“Our changing climate means we must reshape the way we grow and build to enable all people, both now and in the future, to thrive. For the building sector, this means dramatic and ambitious solutions including rapid market transformation for a net-zero carbon built environment…We need courage from all sectors of the industry to be radical, strategic and collaborative to reach our shared goals of carbon neutral(ity)… You are part of the solution.” -Rose Lathrop | Green Building and Smart Growth Program Manager, Sustainable Connections
AUTHOR | SAL LAI, COFOUNDER
What makes me thankful? Despite my concerns with our society’s trajectory, I am encouraged to see entire communities centering their lives around purpose and community— doing the courageous work to reverse global warming and fight social injustice at the same time. When I witness this, it reminds me that I do believe we are moving toward a more generous, integrated and regenerative way of living on this planet. This makes me thankful.
I had the pleasure of seeing evidence of this movement at the 2017 Sustainable Design and Development Conference in Bellingham, Washington. The theme for this year’s conference was “Transforming the Market to Carbon Neutral” and the strategies presented during the day were both challenging and exciting:
Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable | Patti Southard, Program Manager, King County Green Tools
In the opening keynote Patti Southard, Program Manager at King County Green Tools, addressed a room mainly full of white designers, architects, builders, consultants and researchers. Patti challenged us to question whether our projects (in an industry responsible for 45% of the Green House Gas emissions in the built environment) contribute to social justice in our communities for all people. She reminded us that we should exercise land use planning “as if people mattered” and informed us that in the ten years between 2007 and 2017, our African American population within the city of Seattle declined from 13% to 7%. Our society is only getting more economically stratified with minorities moving out of the city and Caucasians rapidly moving in. However; In King County, there are more languages spoken than any other city in the entire US except Los Angeles. By 2022, the population of American children will become “minority majority” for the first time. So, what does it mean for us to plan as if people mattered? Homeowners must focus on the value of diversity in our neighborhoods— to advocate and draw on the deep well of love and connection, rather than fear or anger. As homebuilders, we need to increase the affordability and accessibility of resource-efficient homes.
Building the Decarbonized Future | Vincent Martinez, COO, Architecture 2030
“In the wake of the US’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it is clearer than ever that change in the building sector will come from the bottom up.” Vincent Martinez, COO of Architecture 2030, spoke about the importance of private-public partnerships (rather than public-private) to decarbonize the built environment in cities. Business and grass roots community groups will play an integral role in transforming our housing sector from the ground up. Many think tanks and research studies indicate that urban density is a primary, necessary strategy to decrease our carbon output while maintaining the infrastructure needed for another 1.1 Billion people in 15 years (the equivalent of a brand new, New York City built every single month). Are we willing to acknowledge and embrace the fact that our cities are growing and guide the momentum to a better outcome?
A special thanks to these other industry leaders for bringing these discussions:
Passive House | Alex Boetzel, COO of Green Hammer
“Reducing energy use – and consequently, CO2 emissions – of buildings, is an instant and continued action on climate change.” Alex Boetzel, COO of Green Hammer provided practical, actionable insight on energy use reductions of 65-75% using passive strategies so that buildings can become net-zero-energy and subsequently carbon neutral. Green Hammer has built homes in the Portland area receiving certifications including: Passive House, LEED Platinum, FSC, Earth Advantage and Living Building Challenge.
More Affordable Sustainability | Bec Chapin, Cofounder of NODE
“As gatekeepers to the change we want to see in the world, we have an opportunity to change the way we think about (home)ownership.” This transformation should allow more people to prosper in our quest for more affordable housing and sustainability in the built environment. Bec Chapin had the crowd pair up to actively share stories with one another, getting strangers to engage at a heart level and making her session the loudest and liveliest.
Shannon Todd and Don MacOdrum | TRC Solutions
On behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Project Managers, Shannon and Todd shared their vision and strategy for partnerships between local governments, certification programs and utilities to make green building an obvious and cost-effective choice for all builders. Their conversational style allowed us to understand the important “boots on the ground” work and how TRC is leading to break down the cost and system barriers to green building. Thank you for your hard work.
Feel free to download my slideshow on “the Net-Zero Energy Evolution” or watch a snippet of it below:
AUTHOR | ALEXA ASHLEY
Green Canopy's first net-zero energy home is now available on the market. This home is the first of it's kind in Magnolia with only a handful being listed on the NWMLS in the last 20 years. Green Canopy's Accounting Manager, Jen Trujillo remarks, "I didn't realize how few houses like this there are." The Company has been building a diverse range of homes (including single-family, townhomes, rowhouses, net-zero ready houses) in Seattle since 2009 and this project is their first net-zero energy home, which includes solar panels.
BY AARON FAIRCHILD
I believe in a future where deep green and net-zero energy homes are affordable and the norm. A future where our communities are diverse, inclusive and resilient, and where people who believe and invest in that future earn profits. Being raised by an entrepreneurial single mother imparted on me the importance of caring and nurturing, while also working hard to provide. Since the age of 15, my labor has been built upon this foundation from my mother. I have stumbled and failed and made mistakes along the way. I have succumbed to fear and self-doubt. At times, the immensity of the challenges we face seem daunting and impossible to solve; like I am frantically shooting a toy water-pistol at a raging wildfire. But when I lift my eyes and look around, I see that I am not the only one trying to douse the flames of environmental destruction and social inequity. Intentional and like-minded people all around the world are forming companies to be used as forces for good. And these companies are changing the nature of work by holding each other up to realize the future we believe in.
BY AARON FAIRCHILD, CEO
The last two weeks has been a whirlwind of intentional conversations with like-minded, social purpose organizations. The B-Corps Champions Retreat and the following week of SOCAP17 were both intense conferences of shared themes and desired outcomes. A couple things linger in my mind from these social impact conferences:
SEATTLE, Washington & PORTLAND, Oregon (October 4, 2017) – Green Canopy, Inc., a proven urban infill deep green homebuilder, announced the launch of its newest affiliate company, Cedar.
“Meeting the challenges of global warming and the housing crisis in our high growth cities requires us to develop disruptive, integrated, and inclusive solutions. We are proud to offer a for-profit model for building resilient, inclusive and sustainable net-zero energy micro-communities without reliance on direct government subsidies” says Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy.
By Aaron Fairchild, CEO
At the September 14 Built Green Conference, I moderated the panel, Exclusionary to Inclusionary: How can we make our region inclusive, resilient, and vibrant, with Seattle mayoral candidates, Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon, as well as City Council candidate Teresa Mosqueda, and Sightline founder Alan Durning. It was an honor to moderate this discussion. It was made even more poignant by the passing of my father the night before after nearly a 10-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. He would have been proud to see me moderating a discussion with such a powerhouse group. I did my best during the discussion to channel the thoughtfulness he demonstrated throughout his life. I would like to thank the panelists for their time and contribution, and for helping to make an otherwise difficult day, one of inspiration!
Here are a few thoughts I took away from the conversation.
All the panelists agreed that up-zoning or at least allowing townhomes, duplexes and triplexes, and row-houses onto our exclusively zoned SFR lots within the city is something that should be pursued. I also learned there was broad agreement that the permitting process at the city should be streamlined and explored for greater efficiency in processing permits. The last thing that became quite apparent was that:
Net-zero homes are about the details. The accumulation of these details, of these seemingly small changes to the homes’ building process, multiplies the homes’ efficiency and comfort. To build these homes, Green Canopy has cultivated a vast system of checks and balances both originating from within the company and from partners of the company. The team at Green Canopy’s net-zero home in Magnolia recently completed one such check: the blower door test.
There are well-known frustrations with homes built in the 70’s and 80’s that were sealed up very tight with little thought put into proper ventilation. Without that proper ventilation, the airtight homes get moldy and begin to rot. When talking about making our homes airtight, people often have reactions associated with these mold-prone homes in the past, but the contemporary phrase in the industry is to "seal up tight and ventilate right." With proper ventilation, we can get a temperature-controlled environment without the negative side effects. The home's structure is set up to last with a Heat Recovery Ventilator that reduces pollen and dust giving the home constant fresh air. The ventilator also takes the stale air from inside the house, recycles the heat, and joins it with fresh air from outside.
We're looking forward to hosting the 6th Annual Green Genius Awards Ceremony at the 2017 Built Green Conference this year. The Green Genius Awards are the region’s first and only awards to honor real estate brokers who are helping to transform the residential housing market. By listing, marketing and selling homes that have an ecological and social impact in Seattle neighborhoods, these agents are educating a generation of homebuyers and disrupting the status quo of homebuilding. They are helping to change the paradigm of how real estate is valued in a growing city and working to build a more sustainable community.
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.