. Rather than bemoan the current market, Green Canopy can now lean into its mission with a greater sense of purpose.
Green Canopy’s homes are nearly three times more energy-efficient than the average Seattle home.
It is difficult to achieve the same efficiency in an older home that you can when building a new home. A Green Canopy home includes energy-saving appliances, optimized heating and cooling systems, and is built with air-sealing, insulation and a design that helps to properly regulate the temperature of the home. Even if an old home is renovated with the same benefits, the efficiency of the remodeled home cannot match the efficient structures of a new Green Canopy home.
Building more homes on each lot is more resource efficient and helps to preserve the bioregion around us.
By optimizing each lot in the city, we can slow down the rapid expansion and sprawl that is inevitable as our cities continue to grow in population. By keeping our housing dense within the cities, we can continue to enjoy the beauty of the landscape around us and survive on the resources that it supplies us with. Shy of this, the metropolitan area will more rapidly sprawl and it will be harder to preserve the surrounding natural resources that we rely on. Adding density is simply one of the most resource efficient things Green Canopy can do.
Making the most use of each build-able lot helps to offset the negative impacts of gentrification and displacement. In a very short period of time we have become acutely aware that there are not enough housing options to equitably support our population. An emphasis on increased density is intensely important given that demand is forecasted to continue growing relative to supply. A sustained increase in demand will likely continue to drive prices up, and moderate- and low-income households further out unless we build more housing in all areas of the city. Building more homes on each lot, allows us to offer more resource efficient and well-built homes to a broader variety of occupants.
The previous structures that Green Canopy deconstructs, is salvaged and repurposed.
Although the Company no longer exclusively remodels existing homes, most of the existing structures that are deconstructed get to live on in other projects within the community. In 2014, we began a deconstruction company to learn what it takes to manage responsible deconstruction of existing homes. After training the team and taking apart three projects piece-by-piece, the team learned that it was simply not cost effective to continue in that manner. , As a result, the Company worked to build lasting relationships with local organizations to selectively harvest reusable material from existing homes. By adding only one or two more days to the process, the materials include embedded infrastructure like floor and wall-framing members, not just old door nobs, or cabinets. Today, the company works with groups like Ballard Reuse and 118 Design to recycle, reuse and repurpose materials from existing homes.
118 Design is a part of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission; their program works with young men (ages 13 — 26) in the Rainier Valley to decrease gang membership in Seattle. The young men in the 118 Street Outreach program transform broken and discarded lumber into quality, urban inspired, one-of-a-kind furniture.
Their Street Outreach program offers:
Additionally, Green Canopy can occasionally offer the neighbors of an existing home an opportunity to claim items from the home to reuse and repurpose before these other organizations gain access. A few items that neighbors have been excited to reclaim have been: kitchen cabinets, a farm-house sink and vintage light fixtures, etc.
Where Exactly Do Our Deconstruction Materials Go?
Taken from a sampling of three of our projects, this is where we have donated and diverted waste from the landfills to (see individual waste diversion reports here):
• Asphalt Shingles: Evergreen Shingle Recycling, CDL
• Construction Debris: Clean Scapes, CDL
• Crown Molding: Ballard Reuse
• Washer Dryer: Ballard Reuse
• Lath: 118 Design
• Clean Wood: 118 Design
• Siding: 118 Design
• GWB: New West GWB, Resource Recovery
• Metal: Recycling Depot, Seattle Iron and Metal, CDL
• Wood: Ballard Reuse, Port Townsend Paper
• Windows: Habitat for Humanity
• Brick: Dirt Exchange
• Concrete: Renton Concrete Recyclers
• Cardboard: CDL
• Land Clearing: Dirt Exchange
• Rock and gravel: Dirt Exchange
We continue to inspire resource efficiency by salvaging architecture and have taken the necessary steps to get even better at it. When we started, it looked like remodeling; now it needs to be mindfully crafting more well-built, eco-friendly homes for a vibrant and diverse city.
Learn more about how to Recycle Construction & Demolition Materials
Summer is just around the corner and that means the building season will soon be in full swing. Do you know how to properly dispose of the waste materials from your projects? Please join us on June 29th to hear from two speakers who will provide strategies to manage construction and demolition materials sustainably and legally. Kinley Deller from the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks’ Solid Waste Division will talk about existing and forthcoming codes regarding recycling and disposal of these materials, and Justin Hooks, Vice President of Construction Planning at Green Canopy Homes, will offer tips for reaching a 100% recycling rate in your projects. The event is sponsored by the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review.
When: Thursday, June 29th 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Where: Snoqualmie Falls Room at King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review office, 35030 SE Douglas Street, Suite 210, Snoqualmie.
Who: This event is open to the public and will be especially helpful to contractors
Cost: Free & lunch is provided
Mission Metrics: Case Studies on Impact Part 2
Written By: Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy
Green Canopy’s neighborhood engagement started with our first home in West Seattle in 2010. We painted the home a shade of green that our neighbors rejected immediately and publicly via social media. We were taken aback. This certainly wasn’t the “impact” that we had hoped for. Our nascent team had just begun working together with a mission to inspire and this quickly became a moment to listen and learn. We invited all of our neighbors to meet onsite and tour the construction project and vote on the color to repaint the home. This was our first opportunity to talk to the community about our mission, gather feedback and learn more about our neighbors, their values and, of course, a better choice for paint color.
Since that time Green Canopy has increased its commitment to neighborhood engagement in a number of ways. The company has hosted barbecues, sponsored block parties, held educational events on green building, hosted happy hours highlighting local non-profits, and more. The company has also programmatically adopted the Community Color Program to select the color palette that we use to paint every home. Additionally, in 2012 the company formalized our introduction to the neighborhood with a “Meet the Builder” community meeting. This is neither required by the cities in which we build, nor embraced by the associations to which we belong. The Green Canopy Meet The Builder community meetings represent an early chapter in the story of every project, helping to set the tone once construction begins and ultimately ensuring greater community inclusion and consideration than otherwise.
In October of 2014 we layered into the Green Canopy Meet the Builder community meeting, an online neighborhood survey. Since that time, we have held over 20 community meetings and received results from 15 communities with responses from over 100 neighbors in Portland and Seattle. Once the surveys have been completed we process neighbor’s responses and send all responses back to the community members that filled out a survey. The responses are shared anonymously; yet when we review these results we receive highly informative feedback, which we use to learn, adapt and inform the Green Canopy team about the unique story of every community in which we build.
For the first time, we are producing the results of the community surveys from which we have learned so much – they are full of critique, feedback and grace - take a look for yourself and let us know what lessons you learn in the comments below!
Download Green Canopy's Community Survey Responses to learn more about the communities in which we work.
Mission Metrics: Case Studies on Impact Part 1
"The current housing crisis can not be easily solved because the issues are not black or white. Our solutions will require a more colorful, creative and collaborative approach."
Written By: Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy
Green Canopy is a walkable urban infill developer with a mission to Inspire Resource Efficiency in Residential Markets. Since our company's inception, we believed one solution to our global resource scarcity and climate change issues should be infill homebuilding done differently. So began our journey to create a different kind of homebuilder that is more socially and environmentally aware and responsive. In the weeks ahead Green Canopy will publish a series of blogs and data sets that highlight some of the more curious approaches we incorporate to help create positive social and environmental outcomes.
We began Green Canopy as a for-profit, market-based model with the desire to make a difference. The thinking was that if we were successful in making a difference, profits would follow and allow the Company to scale our outcomes and impact.
As a mission-focused homebuilder we are often looked at with confusion and curiosity from other homebuilders. Occasionally we are mocked and written off as “do-gooders.” It is often assumed that we really don’t know what we are doing. After all, homebuilding is an old profession, historically operating in a similar manner for generations.
Well, the times have changed in just one generation, and many of us have not yet recognized it. In the last 50 years the population has doubled. The consumption of water and food has tripled and the use of fossil fuels has quadrupled. Species are going extinct at a rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times of the normal background rate of 1 to 5 a year. We currently lose dozens of species a day. Humans have done more irreparable damage to the planet in the last 50 years than all of humanity before. Today, humanity continues to flood our cities in droves. Managing the increased density has triggered a serious societal housing problem that will likely be with us for years to come.
As a result, Green Canopy is increasingly relevant in these turbulent times. However, our business model is not a perfect solution, and no solution is. Our housing crisis will not be easily solved because the issues are not black or white. Our housing issues are full of pigment requiring more colorful, creative and collaborative approaches.
Embedded in this thinking, perhaps a silver pellet is revealed? Green Canopy is not a panacea. We are simple. Green Canopy is not particularly sexy. We are straightforward. Green Canopy is not a silver bullet. We are just one pattern in the colorful quilt of potential solutions needed to increase access, affordability and sustainability in urban housing.
In 50-years from now, when we have 14 billion human heart beats on the face of the planet, underwater coast lines, food and water security issues, what will our cities look like: Bastions of hope, or of hopelessness? In 50-years Green Canopy’s homes will still be standing as evidence of the purposeful actions that an earnest group of investors and operators took to help make our cities bastions of hope and opportunity.
With waves of humanity flooding into our neighborhoods, and no simple or easy solution to address our density issues, take some time to read through these two Sightline research articles. They are informative, well researched and helpful as we consider the choices ahead of us. Both of these articles highlight the need for Green Canopy’s approach to increased density.
By: Krystal Meiners, Director of Marketing
What are the most impactful personal or business choices I can make to fight climate change? And is it my responsibility to do so?
As Green Canopy gears up for our first Empower Happy Hour of the year – I’ve been thinking about Forterra’s question of the evening. What are the most impactful personal or business choices that I can make to fight climate change? And is it my responsibility to do so? The second part always resounds with a bright, assertive “Yes!” in my mind. However, the other part of this question flutters and lands throughout my workday, across my desk, in and out of meetings; with answers both big and small. What are the most impactful personal or business choices that I can make to fight climate change?
My internal responses tend toward the personal solutions; challenges to buy local, volunteering for park cleanup in my community, reducing my consumption, eating more vegetarian meals, meditating on the power of fresh air, spending more time with my family outdoors connecting to nature. Beyond the personal, though, what are the business solutions that I can lean into to fight climate change?
In our Energy Performance Guarantee Program at Green Canopy, we have the opportunity to influence and incentivize conservation behavior with our homeowners. This guarantee amplifies our impact and empowers our homeowners to be able to live more efficiently and with a smaller carbon footprint than the average Seattle homeowner. We guarantee that each home that we build will perform as it was modeled by our third-party energy audits, or we will reimburse our homeowners the difference.
For the past two years, we have collected energy performance data through this program with surprising results. What we learned was that the majority of our homeowners were not buying into the program, and that the ones that did admitted that they did not understand their building systems well enough to operate their homes efficiently. Nearly two thirds of the claims that were submitted to us were showing overages beyond our 3rd party energy models. The average deviation from all of our claims was a 966kWh overage against the model. While that number is not a lot considering the average Seattle home consumes over 28,000kWh in a year, we still believe that this program is an incredible opportunity to influence, inspire and educate our homeowners. We want this program to be able to drive efficiency in our product in order to create real impact in our fight against climate change.
That is why our team is actively working to improve our process, educate our homeowners, and collect more data in order to achieve greater effectiveness. At the end of the day, we do more than just build homes. We want to live into our mission to inspire resource efficiency. The Energy Performance Guarantee is simply one business solution that we have that empowers our homeowners to live better, more efficiently and closer to the planet that we share.
Stay tuned for more ideas in our upcoming blog series "Mission Metrics: Case Studies on Impact."
A Response from Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.
For those of us that are deeply concerned with the current Presidential administration, I thought I would offer acknowledgement in solidarity and a potential response to consider throughout each day as you continue protesting in the streets across America.
Trump is a self-professed businessman and has proclaimed that he will create perpetual economic growth throughout his Presidency and beyond, even at the expense of equity and the environment. To which we can, and should respond with a resounding, “No!" Natural limits to growth exists as populations grow and resources diminish. Perpetual economic growth at the expense of equity and the environment simply cannot be sustained, nor should the idea be tolerated as acceptable.
For years the “buy local” movement has been a compelling response to the perpetual growth model and well articulated in Wendell Berry’s short book of essays, “In the Presence of Fear." Buying local, and all that it entails, helps to strengthen our local communities and economies as we work to address our environmental and social equity issues in a more sustainable and less consumptive manner.
Today we find ourselves confronted with a Presidential administration that is happy to operate as a bull in global and national “china-shops,” rolling back environmental regulations not to mention our constitutional liberties. Given this as the backdrop it is more important than ever to perhaps reconsider our consumption behaviors and retrench to our local establishments and communities. The consumer has the loudest voice in our democracy. If consumers change their behavior, companies take notice, and correspondingly so do politicians.
To this, I ask you to send a message to this administration along with me and thoughtfully limit your consumption of global brands, and perhaps in general. Will you join me in more deliberately and critically considering the purchases you intend to make? Can you think about holding off, or reflect on not going out to dinner or away for that vacation? Perhaps consider focusing on local purchases, “stay-cations”, dinners at home with family and friends and making your investments locally.
But you may say, “Aaron, buying local and limiting our national consumer trends by perhaps even 5% would certainly cause a recession!” Frankly, is there a better way to send a message to a President who has trumpeted his business and economic acumen? Perhaps there is, however corporate sponsors won’t continue clinging if their numbers go down. Protest with your pocketbook and send an economic message to a business baron and let go of fear of a potential self-induced recession.
Recessions come and go, and if a recession were indeed to arrive as a result of buying local, perhaps it would be more easily corrected than otherwise. More importantly, a recession caused by conscious consumption puts economic control in the right hands; in your hands, the hands of the people and not corporations or politicians. Send a message and buy locally, invest locally, walk to a friend or neighbor’s house for dinner, take transit, and walks in the dark and beautiful woods instead of heading to the movies.
If you ever needed an excuse or a little nudge to buy local and perhaps even less, the excuse sits in the White House and the nudge is constantly viewed on your news push-notifications. Take action throughout your every day. Consider more critically and deliberately as you buy products and consume goods. Mindfully, in the moment, think about buying less, buying local, investing local. Let go of fear and embrace the power of your pocketbook to create change.
Share an easy, yet meaningful idea as a comment below that may be helpful to others as we all align to living and buying more locally.
With the annual Built Green conference is only five days away, we’re getting increasingly excited to gather as a community of green building professionals to exchange ideas, connect and honor those among us who have done an outstanding job this year of bringing people into Built Green homes. Before heading into the weekend, we took a minute to get to know one of our Selling Agent of the Year finalists – Daniel Burton of Redfin.
AN INTERVIEW WITH Daniel Burton
When looking at the Values vs. Abilities diagram, the obvious priority would be to only hire those who fit within the top right box. They are the ideal and perfect Teammates, right?
However, in practice we recognize that the top right box is the area to strive toward and is generally an impossible space to permanently occupy. All of our Teammates have areas of their work in which they are masters of their craft
(1) As a quick side note on work as Practice rather than a Performance, we highly recommend this HBR Ideacast (Ideacast #523) released May 5, 2016, with Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey.
Why is this data useful? It is a market insight that clearly shows builder trends and market impact. The data reveals the local trend toward more sustainable construction practices that impact our region and our nation. As Seattle remains at the top of national growth centers - builders here are in the spotlight and the quality of our housing stock sets a precedent.
So, how do Green Certifications impact our market? The Built Green certification standard means that Built Green certified homes were built to a standard that is beyond code. Simply put, Built Green certified homes are better than code-built homes because they are built to a standard that meets and exceeds our building codes. Not only are certified Built Green homes better quality than standard code built homes, but they cost less to own, have a reduced impact on the environment and put less strain on our water and energy resources. They are less toxic and have better indoor air quality which is imperative considering our growing asthma rates for adults and children across the US. Life in these homes are simply more comfortable and healthy.
Why aren't all builders building to this standard? Often the argument you hear builders make for not building to a standard that exceeds code is that it costs too much money, or that people will not pay extra for better quality. And yet most of the builders in the Top 20 are building at least some certified Built Green homes. So it stands to reason they have figured out how to make it work. Green Canopy would like to continue to encourage the Seattle homebuilding community to advance our collective building practices and embrace green building standards and techniques wherever and whenever possible. There will always be better quality homes than others, and homes that are more “green” than others. For those builders that have built and are continuing to build leading edge quality homes – THANK YOU and keep on keeping on blazing the trail for all of us to follow!
Affordable Net Zero Homes
Boots On The Ground
Construction Debris Removal
Construction Waste Recycling
Ethics In Business
Green Building Materials
Innovative Seattle Company
Net Zero Home
Net Zero Homes
Northwest Electric And Solar
Portland Housing Market
Salvage Building Materials
Seattle Housing Marke
Seattle Housing Market
Seattle Real Estate
Seattle Real Estate Market
Socially Responsible Investing
Socially Responsible Mutual Funds
The Green Canopy blog is written by our CEO and Culture Curator, Aaron Fairchild, as well as our staff and a few very special guests.