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
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.