Built Green

Built Green Panel: Exclusionary to Inclusionary

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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: 


we all agreed that our vibrant city will only remain so if we can maintain income diversity where it currently exists within our neighborhoods and bring it back to our city’s more desirable and “exclusive” neighborhoods. 
— Aaron Fairchild

I don’t typically endorse candidates, however, given the conversation, I would like to humbly offer my thoughts on these candidates and on Alan as a panelist. 


Alan Durning was a Vesuvius of knowledge; bright, red hot and over-flowing with intense clarity and of course, humor. 

Jenny Durkan exudes focused energy aligned with her past and progressive vision of Seattle’s future. Seattle would be well served with her as mayor. 

Teresa Mosqueda was a power provider, articulate, earnest and buoyant. I can whole heartedly endorse her candidacy and sincerely hope that Seattle will benefit from her leadership in the near future. 

Cary Moon is heart and meaning and brings unassuming positivity together with pragmatic approaches for progress. Seattle would be well served with her as mayor. 

When doing a quick read on Wikipedia about Bertha Knight Landes (October 19, 1868 – November 29, 1943), I discovered she “was the first female mayor of a major American city, serving as mayor of Seattle, Washington from 1926 to 1928. She is to date Seattle's only female mayor.” 

These three powerful women candidates honor Ms. Landes’ memory and life through their current and future efforts. I am looking forward to seeing the last line in the Wikipedia page updated to read, “She was Seattle’s only female mayor, until 2017.” 

You can watch the condensed footage of the discussion on the Built Green website

Green Canopy relies on Built Green to provide rigorous green building standards. Green Canopy utilizes their standards to certify our homes as Built Green Certified. On an annual basis the Built Green Conference provides builders, developers and real-estate agents cutting-edge information on green building and sustainability. Thank you Master Builders Association and Built Green! 

Photo Credit: Built Green and Alabastro Photography

Is your Dream Home a Green Home? The Challenges of First Time Home Buying

Leah Missik - The new Director of Built Green talks to happy hour guests about the Built Green program.

Leah Missik - The new Director of Built Green talks to happy hour guests about the Built Green program.

Last month we had the honor of hosting Greendrinks with a fantastic group of organizations. The Youngstown Cultural Arts center was buzzing with folks from Built Green, Sustainable Seattle, Green Canopy and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission; all there to answer one question for the happy hour attendees - "How can we make green homes more accessible to first-time homebuyers?"

Promoting green building in the retail, real estate market is a paradigm shift in the way we have traditionally shown and sold homes in the past. Value in real estate has always been determined by location, price, amenities, neighborhood, school districts, etc. with little thought given to long term investment in things like utility bills or walkability.  However - as we see the Millennial generation step into the homebuying arena - a generation known for their values-based consumerism -  we can and should expect these individuals to be more interested in long term savings from resource conservation, healthier and local materials that benefit the local economy, and access to amenities in walkable locations that will keep them out of their car. It's not just the Millennials making these decisions though. Today, the typical homebuyer is tech-savvy and non-traditional. They tend to research more or their own and, while decisions still weigh heavily toward cost and location, energy efficiency is topping the charts on the "Must Haves" list for new buyers.

That being said - there are still not a lot of resources to help first time buyers get exactly what they want from the traditional real estate market - and certainly not many incentives to help aid in that decision to go green. Speaking from my own home buying experience, you tend to throw your values out the window when things start to get competitive!

Greendrinks was a perfect opportunity to explore the ideas and programs that are currently at the intersection of the market and values. Folks left the following comments on our interactive ideas board - and conversations circled many of these topics and solutions all evening.

  • More education - many people do not know where to start when it comes to homebuying for the first time. Green homes can quickly become less of a priority as bidding wars heat up the market and first time buyers are forced to keep searching when product is scarce.

  • Incentivize green building - making it worthwhile for builders to actually build green product is a huge part of the equation. Programs like WSHFC's Energy Trust and Built Green - make it easier for builders to finance projects and adapt green building practices that make an impact in our market.

  • Incentivize green home purchases - Green mortgage loans and new products like WSHFC's Energy Spark program are paving the way for buyers to experience real financial relief on their mortgages for purchasing a green home. Additionally, programs like Green Canopy's Energy Performance Guarantee give buyers the peace of mind that their home will perform as it was modeled. This 3 year guarantee means the builder will pay any utility bill that exceeds the amount modeled in the Energy Performance Score.

As mentioned above - the Greendrinks event was an opportunity to talk about a new program from Washington State Housing Finance Commission that was launched just this month. We were especially excited to be alongside WSFC as they revealed Energy Spark - a program that works hand in hand with their down payment assistance program for first time buyers. This incentive comes in the form of an interest rate reduction for mortgages on energy efficient homes. You can learn more about it in this short clip from Kiro News. 

Green Homes, Green Builders & Built Green

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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.


CASE STUDY
ARABELLA: 6527 5TH AVE NW

What can you do with a harsh, stucco-clad bungalow in Ballard? This 1911 home was thoughtfully reimagined by Green Canopy Homes and reconstructed into a charming yet modern home with light and bright spaces, a stunning communal kitchen addition and vestiges of reclaimed features throughout.  

This 4 star Built Green Home, nicknamed Arabella, was gutted and rehabbed – maintaining 75% of the original structure. The project was carefully deconstructed, with building materials source separated and recycled on site. This process allowed the team to harvest framing lumber to reuse as a feature wall – highlighting the history of the original home. 

Arabella was in desperate need of systems upgrades and originally tested in at an EPS score of 37,000kWh per year – nearly 10,000kWh over the Seattle average. Green Canopy replaced each system, incorporated a ductless heat pump, rigorous insulation and air sealing as well as spot Energy Recovery Ventilators to maintain fresh air in the new super tight envelope (3.7 ACH @50 Pascals). The project finished out with and EPS score of 16,000kWh, reducing energy costs by over $1,400 a year!

In addition to deep energy efficiency upgrades, Arabella exemplifies intelligent site design and finishes. Drywells and a rain garden infiltrate 100% of storm-water on site, and the new addition’s low impact, post & pier foundation minimizes site disruption.  Arabella’s stylish “pickled” cedar siding was dipped in a natural wood treatment that never has to be reapplied and patinas for protection. Better for the environment, and less hassle for the happy new homeowners!

Whether you are in the market for a green home, interested in building your own - or just looking for builders - it might be important to know whether that builder is leading the movement - or just following market trends. All green builders in the area should be keenly aware of the certifications, accreditation, and sustainable business practices such as deconstruction and recycling. The kinds of homes we build and the intentions of the people who build them impact our community, so ask questions

Home for the Holidays

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Contributed by Krystal Meiners; Director of Marketing

The holidays are usually a time for family, a time for friends and loved ones and a time of reflection and celebration for what you have. For many, it is also a time for worship or travel or even shopping.

What I find especially exciting about this Christmas – is that many families including my own and will be celebrating this holiday season in their very first home. All across Seattle (and the world really) there are people, couples and individuals building new traditions in a brand new place. It is a special time of year and a special moment to realize that, as a homebuilder, we are incredibly involved in the process of helping to build those dreams and traditions for people.

While our designers are not typically thinking of where to put the Christmas trees or menorahs – we are thinking about spaces in terms of entertainment, family, capturing moments, creating delight, delivering mystery and excitement, connecting to nature and cradling that low winter light from the Pacific Northwest. We think that the spaces we build can help shape these experiences into lasting memories that live with the home and create a safe and inspirational space for generations.

Green Canopy has built 20+ homes this year. We hope that that will equate to thousands of exciting, warm and happy memories for the families and individuals that will be celebrating this year in a brand new Green Canopy Home.

Welcome Home to our newest Green Canopy Homeowners and Happy Holidays to all!

Here are some of the inspirational spaces that Green Canopy has built this year:

Yes, Building Green Does Cost More

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“This study adds to a growing body of work on the costs and value of sustainability. It provides further strong evidence that a sustainable approach need not add significantly to building costs. And, where there are additional capital costs, these can be repaid relatively quickly through the reduced costs of operating the building."-Yetunde Abdul, Non-domestic Group Manager at BREEAM UK | New Research Challenges the Perception that Sustainability Costs

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

At Green Canopy we build homes that cost less to own and we guarantee that. This is a benefit that is enjoyed directly by our homeowners. Year over year they will see their energy bills pale in comparison to their neighbors. While Green Canopy builds the homes - it is the customer that collects the savings from "green" not the builder.

That is why when someone asks "Doesn't it cost more to build green?" the answer is a resounding "Yes." The cost of building a Green Canopy home is higher... much higher, but the process is also more thorough, and as a result the homes are simply better. However, selling these amazing homes at a competitive price in the market and making a profit doesn’t appear easy when the cost to build them is higher… so we are dedicated to innovating our building processes and managing within the cost constraints of the marketplace.

At Green Canopy, we have always been dedicated to efficiently managing our supply chain and process management systems to compensate for the significantly increased costs of bringing green, efficient and more sustainable homes to the market. The challenge of building the highest quality homes that are better for our families and the planet and doing so within the cost constraints of the market has always been identified as our number one challenge… and we are up for the challenge!

I recently read this great piece commenting on a new research study: New Research Challenges the Perception that Sustainability Costs. I have heard discussions and arguments for years that building green, efficient and more sustainable homes cost more. The discussions and research studies assert that the additional costs of building more sustainable buildings isn’t drastic especially when considering the reduced cost of ownership. It is wonderful that this new study clearly shows how to recapture the additional cost of resource efficient construction! Unfortunately for Green Canopy we don’t live in our homes, so we can’t benefit from the operational cost savings that we build into the homes.

However, the women and men of Green Canopy love the challenge of building green homes and selling them at competitive market prices. We continue to push ourselves and figure out new methods of project management, design and material procurement. With every home we sell we are living up to the challenge and bringing the best in housing to market. As a result of this dedication to quality and innovation, we can competitively price our homes in the market, they in turn sell fast, and our homeowners save money. We know that if we can outperform our competition we will build a thriving business, while creating beautiful and resource efficient homes that will rest on the surface of the Earth inspiring generations of future homeowners to come.

My EPS Story

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Contributed by Sonja Gustafson:

Here at G2B Ventures, driving efficiency into existing homes is our core mission.  Locally and nationally, residential efficiency has increasingly become top of mind to homeowners and politicians alike, for a variety of reasons ranging from wanting a more comfortable home, to reducing our carbon footprint, to creating jobs, and of course, saving a few bucks on our utility bills.

We all agree that home efficiency is good, but how do we know what good is?  I intrinsically understand when I change out an incandescent bulb for a compact fluorescent one my energy usage goes down.

When my husband and I renovated our 1920s home in Wallingford, we spent some extra money on better insulation and windows, so I know that our home should be pretty snug, energy-wise.   We also selected sustainable materials and replaced the old boiler with an efficient radiant heating system.

So when I learned about the Energy Performance Score, a systems-based rating methodology that provides a sort of “miles per gallon” rating for a home, I thought it would be a great way to measure the success of our remodel.  Given our excellent windows, high R-value insulation, and several smart home measures (including those CFL bulbs) to manage our home lighting, I was feeling preeeetty confident that we would get a good score.

So when my EPS came back with a score in the red zone (green is good, red is bad), I was shocked.  Red zone??  My green home?   How could this be?!

After looking through the report that accompanied the EPS, it became abundantly clear why my house scored above the Washington target of 25,100 kWh/year.  You see, we live in a home that was built in an era where energy was not considered a valuable resource worth conserving, when the only constraint (for the original owner) was lot size.  Our home sits on a double lot, and so the original owner built a rather generously-sized home.  And when we did our big remodel, we chose to add a family room and a guest room for our frequent visitors who stay with us for weeks or even months at a time.

That remodel, while focused on maximizing the energy efficiency of the home, increased the overall square footage, which is the single biggest reason my home now scores so poorly in energy consumption.

So despite the fact that we used some of the greenest methods and materials available in the marketplace at the time of our remodel, the fact is: size matters.  And now we have proof. Although we live in a home remodeled with energy efficiency in mind, it still requires an abundant amount of energy simply due to its large size. I’m not sad to have a house this large; it is a warm and welcoming place that has offered shelter to a motley crew of friends and family.

But the EPS doesn’t lie.  Despite my deep commitment to sustainable homes, I have to admit that while my house uses energy efficiently, its size drives up our energy consumption, and, therefore, my EPS or "MPG" rating.  It bothers me to hold this up to the light of objective measurement, but at least now I have tools like the EPS to take a closer look, to learn more deeply about the various pieces that make my home green, and incorporate them into my work and life.