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.
Excerpt from the Washington Women's Cookbook, 1909
1. Sleeping Bag, consisting of three bags - one inside the other.
(1) Waterproof shell, of khaki or rubber or parafined canvas or oiled silk
(2) Double wool blanket bag
(3) Comfort padded with wool bats, the comfort folded and sewed together as a bag.
2. Tramping suit:
(1) Bloomers or knickerbockers
(2) Short skit, knee length, discarded on the hard climbs
(3) Wool waist or jumper
(4) Sweater or heavy coat
3. Three pairs of cotton hose
4. Three pairs of boys' wool socks to wear as the second pair of hose to prevent chafing
5. Mountain boots to the knee with heavy soles, heavy enough for hob-nails and these must be placed in the soles before starting, using 3 1/2 eighths Hungarian nails in the instep as well as in the heels and soles
Say Hello to Cora! 2902 NE 53rd
It's always fun to research names for our homes. It is one of the identifying features of a Green Canopy Home - and most of our homes are named after women who have made history and who have helped us get to where we are today. I couldn't help but highlight one of our newest acquisitions. The moniker for this home certainly is a story worth being told! Our latest project is Cora - after Dr. Cora Smith Eaton.
Cora was one of Seattle’s leaders in women’s equality during the turn of the century. Additionally – she was the first female secretary of the Mountaineers Club and also the first woman to summit Mt. Olympus (not to mention she summited all 6 of Washington’s major mountains).
Cora was also a doctor of medicine and was the first woman doctor to practice in North Dakota before moving to Seattle. She was licensed in several states by the end of her career and ran a practice with her husband Dr. Robert A Eaton.
And my favorite anecdote – Cora also helped author the Washington Women’s Cook Book – a PR stunt for the Suffragettes to help get the message of women’s equality to the women who were still stuck in their kitchens – and to help sway men to support women’s right to vote by saying even the Suffragettes can still put a good meal on the table. Brilliant!
Cora's contribution to the Cook Book consisted of the list above (they have a section on packing food for a hiking trip) and a recipe for (drum roll please...) Tea. Yes - her meaningful, amazing contribution was Tea. The recipe is below - but in her heart of hearts, you can see where Cora's priorities were. She was an adventurer... blazing trails for all of us.
But clearly, none of us can live in the PNW without tea.
She is one bad ass mademoiselle. Welcome to Green Canopy.
A Recipe for Tea
In two quarts of fresh water, boiling hard, put a loose cheesecloth bag containing four heaping teaspoons of tea. Cover and let stand by the fire for five minutes, but do not boil. Then remove the bag of tea, as leaving it in will make the tea bitter. Or, if the bag is not convenient, pour the tea off the leaves after it has steeped for five minutes. -Cora Eaton
Contributed by Krystal Meiners, Director of Marketing
Recently I was asked by a neighbor if I knew any custom green builders. Ahem! I proclaimed - I just so happen to work for one! What can I do for you? They were interested in building their very own green home in the near future and were currently saving to buy property on Bainbridge Island. Great! Let me know when you're ready, I said - and I can get you started.
My neighbor's next question is one that we get often. How do I know if a builder is a green builder? Do they have to be LEED Certified? To which I replied... first of all - buildings are certified, people are accredited. What you really should look for when searching for a green builder is whether or not those sustainable business practices are embedded in the culture, their people and their product. But also - LEED, while it is an incredibly robust program, is not the only green building guideline out there. In fact - Built Green carries many advantages in our region. It's tailored to the needs of the Pacific Northwest - and is incredibly in tune with the builder community here.
Of course my neighbor had never heard of Built Green - which goes to show that the USGBC has a great marketing budget and a good hold on the market. Still - any green builder should be familiar with both - and that was my point.
In light of the conversation with my neighbor - I decided that I would post our latest Built Green Case Study that was submitted to their newsletter. Every Green Canopy Home is Built Green Certified, but this one was a particularly amazing rehab project that presold in Ballard. We were happy to work with Evergreen Certified to get the job done and truly believe that Built Green is a critical brand and program in the Pacific Northwest.
1. An AMAZING question.
Our non-profit cohost has always provided a topic of discussion for our happy hours – and Sustainable Ballard really hit it home with their topic.
a. Does Density = Sustainability?
b. Does Sustainability = Density?
This two-parter really has a huge impact in Seattle right now and is on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Despite the "breathing room only" crowd – the quality of conversation was fascinating. Not everyone chooses to talk about the topic during our happy hours but this really captured the attention of many including Councilman Mike O’Brien who was discussing Ballard’s new apodments – considered both a scourge and blue-sky solution to housing in Seattle.
The rest of the conversations spanned walkability (a fun topic in light of Redfin’s recent acquisition of Walkscore) – as well as Ballard’s most recent developments and the addition of quality locations to eat, shop and sip. The idea of a “carless lifestyle” as the new definition of luxury was a spirited thought when considering the changing mindset toward livability in times of climate change and a return to urban living.
Not all of the conversations were light-hearted. Serious attention to community wants and needs and the impact of more density on transportation was a common topic; as was the builder-bad-guy issue with neighbors. Not everyone loves the way development looks, feels and changes a neighborhood – so thoughts on working with community were abundant. In particular - discussions around Green Canopy's new Neighborhood Design Survey and community meeting approach were inspiring to neighbors that had visited the event.
2. Another key ingredient to the success of this specific happy hour was the LOCATION.
We went against our own rules and decided to host the event in a small event space – but to keep it lively, we started off with drinks at the nearby Skillet – and then moved indoors. While it may have been difficult to corral folks - no one was lost and the “bar-hopping” effect made the event feel less stiff.
Aside from just the venue – the fact that the event was held in Ballard – a community common to our hosts, co-hosts, sponsors and mired in the topic at hand – made it easier to talk about density relative to where we were all feeling excitement and pain. The Greenfire Campus was a perfectly inspirational space with only enough room to kiss or kill whoever you were speaking to. Skillet made for the perfect pre-funk, and Parfait made for the perfect after-hour snack.
We definitely look forward to hosting many more Empower Happy Hour’s, and aim to keep them simple, sexy, and substantial. We hope you will join us the next one to help ADVANCE THE DISCUSSION.
It’s been nearly one year since Green Canopy became a certified B Corp. Our company, at that time, was a small and tight-knit group that was dedicated to living out our values and our mission. Our work was meaningful and the team was excited about growth.
It couldn’t have been a better decision to certify at that time. Our small and nimble team had created a rich corporate culture that everyone was excited about preserving. We were mindfully crafting systems for hiring, communication, and human resources that would ensure that our culture and values were protected as we grew. Certifying* was part of that process… but one year later we are finally seeing just how important it was.
Since then, Green Canopy has nearly doubled in size. We have started new business channels: from Fund development, to Custom Services, to RePurpose (a whole-house deconstruction program). We have gained talent, we have restructured; we have evolved. All the while, managing our culture, resources and social capital in a way that is intentional and meaningful.
B Corp means a lot more to how we do business now. It enables us to do business the way we want to do business – the way we started out with our high-fiving, adventure-loving, sustainability-minded (Fbomb-dropping) nimble team not long ago. But now it allows us to do more. It holds us accountable, it guides us and gives us tools for growth. B Corp helps us do business better.
I asked some of our team, both new and old members, what B Corp means to them and how it allows them to do business better. Here is what they had to say:
- Ami Nieto, Office Manager: B Corp certification has fueled our passion for sustainability and keeps it at the forefront of our minds in every business decision we make. It has changed the way we hire people and tuned our focus on attracting talent that is committed to our mission as a Certified B Corporation. B Corp inspired us to raise the minimum wage of our company to $15/hour. For being a company of less than 50 employees, this change is years ahead of other companies in our region and our industry. We now offer stock options to all employees upon hire. We also contract with more local and sustainable suppliers. We have chosen to bank locally with an independent institution (Beneficial State Bank). Next year we hope to go completely paperless!
- Bec Chapin, Director of Custom Construction: Being a B Corp takes the mission of Green Canopy out of the house and into the lives and operations of the company. It is about running business so that it is sustainable to the world, communities, and employees; and because of that, our clients. For too long we have run business for the benefit of the shareholders and forgotten that it is also a big part of the ecosystem of our lives. If we don't pay attention, we risk running businesses at the expense of our communities, our planet and the future.
- Caitlin Hoeberlein, (Spec Construction) Project Engineer: I specifically sought out B Corporations when searching for job opportunities in Seattle. Previously, I worked for a small B Corp in New York, and I loved the attitude of people and the environment over profits. It was important to me that the company I worked for also supported those ideals that are so important to me.
- Andy Woverton, Controller and Director of Fund Development: Being a B Corp is important to me because it is an important signal of how Green Canopy cares about our employees, responds to the communities in which we build, provides information to our shareholders and stewards our environment. The B Corp signal projects positively to current and potential future employees, neighbors and investors.
- Nate Morr, RePurpose Site Supervisor: Being a B Corporation is important to the deconstruction work I am doing for the company because it allows me to be creative in the reuse/recycle of materials from the homes we deconstruct. Rather than solely being focused on the most efficient and economical method of material diversion, I can find unique ways of repurposing material that is beneficial to the environment, our community, and our company’s practices as well. For instance, having the Union Gospel Mission's 118 Design Program work with us to deconstruct and reuse reclaimed lumber is an excellent story for the diversion of our material that, once we streamline our processes, could be extremely efficient and economical while being 100% mission-aligned.
- Sam Lai, CMO: I love that Green Canopy is a certified B Corp. Most home buyers today are still indifferent to energy efficiency in homes, but when someone buys a Green Canopy home, their super-low utility bill and amazing year-round comfort becomes an undeniable benefit to the homeowner. However, the societal benefits are less tangible. B Corp's rigorous environmental and social standards help to communicate how our homes are also better for communities and our environment.
* A B Corp is a for-profit company that is committed to gains in social and environmental capital rather than just monetary profits. It is a certification that is awarded by B Lab in Pennsylvania – an organization that scores companies based on a set of social and environmental metrics. Green Canopy’s score at certification was an 86.
Recently you may have seen several of our Green Canopy project managers and a few of our support staff breaking bread with the rest of the greenbuild community at this year’s NW Ecobuilding Retreat. This is one, special event that gets our construction team worked up and inspired by the big fresh thinking of our peers. Out of all of the conferences that we have attended and supported this season – this one is especially aligned with what we love about our work and the future of our work in other NW markets.
Nine of our team members attended this gathering and here is what inspired them.
- Green Appraisal – Thanks for the Green Genius name-drop Fiona! This is one topic that we have really hit home with in real estate education, and a topic that builders battle constantly when trying to encourage change in the valuation of green building. Like this article from Builder Online recently stated “Many builders are fed up with a financing system that doesn’t put enough value on sustainable features and the savings they yield for homeowners.” The fact is that buyers who purchase energy efficient homes have a lower default rate – because these homes simply cost less to own! A point that we often drive home in our Green Genius classes. Change comes from within and we are especially thrilled to see the number of appraisers that frequent our classes.
- Reclaimed Materials – The topic of deconstruction and reclaimed materials is one that Green Canopy is head over heels for at the moment – so don’t be surprised if you see it mentioned here again! The case study HOME reclaimed, presented by Ryan Mankoski was excellent. Ninebark Design Build is doing some stand-up work and also recently won the Built Green Hammer Award for Project of the Year for this re-envisioned, reclaimed Tudor, also mentioned here on Curbed Seattle.
- Greenfire Campus: What DON’T we love about the Greenfire Campus? The alternative green building strategies like cisterns and geothermal energy is pretty amazing and a cool addition to the Ballard neighborhood. This project was brought to our attention a while back when Redfin asked for our help in teaching a “How to Buy a Green Home” class for their buyer clients. Redfin Builder Services represents the Greenfire and Solo Loft Developers and have had huge success marketing this project and its cool resource efficiency strategies. Well done!
We really enjoyed the energy of the event and the community of smart, greenbuilding pros working together to raise the bar and impact big change in the Pacific Northwest. Can’t wait until next year!
The outcry against residential in-fill has reached a fevered pitch in Seattle. Neighbors are yelling at homebuilders, each other, the city, and anyone who will listen. The themes are relatively consistent; opposition to modern homes, bigger homes, added density, or the fact that projects are unaffordable to existing residents. Builders, on the other hand, are simply trying to build what the market demands – and that may well conflict. But, is the fevered pitch, and ill will around new in-fill developments in the Seattle area necessary, or is there a way to work together?
As someone on the front lines of the neighborhood hostilities trying to do business in a new way, I think there is. By engaging with (and listening to) neighbors and being transparent about planning and decision-making beforehand, infill housing can become a welcome and community-forwarding endeavor.
Having heard the angry outcry, and with a focus on continuing to build a human values-based business that contributes to communities, here are a few ideas for how this could be done:
- Listen, really listen, first. Changes within a neighborhood can be emotional for many. When you recognize that going in, even hearing concerns starts to build a trust pattern. While plans are still conceptual, hold a community meeting to receive input on the direction of your design.
- Engage along the way. Especially with topics like sidewalk closures, site work, paint colors, etc. (We use Tumblr quite a bit on this front) Updating the community using a community blog demonstrates awareness that the developer is entering into an established norm of how the neighborhood functions.
- Acknowledge feedback and make Changes. When neighbors really see a result of their comments, whether as acknowledgement or in changes to the plan, trust is solidified, paving the way for the best possible relationship with the community throughout the construction process, and helping the new homeowner receive a much warmer welcome.
How is this good business? Engaging the community while building in close quarters with neighbors helps minimize angry calls and letters to the city, intense verbal discussions with subcontractors, and creates a much better work environment for everyone. By approaching our own projects in this manner, we’ve had neighbors bring us warm coffee, cookies, and offer to help. Our homebuyers are a welcome addition to the neighborhood versus being seen with skepticism and mistrust by association. All of this work helps create positive association with our company name and ultimately helps sell our homes.
In this day and age of transparency, builders really can’t “bulldoze” their way into a neighborhood. If neighbors and builders alike can remain open to each other, listen and engage, we should all be able to learn together how to effectively rebuild our aging infrastructure, honor our past and lay the groundwork for a thriving future in Seattle.
-Bradly Gunn, The Seattle Demo Project
At Green Canopy, we are committed to resource efficiency. For us, this goes beyond installing solar panels and thicker insulation. When the structure of an existing home is unsalvageable, we are in a rare position to be able to decide how to dismantle the home, and how those resources are re-used and re-purposed. This means that we have the ability to save the embodied energy of the existing structure--talk about resource efficiency!
We aren’t the only ones who are inspired by deconstruction. Bradly Gunn is a local Seattle painter and architect who started the Seattle Demo Project, an art and architectural program documenting and memorialising soon-to-be demolished homes in Seattle. According to Gunn, “the Seattle Demo Project is focused on bringing light to a relatively misunderstood or ignored facet of Seattle’s urban condition. We want to activate soon-to-be-demolished structures and provide an opportunity to learn, explore, and engage the community one last time before they are gone.”
As a builder, we hear a lot of criticism against development. Gunn claims he was in the “anti-development camp” just a few years ago. He wanted to keep his neighborhood the way it was, but soon realized that “some homes are worth saving. Some aren’t.” When he found out that more than one home per day was being torn down in Seattle, he realized that his art could shed light on this staggering statistic by converting these homes, a formerly untapped resource, into an artistic and educational opportunity. “Houses are an art medium of a very different scale, that only a handful of artists have gotten to play with,” he says. As a medium, there’s a lot of potential and many stories to uncover.
Unlike our team here at Green Canopy, Gunn didn’t come to deconstruction from a sustainability standpoint. He was not interested in the repurpose value of the materials, but rather the value that documenting these projects could have for communities, architects and students. He envisioned transforming these run-down homes into a touchpoint for neighbors to learn about architecture and development in an open and engaging way, by abstracting it. “When it’s not the house or the walls, it becomes another story,” says Gunn. He sees his work as an avenue for architects to reexamine failed systems, and for students to gain firsthand experience in the field. He likens student involvement in his project to doctors studying cadavers--documenting the deterioration of a house provides invaluable lessons for those designing new homes.
When the structure of the existing home is unsalvageable, Green Canopy is committing to deconstructing instead demolishing whenever possible, saving as much embodied energy as we can. We are happy to support Gunn in his artistic and educational quest. Gunn is currently documenting two of our deconstruction projects in Ballard and West Seattle: Gertrude and Aura. We are deconstructing these homes by hand, and will reuse and recycle 100% of what we dismantle. Together, we can build a new, sustainable future by learning from and respecting the past.
You can learn more about the Seattle Demo Project here, and about Green Canopy RePurpose by contacting Justin Hooks. Green Canopy is soon to offer our Green Canopy RePurpose services to other builders. Stay tuned!
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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.