The physical beauty of our Pacific Northwest region combined with a booming tech industry continues to draw people to our high-growth cities of Seattle and Portland. Daily, we feel and see this change with more traffic on the roads, more cranes on the skyline, homeless encampments in what seems like every nook and cranny, and an overflow of cars at our favorite trailheads.
Green Canopy launched in 2009 to combat and lessen the negative impacts of climate change and resource scarcity through in-city homebuilding. Nearly 10 years later, we find ourselves in the epicenter of rapid change. As a mission-driven Certified B Corp Company, Green Canopy inherently feels a responsibility to lean in further to the challenges we are experiencing in our high-growth cities: resource scarcity and global warming, urban sprawl, and housing crisis of affordability and access.
The Company recently paused to examine the broader purpose of our work as an urban infill residential developer and fund manager — going through a process to define our Theory of Change. A Theory of Change is a visual road map to creating the change we want to see in the world and provides a target to which we align our strategies, outcomes, and goals. We began this process with guidance from Jane Reisman, a Social Impact Advisor with over 29 years of experience in strategy and evaluation. The benefits to developing Green Canopy’s Theory of Change became clear early on and continue to bring stakeholder alignment, shared language, and metric alignment.
Green Canopy’s Theory of Change was recognized as a model for transformation in the impact investing community through a case study funded by the Rockefeller Foundation: “The case study provides an illuminating example of how investors can adapt Theory of Change to serve their impact management needs. By demonstrating the relevance and transferability of this tool for articulating, measuring, and managing impact, the hope is that this case study can contribute to strengthening other investors’ approaches, in turn contributing to building the evidence base for the “impact” of impact investments.”
The 2017 Green Canopy Impact Report takes the first step towards aligning our current metrics to our Theory of Change. Our intent for the coming year is to reassess and refresh the metrics to ensure we continue to make progress towards achieving our Theory of Change as well as to further align with common industry standards.
We believe in a better future and the Green Canopy Team — with our partners and communities — is doing the deep work to help us achieve this vision.
Thank you for being an integral part of our
Director of Investor Relations & Impact
The book Drawdown maps, measures and models the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to reverse global warming. The analysis identifies clear opportunities for the building sector to help play a role in drawing down carbon from the atmosphere (Rooftop Solar #10, Electric Vehicle #26, LED Lighting #33, Heat Pumps #42, Walkable Cities #54, Net Zero Energy #79). The Seattle Master Builders Association’s Built Green Program demonstrated this potential in the 2017 report, which found Built Green 4-Star and 5-Star homes were 33% and 40% more efficient respectively than comparable code-built homes.
2017 marks an important pivot point for Green Canopy as the company completed our first Net Zero Energy Home. Net zero energy homes produce enough energy to offset their energy consumption needs over the course of a year through solar energy and ultra-efficient systems. This represents the future of the Company as we rotate our entire pipeline to build only Net Zero Energy Homes in the coming months and years ahead.
“Our Net Zero Energy program is the result of a culmination of 10 years of system, process and team development... This is not the end of our sustainability journey, but it is a very important next step.” — Sam Lai, Cofounder
FIRST NET ZERO ENERGY HOME COMPLETED | 100+ IN PRODUCTION | 728,112 POUNDS OF CARBON MITIGATED IN 2017
Green Canopy builds good homes that are affordable by utilizing best-in-class materials and construction methods. Our homes use non-toxic materials and finishes, fresh air ventilation systems, and Blueskin technology to provide a weatherproof structure with high air quality. In 2017, all Green Canopy’s homes were certified to Built Green or Earth Advantage standards.
In addition, the Company reviewed and assessed the “Red List” of commonly used harmful building materials. Of the 65 materials listed by Miller Hull and the Living Future Institute, Green Canopy identified 30 materials the Company was already compliant with, and immediately removed 12 additional materials in our supply chain. We are working to find alternatives for the final 27 materials.
Green Canopy’s program with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) has allowed the Company to sell 11% of its total sales at more affordable and accessible prices compared to standard market rate homes. In 2017, Green Canopy built an average of 5 homes for each project site, where there typically was one — offering more homes at a lower price-point in urban communities and adding walkability to schools, parks, transportation and amenities.
In 2017 Green Canopy developed its fourth fund offering, Cedar Fund, which provides greater access and affordability to families earning 80% of area median income.
“The Cedar Fund puts us in a unique position to not only draw down carbon, but to also lift up our communities.” Aaron Fairchild, Chief Executive Officer
100% CERTIFIED BUILT GREEN OR EARTH ADVANTAGE | 6 AFFORDABLE HOMES IN PRODUCTION WITH WSHFC
Our Pacific Northwest identity is interwoven with our farms, forests, wild lands, and salmon streams. Green Canopy believes honing the ability to develop density in our urban infill walkable communities is essential to reduce sprawl and preserve our wild lands. Green Canopy has created the skill to selectively develop unique lots in our high-growth cities while consistently containing costs, providing a model for residential developers nationwide. For each project site, Green Canopy responsibly deconstructs and recycles the majority of the existing structure and replaces one home with an average of 5.
Green Canopy continuously strives to keep as much of the deconstructed home out of the landfill as possible. In addition to recycling and reusing, Green Canopy developed a partnership with 118 Design, a program that offers job skills to former gang members and recently incarcerated men from the 98118 zip-code. The 118 Design team salvages lumber from the deconstructed homes and repurposes the wood into urban-inspired furniture and wood-clad walls inside Green Canopy’s homes.
“My environmental ethic formed through hours and hours of playtime as a child in our Pacific Northwest mountains and forests. I am motivated to preserve these spaces so my daughters acquire the same sense of connection to our planet.” — Andy Wolverton | Chief Financial Officer
90% OF ONSITE CONSTRUCTION WASTE RECYCLED | 95% OF DECONSTRUCTION WASTE RECYCLED
In addition to reducing operating costs and providing a healthier, livable space, a net zero energy home is generally more resilient. The shift to develop all Net Zero Energy Homes combined with efforts to transform the real estate market towards more sustainable and resilient housing will provide critical built environment infrastructure improvements.
Cities with strong social networks and social inclusion have also been shown to bolster resilience. Green Canopy is working to increase access and inclusivity to highly desirable neighborhoods through efforts including increasing density, partnering with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to increase affordability, by launching the Cedar Fund and authentically engaging neighbors in Community Meetings. Before acquiring a property, Green Canopy invites surrounding neighbors to a Community Meeting to engage in an authentic dialogue around Green Canopy’s mission and the project design.
The Company also bolsters the resilience of high-growth cities through job creation. In addition to the 27 high quality jobs provided within the company, on average 95 jobs across the trades are utilized for every project site.
“I appreciate that you offer community meetings and a seemingly genuine interest in what matters to the neighborhood.” — Green Canopy Property
95 JOBS CREATED FOR EACH HOME BUILT | OVER 10 MEETINGS WITH POLICYMAKERS AND EDUCATIONAL TALKS GIVEN IN 2017
Impact investing is a rapidly growing industry powered by investors who are determined to generate social and environmental impact as well as financial returns. Green Canopy is an experienced fund manager and has earned a strong reputation for being engaged and transparent. The Company has successfully managed three real estate funds totaling around $45M AUM with over 100 investor accounts. Green Canopy routinely achieves financial and impact returns aligned with investor expectations. The third fund, the Birch Fund, has returned a total of $2.8 million to Green Canopy investors, with a realized annual return of 11.19% through Quarter 4 of 2017.
Green Canopy’s sophisticated approach to creating new financial vehicles for the impact investor is highlighted in its fourth fund offering — the Cedar Fund. The Cedar Fund was developed in response to the current challenges in our high-growth communities, bringing net zero energy homes to market alongside greater affordability and inclusivity for families earning 80% area median income.
“I’ve been happy with the reliable returns I’ve received with Green Canopy’s fund offerings. They’ve been a win-win: solid returns paired with environmental outcomes I value.” — Kathy Washienko | Investor
$2.8 MILLION RETURNED TO BIRCH INVESTORS IN 2017 | RAISING CAPITAL FOR 4TH FUND OFFERING — CEDAR
Deep work refers to the ability to focus, quickly master complicated information, and produce better results in less time. While Green Canopy hones this skill across all channels there are four areas of practice where the Company shines:
“Green Canopy’s monthly Leadership Training has been instrumental in fostering a culture of engaged employees who are actively working toward maximizing their potential." — Ami Nieto
8 PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP TRAINING SESSIONS GIVEN TO ALL EMPLOYEES | 63 BROKERS GIVEN GREEN BUILDING TRAINING
Green Canopy introduced the Company’s first Net Zero Energy Homes in Portland by holding a class with valued partners in the movement. New construction “Net zero” or “zero energy” homes are highly-efficient home powered by the sun and typically built to a higher certification standard — in this case Earth Advantage Platinum. With less than 10 ever transacting on the Portland Regional Multiple Listing Service in the last 20 years, zero energy homes are very unique. Real Estate Brokers and buyers are learning more about what zero energy is apart from the apparent solar panels. Benefits like: healthier, allergen-free air quality; comfortable, evenly-distributed heating and cooling; and smart, cost-saving technology.
The event was held in one of the two Green Canopy Net Zero Energy Homes. Introductions were given by Debbie Chase of First American Title who welcomed brokers with bites from Elephants Delicatessen. Green Canopy Cofounder, Sam Lai, explained the mission of the company and the desired outcome of regenerative communities. And Chris Dawkins and Brian Schmidt of Lightbox Portland shared stories about their lessons learned from building their zero energy project that sold last month in Northeast Portland.
To begin the class on zero energy, Peter Brown of Earth Advantage — green building certifier — divulged details on what makes up a zero energy home. For this certified Earth Advantage Platinum Zero Energy project, Earth Advantage visits the project site several times to audit the quality of building — something that is not done for code-built homes. It is tested on a range of performance metrics like efficient water and lighting fixtures, structural integrity, and the energy consumption versus production. Brown also explained that the performance of zero energy homes is dependent on the lifestyle of the occupant — a household of 8 would likely consume more energy than a household of 2. A lively discussion ensued about the accuracy of energy certifications when home occupants have significant impact on the energy consumption of the homes. One remark was how a car’s Miles Per Gallon may not precisely reflect a car’s performance due to user differences like the number of passengers in the car or a different driving styles.
Green Canopy Construction Program Manager, Ryan Nieto, answered questions on the home the group was sitting in. Brokers remarked on the simple design qualities that they appreciated like the high windows allowing natural light in while providing privacy from the street. Nieto discussed how living in a net zero or zero energy home is not a sacrifice for sustainability but rather a convenience and the way of the future: “Net Zero Energy is a lifestyle choice. We’ve built high quality, energy efficient, and healthy homes that empower homeowners to embark on their personal journey towards Zero Energy, without sacrifice comfort or livability while adding durability and value.”
The class adjourned and attendees were invited to walk through the home with the green building experts. Interactive “tags” were placed near distinctive features for attendees to learn about the features and their respective benefits for homebuyers.
By Susan Fairchild | Director of Investor Relations & Impact | Green Canopy
Those who visit the Green Canopy Headquarters will find, in our entryway, a reminder handed down by our CEO’s father. It’s a framed quote by the baseball legend Yogi Berra, reading— “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it.”
At Green Canopy, we’re always looking to identify and clearly articulate the direction we’re headed. By doing this, our team and stakeholders come to a shared understanding of goals. We can all take ownership of these goals, and then create a plan of action to make them happen. One way we’ve done this in the past year, is by mapping out our specific “Theory of Change”. A Theory of Change provides a visual roadmap to creating the change we want to see in the world, and provides a target through which we align our strategies, outcomes, and goals.
Green Canopy began this process with the guidance from Jane Reisman, a Social Impact Advisor with over 29 years of experience in strategy and evaluation. Jane has dedicated her life to empowering non-profits, foundations, and systems thinkers with the tools to significantly increase the probability of achieving their desired impact.
As we embraced doing the deep work* with Jane, the benefits to engaging in the process of developing Green Canopy’s Theory of Change became quite clear:
We are pleased to share Green Canopy’s Theory of Change publicly for the first time. We believe in a better future. We invite you to be a part of it.
Aaron Fairchild, Green Canopy’s CEO recently detailed the Theory of Change at an Empower Happy Hour. Watch Aaron’s presentation here.
*“Deep Work” is a concept written about by Cal Newport that he describes as the ability to focus without distraction, master complicated information and produce better results in less time— providing the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftmanship.
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.