Yes… Building Green Does Cost More

August 18th, 2014 by Krystal

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

 


“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


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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 is not 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 #1 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.


If a tree falls, we hear it.

August 5th, 2014 by Krystal

Contributed by Krystal Meiners

Recently, our CEO wrote an article in which he mentioned that “at Green Canopy, we recognize that we are firmly planted with everyone else somewhere along the spectrum of hypocrisy.” He was talking about how it is very easy in this industry to not be “green enough” – and how, when you are dealing with market-based realities, you can’t always make the most climate sensitive decisions.

This is hard for our team. It’s hard for any values-based organization.

Despite that – we do our best. If we can’t do the best thing – we will always do the next best thing. And we never stop innovating. Nor do we give in to the status quo.

Most recently our team had to cut down a towering Blue Atlas Cedar on one of our project sites. How could Green Canopy – whose very logo is a stately tree – cut down trees?! Sure there are plenty of design opportunities for homes built around trees, on top of trees, in trees – but the fact was, this was not a custom home and design dollars had to be spared for other resource efficiencies.

This Blue Atlas will not go to waste though. We spend a great many hours and dedicated brain power to ensure that we limit our waste streams as much as we can. Instead, we milled the wood on site and we will incorporate it into design features in our future projects.

The arborist that we use in Seattle is Treecycle and the mobile miller is AJ’s Custom Portable Saw Milling; their services include felling trees and onsite milling into usable lumber – or in our case – into live edge slabs. It is an amazing process to see – and our PM Ryan Nieto was gracious enough to capture it last week.

Below is a time lapse of the milling. You will likely see this noble tree in the near future in a few of our homes or in other projects after it cures. Similar to this Blue Atlas, we have another cedar that we milled a few years ago. It will be used for this year’s BuiltGreen and Green Genius Award plaques – celebrating the region’s most sustainable projects and people.

We made similar plaques last year for the Green Genius winners and are excited to be working with Built Green to craft all of the awards this year. It is great to have these trees come full circle as a reminder to all builders about the use and reuse of this world’s incredible resources.

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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.


Cultures of Respect, Trust & Love

July 29th, 2014 by Krystal

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

Photo courtesy of The Shopping Sherpa on Flickr

I recently read the PSBJ article by Rachel Lerman on elephants under the corporate table. In the article she recapped an interview between Joe Wallin of Davis Wright Tremaine and Dan Levitan, the founder of Maveron. It was striking to hear Levitan, a venture capitalist, talk about not underestimating the importance of a “holistic team where there are no elephants under the table.” He noted that the most agile and high-functioning teams have love, respect, and appreciation for each other.

It sounds like Levitan is a millennial at heart. Corporate America is changing rapidly. The 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s Mad Men era of, “do as you are told” and heavy, top down management is a thing of the past. And as this interview illustrates, the importance of healthy corporate cultural development can no longer be denied. The millennial generation has been given a bad rap and pointed to as entitled and fickle job-hoppers, however my experience is that inside every top caliber talent, whether they were born before or after 1981, exists a millennial mind and heart.

“When the right cause is coupled with a great cultural framework, magic happens.”

High functioning people need to be inspired to work hard. As Elon Musk recently said, “Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard, putting in long hours for a cause is easy.” In addition to having a cause that inspires, high functioning people need to feel respected in order to contribute their all. Furthermore, they will not work for a team that they themselves cannot respect. Just look at the non-profit world. Nonprofits are all about great causes yet, we all probably know at least one or two that can never seem to live up to their potential. Having a great cause or purpose in today’s corporate America isn’t enough… creating inspiration at intersection of people and the cause results from a deliberate focus on corporate culture.

When the right cause is coupled with a great cultural framework, magic happens. Think of that framework as a tapestry of shared values. Everything from who washes dishes in the corporate kitchen to how board meetings are run… those values present themselves to the rest of the team. If there is misalignment or inconsistency, no matter how noble the cause, the ecosystem of the organization will begin to break down. Respect and love for each other is so important.

Equally important is trust, where confident leaders motivate not through the force of their egos, but by letting go of control and empowering their team to take responsibility for their own decisions. Having autonomy is a must for top tier talent (micro-managers suck) and talented people are the very people that we all want to work with. Good managers will let go of control beyond what feels comfortable and play to the strengths of the team. Playing to someone’s strengths is simply another way of saying, don’t ask people to do what they are not good at. If a team member was hired for a job that they are not good at or interested in, then management should recognize their complicity and move the individual into a role that they are good at and interested in mastering.

Lastly, when thinking about the insights of people like Levitan, consider how far we have come in managing top talent in America, and then consider just how far we still have yet to go. Thankfully, the millennial mind has been born and is demanding more from corporate America. It demands that managers earn the right to retain top talent… top talent isn’t only interested in money.

The problems we face as a nation and as a species balancing on stressed and changing ecosystems are pressing to say the least. Establishing corporate cultures that are designed ultimately to respect people and play to their strengths is a must for the successful businesses of the future, and a must for a fragile species in need of corporate solutions that address resource scarcity on a planet in transition.


Inspiring at the Intersection of Corporate Attitude and Climate Action

July 18th, 2014 by Krystal

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

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Horia Varlan

I met my wife, Susan, 14 years ago at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. I was a banker and Susan was forming a non-profit mentorship program for at-risk youth in south Seattle. She was attending the meeting to recruit mentors and came away with a lot more than she anticipated. We lived very different lives at the time however we shared similar values of social and environmental justice.

Over the course of the next several years I continued to feel juxtaposed in life. I was working to make money, and really wanted to be making a difference. The juxtaposed feeling culminated in meeting another couple on a hiking outing in 2003, when I was asked what I did for a living. When I responded that I worked in banking, the couple immediately looked at Susan and asked what she did for a living. When she said that she worked in the non-profit sector, they quickly struck up a conversation leaving me feeling like a third wheel. Ugh… it was time for a change.

I guess I share many of the attitudes of the millennial generation, meaning I am far from alone. I am ambitious and demand a lot from an employer in order to earn my respect and retention. I am fine working long hours from the office and from home if I am inspired, and I believe in perhaps a naïve notion that I can live an aligned life.

When I reflect on my own experience and look out at the world around me I see the intersection of two major factors that are driving our company, Green Canopy, and the future of business:

1) The prevailing cultural attitude of the “millennial” shared by so many born before and after 1981, and;

2) Society’s hard charging transition into a new world paradigm of severe resource constraints and climate upheaval.

The success of Green Canopy and other companies is limited only in our ability to positively respond to these two things.

The first of these requires that we inspire our employees and earn the right of their respect and continued employment. And whether the business of an organization is about addressing environmental challenges head on like Green Canopy or not, the most successful businesses of the future will intentionally conduct their operations in the most resource efficient manner possible. Simple, yet oh so difficult.

“At Green Canopy we recognize that we are firmly planted with everyone else somewhere along the spectrum of hypocrisy.”

After the culminating hike in 2003, I spent much of my time trying to create alignment in my life by finding ways to apply my skills and experiences toward environmental issues. That eventually led me to quit working at my father’s bank in order to start my own enterprise. And in 2008 I shared an idea I had recently been mulling on with a longtime friend. After a short period of time Sam and I began developing the plan and finding the right partners that would lead to starting Green Canopy over one year later.

At Green Canopy we recognize that we are firmly planted with everyone else somewhere along the spectrum of hypocrisy. Our mission is to inspire resource efficiency and – while we are extremely intentional and deliberately try to always make the most resource efficient and less environmentally harmful homebuilding decisions – we have yet to perfect our efforts in building the utmost in green and resource efficient homes. Sometimes we are faced with no other alternative than to make the less resource efficient or more wasteful decision. It sincerely frustrates the team when this happens. We certainly have green building design and development standards that we never sacrifice, but the cruel realities of market-based economics sometimes force our hand. And yet many times these very same constraints open up new possibilities. However, at the end of the day we are far from perfect. So when I talk about our company it comes from a position of deep humility and a desire to inspire others to take action.

Inspiring at the intersection of the prevailing cultural attitude and the new world paradigm of severe resource constraints is clearly tricky. How we go about it at Green Canopy is through delivering – for our employees – what Daniel Pink has written heavily about: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Intentionally building a company designed to deliver these three essential things to its employees took a lot of thought and dedication to cultural development. As a result of our culture we cannot help but to give employees autonomy to make their own empowered decisions, the ability to master what they are already interested in, and a binding sense of purpose. Inspiring at the intersection happens right there, with the binding sense of purpose. Developing a cultural framework that allows every employee to meaningfully engage in addressing that purpose is part of the work.

When Susan and I reflect on the journey of the last decade and the sacrifices that we have made as a family to get here, we know that it was well worth the struggle. We are aligned through our work and in our day-to-day lives and we are proud that through this career we are making a meaningful and lasting difference. Also, despite the hike and my feelings of career shame, my banking skills definitely come in handy at Green Canopy. The future of business requires innovation on every front, including capital.AaronSusan

image_miniAaron will be the Keynote Speaker at The Future of Business Conference in Bellingham, WA on July 31st. More information about the conference or to register click here.


NW Green Home Tour on April 26th Join us at Dinah from 11am-5pm

April 16th, 2014 by Krystal

This year we are excited to present Dinah – a compact, super-efficient home in Whittier Heights.  We expect that this home will completely over-shadow the tour – Dinah is taking over!  No, but really, we are excited about Northwest EcoBuilding Guild and Built Green’s third annual green home tour.  We had a great time last year when we featured Annie – and it is always a blast seeing the amazing houses being built and renovated around Seattle.  This year is shaping up to be even larger than last with more homes, more contractors, and more energy.

You can join our Green Canopy staff as well as the folks from SustainableWorks at Dinah on April 26th from 11am-5pm. If you are interested in Dinah as a homebuyer but are not able to make the tour – please give us a call to set up a free tour. 206.792.7280

Hope to see you there!

 

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Portland’s Earth Advantage Institute is Serving Up Some Smart Classes!

February 26th, 2014 by Krystal

Aaron and I are always looking for ways to get the word out to the real estate community about how important energy efficiency and sustainability is in this market. When we launched the Green Genius program – it was our biggest effort to promote those instructors and schools who are building cutting-edge curriculum that keeps with the pace of industry changes. Today Aaron had the chance to fill in for me in Portland while I truck away on our Annual Report (keep your eyes peeled for that soon!). I was eager to attend a class at Earth Advantage Institute to see how they are embracing a greener market – especially since we have our hearts set on having a few Portland projects in our Work In Progress by the fall! Fingers crossed… Here is what Aaron had to say about the class this morning :) Thanks EAI!

From the desk of our CEO.

“Got up and drove to Portland at 4:30 this morning to attend a class at Earth Advantage Institute entitled, “Marketing for Green Homes”.
 
Well done EAI! Absolutely worth the drive. Loved the class and took away several great nuggets of information. Keep these coming. Green Canopy and our Green Genius Program highly endorses this class and we hope to promote the class if it is ever offered again.
 
The instructor, Erik Cathart, the Director of Marketing and Strategy at Earth Advantage, was knowledgeable, funny and very engaging. 
 
My hat’s off to you guys… Seriously, I took my hat off during the class! And if you know me, you know I rarely remove the trucker hat… ;-)”

Green Canopy & Climate Solutions Host the First Empower Happy Hour

February 1st, 2014 by Krystal

HeaderImg_Empower_29v3The inaugural Empower Happy Hour  this past Wednesday was an amazing success . Thank you for coming and helping to advance the discussion! And a special thanks to our co-host, Climate Solutions, for providing such a compelling topic to anchor the event! We had maybe 100 people attend and I spoke with several folks that were very appreciative for the opportunity to come together around the topic of the evening. We will certainly do this again.

Many conversations were held addressing the question, “How can clean energy gain broad support as an engine of shared prosperity and sustainable economic opportunity?” Many conversations spun out from this question to tackle neighboring themes. Here are some responses I heard from the evening:

“Democratizing capital to allow the non-wealthy to invest in clean tech companies and solutions.”

“ Tie social welfare programatic funding to clean tech incentives or taxes or messages, etc. Create a ‘What’s in it for me’ by connecting government programs to help the poor to our clean tech solutions of the future. “This program partially paid for by wind power wind falls…” you get the idea.

“ Educate, educate, educate… and start educating our children about our environmental challenges at the earliest ages possible.”

“ Demonstrate through stories how the clean energy economy helps builds the middle class, and offers family-wage jobs and more sustainable livelihoods than those tied to fossil fuels.”

“ Share and explore solution stories from oversees in the developing world that can inspire similar approaches here in the United States.”

Green Canopy has a special mission to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets, and it certainly is an inspiration to us to see a crowd come together to advance the discussion around topics that align with our mission. Thanks again to everyone for coming – and please join the conversation on Facebook #EmpowerHappyHour.

Until next time!

Last Courtyard in Paradise

November 27th, 2013 by Krystal

Front 02View 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.

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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!

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  • 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

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  • 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!

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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!

Additional Photos on Remodeling and Home Design