Green Canopy Homes
Green Canopy Homes builds its homes to address environmental and social issues.
By Tim O’Connor
When Green Canopy Homes builds a new project, it gets the entire neighborhood involved. The company holds community meetings at the onset of every project, often before it takes ownership of the property.
“We’re talking to the community well before even design, usually during the feasibility phase,” President and CEO Aaron Fairchild says. Neighbors can even vote on the color of the home, giving them a voice in how it blends into their community.
The meetings serve to alleviate concerns and demonstrate to neighbors how Green Canopy’s social and environmental consciousness makes it different from many other urban infill builders in the Portland, Ore., and Seattle areas. “We’re not doing this to placate, Fairchild says. “We’re doing this because we want to learn from the community and talk about our mission.
“The brand comes through as an authentic brand,” he continues. “It’s because we are sincere.”
Communities and homebuilders are accustomed to working with companies that have craftsmen, but that lack a larger purpose. Green Canopy strives to marry its skill for building quality homes with its belief that homebuilding can improve communities.
“You have a broad ecosystem of stakeholders that are impacted through the work that you do and if you are a very purposeful organization, that carriers through,” Fairchild says. That purpose led Green Canopy to become a certified B Corp, a for-profit company that meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Green Canopy Homes was born out of Fairchild’s frustration and sense of urgency over issues relating to climate and environmental degradation. In 2009, he decided to use his experience in real estate construction, development and fund management to create a company that would build houses in a way that contributed to solving societal and environmental problems.
“We didn’t start the company just to make money,” Fairchild says. “We started the company to make money work for positive change.”
It starts with Green Canopy’s employees. The company pays all its full time people a minimum of $15 an hour, covers 100 percent of insurance premiums and offers ongoing development and educational opportunities. “We don’t hire people to build our homes, we build homes to hire people,” Fairchild says.ency over issues relating to climate and environmental degrel
Green Canopy designs its homes to limit their environmental impacts. Energy efficiency is the first priority. Every Green Canopy house is built with well-insulated walls to trap heat, heat recovery ventilators to recycle warmth from stale air as it is circulated out of the structure, and efficient heating and cooling systems.
That combination creates a tight building envelop and enables many Green Canopy homes to use less than 7,000 kWh of energy annually. Further, Green Canopy uses only non-volatile organic compounds, reclaimed and more sustainable materials in construction and permeable surfaces wherever possible.
The lower energy use has made it possible for Green Canopy to start targeting net-zero energy homes. The company builds its roofs with enough surface area and the conduits in place to support a solar panel array that is large enough to offset the expected energy consumption of that house.
In building energy-efficient homes, Green Canopy hopes to evoke change throughout the entire market. The company created the Green Genius Network, a resource for homebuyers and real estate agents looking to buy or sell green homes. The program offers continuing education classes on green building and sustainable real estate, and it honors real estate brokers that list, market and sell homes with a positive ecological and social impact at the annual Green Genius awards.
All of Green Canopy’s homes are built on spec and priced between the mid-$400,000s and $1.8 million, depending on size and location. The homes are firmly in the luxury market; however, the company is seeking ways to serve a wider economic audience.
Green Canopy is developing a program that uses a different capitalization structure to target buyers who make 80 percent of the area’s median income. Despite the more affordable price, the homes will retain all of the features of Green Canopy’s more expensive options, including net zero energy capability.
In a few years, Fairchild says these lower-cost houses could make up as much as 25 percent of Green Canopy’s portfolio. “It’s taken a broad network of people to be able to make it possible,” he explains.
Affordable homes will build on Green Canopy’s effort to solve social problems through responsible building. “Our cities are not vibrant if they are only enclaves of the affluent,” Fairchild says. “The future will have even more inclusionary opportunities for households that wouldn’t have considered it possible to live in a really hot neighborhood let alone a more sustainably built home.”