Reclaimed Building Materials

Fresh Thinking From NW EcoBuild Community


By Caitlin Hoeberlein and Krystal Meiners

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

Green Canopy Repurpose: The Art of Deconstruction

 “... Some homes are worth saving. Some aren't.”
-Bradly Gunn, The Seattle Demo Project 

Contributed by Caitlin Hoeberlein, Project Engineer for Spec Construction

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! 

To hear more about our reuse and the deconstruction process, join us for this year’s Green Genius Awards and the Built Green Conference on September 18th. Justin Hooks will be a session speaker and Green Canopy is the Reception Sponsor. Click here for more info about the conference.