green homes seattle

Gearing up: The Built Green Conference and Awards are Right Around the Corner!

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With the annual Built Green conference is only five days away, we’re getting increasingly excited to gather as a community of green building professionals to exchange ideas, connect and honor those among us who have done an outstanding job this year of bringing people into Built Green homes. Before heading into the weekend, we took a minute to get to know one of our Selling Agent of the Year finalists – Daniel Burton of Redfin.

AN INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL BURTON
GREEN GENIUS SELLING AGENT OF THE YEAR FINALIST

Now that the green building movement has become more mainstream in Seattle, what are the most relevant value propositions that make homebuyers choose green homes over a code-built conventional homes?
 
People don’t always realize that sustainability is more cost effective in the long run. The process of real estate development is already so complicated; to raise the bar on the quality of construction and integrating all of those green features says a lot about the product that you’re buying into. While it does take more advance planning, time and thoughtfulness, it’s so worthwhile in the end. The final product is not only built better, but it was done using non-toxic and renewable-sourced materials. You know that it’s not just thrown together, which can happen with a lot of new construction projects.
 
When people make the connection and actually see the numbers add up, not only in the short term but in the long term life cycle of the building, they see that you can save thousands and thousands of dollars if you just make a few smart choices upfront like focusing on high energy-efficiency appliances, improved ventilation, LED lighting, and capturing natural daylight whenever possible.
 
How can we push the green building movement forward? 
 
I think the best way is to brag about it – to promote it more. People don’t always know what they want until they know it’s an option. Once they understand they’re options and are educated, they’re like ‘Yes, this is definitely what I want’. The more we do that, the more the industry will feel pressure to accommodate those demands. In a sense, consumers vote with their dollar. Employing visuals that can incorporate the data, like infographics, so that more people can actually see the differences in Built Green homes, which could help make green standards the new normal. It’s one thing to read about it, but a visual that puts it all together for you really helps the ideas click.

What does sustainability mean to you?
 
Sustainability to me means a comprehensive, holistic, and thoughtful approach to how human initiatives impact our world now, and more importantly later. It also involves an identity shift to thinking about ourselves as global citizens who think globally and act locally. A collective effort to pursue a Triple Bottom Line mindset where people, planet and profit are taken into equal consideration is essential as well. From a real estate perspective, we have to think about how our buildings effect the people and animals that live in or around them, health-wise, cost-wise as well as how our built environment impacts its surrounding natural world. 

Why do you think the Seattle area is national leader in the green & sustainable building movement?
 
We were one of the first cities to make it illegal to not recycle and implement standardized compost. That kind of ‘granola’ culture has been part of Seattle's natural fiber for a long time; since that was already here, it was a really good place for this kind of movement to take off. A lot of people are already mindful of these types of things. The Native American history that is woven into our region may have also played a part, especially concepts like the Seven Generations principle – the idea that anything you’re doing today needs to be thought of in terms of how it will impact, not just people today, but seven generations from now. I think that captures the spirit of the green building movement, because it’s not just about saving money now, but also being really serious about how our actions will impact the planet seven generations later.
 
The landscape and regional locality of Seattle is also really important to consider. We’re so incredible lucky to have nature all around us. We’re positioned between two major mountain ranges, in a beautiful valley of vegetation with water surrounding us. All of that is definitely something that is propelling the sustainability movement. We can’t not think about it, because it’s all around us.

What do you like to do to enjoy the PNW summers?
 
Some of my favorite summer activities are hiking and camping in the Cascades and the Olympics, as well as taking an annual trip to Lake Chelan.

What is your favorite place on Earth? 
 
It might sound cheesy, but it’s Seattle. I’ve done a lot of traveling, especially all over the U.S., and after visiting so many different states I feel really lucky to be in Seattle. This is where it’s at.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, what sport would you want to compete in?
 
It would have to be snowboarding. My fate was sealed by having the same last name (Burton) as such a popular snowboarding brand!

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. 

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.

Last Courtyard in Paradise

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Contributed by Krystal Meiners, Marketing Manager for Green Canopy, Inc.

View this project on Houzz.  It is 38 degrees and sunny in Seattle – a forecast that is quite unusual for the Pacific Northwest. Despite the chill, I step into a home that is warm, cozy and filled with light. I love it. I know I say this about all of our Green Canopy Homes – but this one is truly a green dream home. Miriam is amazing.

Today I am meeting Ryan onsite. He is one of our most talented PM’s and is churning this home out nearly one month ahead of schedule. Impressive, Ryan ;)

Before we get started – it almost goes without saying - the most special thing about Miriam, is the interior courtyard.  We both enthusiastically agree. It is an amazing and quiet meditative space in the very heart of the home. The entire project seems to be planned around this space. The path from the front door to the courtyard makes me think of a conch shell – with a circuitous flow from the public entry and entertainment areas, spiraling inward to the heart of the home.



Ryan gives me a tour of the home and we talk about the project and the components that help us achieve that Green Canopy VIBE. Value –Innovation – Beauty – Efficiency. Every Green Canopy Home grows from these 4 roots.

Value

  • Neighborhood – This home is walking distance (Walkscore 80) to both Seattle Children’s and U-Village as well as some cute local shops on 55th.

  • Energy Savings - With the power of an 18kW Heat Pump unit blowing overhead – a 32 degree day in Seattle is unnoticeable indoors. AND with a test-out score of 15,000kWh/year this home is definitely going to be a money-saver!

Beauty

  • We already said it once – but here it is again. INDOOR COURTYARDS ROCK YOUR SOCKS OFF! Literally! We joked that you could enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning in your birthday suit, but no one could see you... basically you’re inside, but you are really outside! Fun.

  • Highest Ceilings Ever. Move over downtown lofts and luxury condos… we have 20’ ceilings in this home too.

  • That’s quite the fine façade. A mix of materials, color and the right proportions give this modern home a humanscale touch. Modern architecture often gets a lot of slack for being too “monumental” but Miriam not only has a dynamic façade but the massing is similar to other homes on the block. It makes for an eclectic but appropriately scaled home on the street that reflects similar massing and structures without copy-catting or invoking the “neo-crapsman”  builder style

Innovation

  • New Stair Spec! Its always exciting when our PM’s are able to create win’s for the company that can be repeated over and over again throughout our homes. This spec combines precast concrete treads with reclaimed beams from another Green Canopy Home. It’s a bit more expensive but the installation is faster. WIN

  • Re-envisioning a courtyard - Green Canopy was fortunate to salvage this homes original footprint – which is how we managed to get the inner courtyard in the first place! The original floor plan was a U-Shape with a courtyard that opened onto a full yard – we closed the loop, so to speak, and enclosed that fantastic space.

  • New bamboo closet systems! Pretty and renewable!



Energy Efficiency

  • The original home on this lot tested in at 22,000kWh and tested out at 15kWh. While that is an impressive transformation – Ryan, who is also our HVAC guru, has created a personal goal to have his homes test out at 14,000kWh. Go Ryan!

  • All of homes have the bells and whistles of the Energy Efficiency Seal - the 4th root in our 4 Roots. It also has some additional features that are pretty cool: Convection cook-top range (a product that seemingly works via magic and was created by wizards); As well as Bottom-loading freezer. Why is this efficient? The short answer: Cold air sinks – when you open your freezer air escapes more easily if it is up top. Period. We are just keeping the air where it wants to be.

Miriam is an all-around classy and unique home – that was recently snatched up in our new Presale program.

Happy Holidays!

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Our Colorful Debate

Contributed by Sonja Gustafson:

One of the great things about home building is the lively stream of passers-by who offer encouragement, ideas, and remarks about the project.  By far the most encouraging comments from people who stop are along the lines of “we’re so glad you didn’t tear this down and build a skinny tower” or “we appreciate that you’re keeping the original style.”  Thanks for that!

And when we painted the exterior of the house, this too generated a stream of comments from neighbors and visitors.  The color scheme was a mix of a vibrant green with an orange/red accent.  A few of us on the team were pretty enthused about the colors, but on the construction site the comments ranged from “I love it!” to “truly horrid” and even a clever “Oh, but I thought you wanted to sell the house.”

Oh.  Whoops.

Back at the G2B Homes office, we began a vigorous discussion, which in itself generated Sam’s recent blog post about our color choice.  But despite the fact that we actually liked these colors, we needed to address the obvious issue that many neighbors - people who would be living near and seeing this house every day -  did not.  That matters to us.  We didn’t want to present a product that would distract discussion from that which we get most excited about:  driving efficiency in existing buildings while ensuring quality, innovation, value and good design.

There were pros and cons to re-painting.  Obviously, the pros would be that we could remove a barrier to market acceptance (“make it look better”).  The cons were significant:  not only was this going to cost us time and money, it also meant covering new paint.  The obvious wastefulness in this was troublesome to us.  We are, after all, a BuiltGreen builder, and now faced the tension between waste and an attractive, salable product.

So we decided to bring the debate back to the neighborhood.   If we really needed to make a change, why not engage the very people who had a strong interest in the aesthetic of their surroundings?  We printed up flyers, got up on Facebook, invited people to engage, and held a neighborhood open house to let them decide the new color!  Over 40 people showed up, took a look at our swatch display, and voted. The winning color is great – we didn’t vote ourselves, but it was our favorite – and it is going to go up soon.

This entire debate – both within the team and with the local community – was so valuable and engaging that we are going to offer neighborhood input in every project.   We will select a palate of options and then take it out to for a vote (before the first coat!)  The result is neighbors participating in the improvement of their community.  What fun!

We’ll continue to use tools to help make the process fun and efficient.  If you want to follow the action, be sure to become a fan on our G2B Homes page on Facebook.

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