Seattle Neighbors Turning Green
In 1963, Lieutenant Valentina Tereshkova, a former textile worker in the old Soviet Union, became the first woman launched into space. That same year, a three-bedroom, two-bath home was built on 23rd Avenue SW in the Pigeon Point neighborhood in Seattle.
What do these apparently unrelated facts have in common?
Nothing really, except for this: That same house, now totally renovated with a high-quality energy efficient interior, recently sold for $319,950. The seller, a Seattle-based company called Green Canopy Homes, specializes in upgrading urban fixer-upper homes in stable neighborhoods. It names each property in honor of someone or something from the year the house was originally built.
Thus, “Valentina” moved from one kind of space to another.
Naming each home that it buys, rehabs and sells, is a small part of Green Canopy’s core mission: to demonstrate the advantages of energy efficiency in an older property by reducing its energy use and carbon footprint, to help stabilize the neighborhood and to make a profit for the company.
“Our goal is to inspire energy efficiency use in residential markets,” said Aaron Fairchild, Green Canopy’s CEO, a self-described “eco-capitalist.” “If you truly want to make an impact on the environment, you have to incorporate market-based mechanisms, and if you can figure out a way to align environmental values with what the market’s looking for, you’ve hit a perfect nexus.”
Fairchild was a third-generation banker, who left the family business in 2006 to strike out on his own. He began Green Canopy in 2009. Valentina is one of eight houses that have sold; three others are currently on the market.
The company’s strategy follows a straight line with each property: Find properties worth rehabilitating within stable, walkable neighborhoods, employ a third party to measure its existing Energy Performance Score, renovate with a goal of improving energy efficiency, determine its new Energy Performance Score, then price it to fit the neighborhood.
The upgrades include sealing the home from drafts, installing energy efficient appliances and upgrading plumbing and electrical fixtures as well as water, heating and ventilation systems. Overall, they can reduce the new owner’s utility bill by $80 to $150 a month. Depending on the size of monthly mortgage payments, that’s a considerable savings that Fairchild says is a major selling point.
“We’re not spending any more than a normal builder would spend,” he said. “The difference is their house is not ‘green’, and we’re turning over, essentially, a new, turnkey house that doesn’t need any work when we’re done.”
Valentina is a 1,720 square foot mid-century modern home with a large wood deck and views of the west Seattle skyline. For the exterior, neighbors chose Apache Red over Seattle Mist, Rural Earth and Midnight Blue, and with interior renovations, the Energy Performance Score improved to 13,000 kilowatt hours from 21,000.
What’s next? Green Canopy is only getting started, Fairchild said. The company shareholders recently voted to increase spending to buy homes in two locations outside of Seattle. Beyond that, who knows?
“We see our business,” he said, “as scalable and expandable.”