Residential Developer

Seattle's Branded Builders: 2015 Market Share Report

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4034 Linden Ave N - Green Canopy Homes, Image Courtesy of Soundview Photography

The numbers from the NWMLS are in! Below you will see the list of the Top 20 Branded Builders in Seattle as pulled from our local Multiple Listing Service data. More importantly, you will also see the percentage of the homes that each builder listed as certified Built Green.
 
Why is this data useful? It is a market insight that clearly shows builder trends and market impact. The data reveals the local trend toward more sustainable construction practices that impact our region and our nation. As Seattle remains at the top of national growth centers - builders here are in the spotlight and the quality of our housing stock sets a precedent.

So, how do Green Certifications impact our market? The Built Green certification standard means that Built Green certified homes were built to a standard that is beyond code. Simply put, Built Green certified homes are better than code-built homes because they are built to a standard that meets and exceeds our building codes. Not only are certified Built Green homes better quality than standard code built homes, but they cost less to own, have a reduced impact on the environment and put less strain on our water and energy resources. They are less toxic and have better indoor air quality which is imperative considering our growing asthma rates for adults and children across the US. Life in these homes are simply more comfortable and healthy.

Why aren't all builders building to this standard? Often the argument you hear builders make for not building to a standard that exceeds code is that it costs too much money, or that people will not pay extra for better quality. And yet most of the builders in the Top 20 are building at least some certified Built Green homes. So it stands to reason they have figured out how to make it work. Green Canopy would like to continue to encourage the Seattle homebuilding community to advance our collective building practices and embrace green building standards and techniques wherever and whenever possible. There will always be better quality homes than others, and homes that are more “green” than others. For those builders that have built and are continuing to build leading edge quality homes – THANK YOU and keep on keeping on blazing the trail for all of us to follow!

1122 23rd Ave S, gProjects; Images Courtesy of gProjects

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Community Opportunity: How to Impact the Seattle Housing Market

"The current fight over how we should pay for affordable housing, and who will fund it, is beating on the wrong drum."

Social and environmental impact investing and businesses continue to capture the interest and imagination of the Pacific Northwest, part of a broader global trend. Local early adopters affiliated with Element 8Impact HUB SeattleSeattle ImpactMission Investors Exchange and other institutions and individuals have forged impact investment paths that many others now find themselves traveling. It’s exciting to see the local impact investing ecosystem and communities flourish. However, a market imbalance persists with more impact investor dollars available than the limited number of qualified investment opportunities can absorb. Fortunately we’re seeing signs that the supply of impact investment opportunities is starting to catch up with demand from impact investors.

Green Canopy is an example of an impact-investor funded company that has been fueled by local early adopters. The company operates in a commodity industry: designing and building single family homes. However, we have been fortunate to attract thoughtful, impact-motivated equity and debt investors, due in large part to our mission, vision and values focused on achieving long term positive environmental and social change while simultaneously pursuing solid financial results.

Since 2011 Green Canopy has acquired nearly 90 projects; steadily building a community of homeowners, real estate agents, employees, shareholders and fund members that share our passion to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets. Importantly, we pursue our mission while being uncompromising in achieving key sustainability metrics, paying our employees a fair wage, selling our homes at fair market prices and generating long term shareholder value. Green Canopy has an opportunity to demonstrate it is not only possible, but highly rewarding for all involved to create and operate under a business model predicated on shared, blended value creation.

Similar opportunities are emerging across a wide spectrum of investment strategies that seek to satisfy growing consumer and investment demand for highly impactful market-driven solutions. As Seattle continues to attract tens of thousands of employees each year to fill quality jobs at companies like Amazon, Nordstom and Microsoft, our entire region feels the benefits. And yet, we are all faced with the unintended consequences of the additional infrastructure needed to support increased demand for critical services, including affordable workforce housing. The current fight between the City and the Coalition for Sustainable Jobs and Housing over how we should pay for affordable housing, and who will fund it, is beating on the wrong drum. Neither side seems to be asking the right questions or putting forth a broadly acceptable or effective solution for quickly increasing the supply of affordable workforce housing. 

One example of an alternative solution is Bellwether Housing’s recently launched Seattle Futures Fund. Bellwether has successfully developed and managed affordable workforce housing in Central Seattle for 35 years. However, as affordable housing has become an increasingly rare commodity in the communities Bellwether serves, the organization has had to innovate how its projects are financed; necessity = the mother of innovation. Through the Seattle Futures Fund, Bellwether believes it will more rapidly scale the number of units available to house social workers, teachers, baristas, police officers, firefighters, government workers, data center workers and others that serve our communities. A potentially wonderful, local example that attracts private capital as part of the solution to develop housing that is affordable and accessible to our urban working families.

As a community, we must collaboratively develop innovative, smart, market-driven solutions to problems that impact a wide range of constituents. Hopefully, a greater supply of viable impact investment opportunities for investors to assess, like Bellwether’s Seattle Futures Fund, will be forthcoming in the near-term. In the meantime, we would encourage investors and entrepreneurs alike to continue viewing our social and environmental problems through the lens of impact opportunity.


Contributed by Kyle Mylius, Board of Directors for Green Canopy, Inc. & Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

Where is Density?

Contributed by Krystal Meiners

As we gear up for the November Empower Happy Hour, I am excited to write an article that relates to the topic of Density.

Density is one of those subjects that can be mired in analytics – but it is also a very real phenomena that hits many hearts and can have an extreme impact on the life of a community. It has the capacity to improve or ruin neighborhoods – so it can be especially hard to know if you are doing it right.

One of my most recent and favorite density conversations was this past September at the Built Green Conference. The discussion was focused on enhancing Walkability in the suburbs by increasing the number and quality of connections between where people lived and where the wanted to go. The reason that I loved the conversation so much was because it completely challenged the notion that density does not exist in the suburbs.

Niko Larco, a professor from the University of Oregon and author of the book Site Design for Multifamily Housing: Creating Livable, Connected Neighborhoods, was the conference keynote. His address proposed that we take a new look at suburban density to see how we can make improvements in the walkability of what is currently existing. What he wanted to challenge was the idea that “No one walks in the suburbs”. Because, seriously… no one walks in the suburbs right?

When people think about the suburbs – they often think of sprawling single-family homes and whirling subdivisions that have no exits. It is true that this landscape exists a great deal in the suburbs and that this low-density development tends to blight  the countryside.

What we often glaze over, however, is the existence of real density. What Larco showed in his presentation was that DENISTY DOES EXIST in the suburbs. Maybe not in the single family housing that we are so familiar with – but perhaps somewhere else. What we are missing is that medium-density apartment developments are also a huge part of the suburban landscape and have been since the 70’s. While the analytics of density might point to extremely low ratios in the suburbs – the fact is that there are dense micro-developments that rival even the densest downtown core.

In fact, Larco and his students did a great study on walkability in the suburbs and surveyed hundreds of residents that live in apartment complexes throughout America. What they found was that, absolutely, people do walk in the suburbs. They walk to the convenient stores, they walk to the grocery store (even if it is through paths paved from hundreds of trips through the buffer zones), and they even knock down fences in an effort to get from point A to point B.

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I recall this kind of “suburban connection” from my youth. Particularly one that connected the woods behind my grandmother’s house to the back of the Dairy Queen. If we would have taken the paved route to this coveted location, it would have taken us three times as long to get our frozen treats – so we blazed trails, we pulled apart the fence and trampled through the poison ivy.

Now – while this kind of density isn’t what you would normally think of, and this kind of Walkability isn’t the type of trip that will show up on Walkscore – what I do love about this conversation is that it is about something more organic. It is about community-driven design in a sense. It is about people letting designers, planners and developers know what they want and where they want it.

It is about taking charge of your community. And that is really what this density conversation should be about, right? How can we enable the neighborhood to take charge of their community?

Larco has recently began working with apartment developers to give them a “recipe” for creating successful connections in and out of their development. Where these developers once built with blinders on – they are now noticing that, “hey, I don’t have to put up a fence around the whole property because there is this Pizza place right behind us.” And that saves money right?

It should and could be the same thing in any neighborhood. At Green Canopy we have recently taken steps to develop more community-driven designs. Our community meetings have become more robust – and our feedback is really changing the way that we design and develop properties. It is hard to marry what the neighbors want with what the market wants – but at the same time – there is no need to knock down fences, right?

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.

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