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.

March 30, 2010 at 7:40 am Leave a comment

G2B Homes on Facebook

G2B Homes is now on Facebook! Become a fan and join in on our discussion board topics. We’d love you voice your opinion on all things related to G2B.

March 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

Raise Your Glass to Support Local Energy Efficiency

In the spirit of “doing well by doing good”, G2B Ventures is partnering with Home Performance Washington and the Fremont Brewery for a special opportunity to network with fellow energy professionals and help Fremont Brewery make energy efficiency improvements.

$1 from every pour will go in a fund dedicated to energy efficiency improvements!

When:
Tuesday, March 9th, 3-5pm

Where:
Fremont Brewery
3409 Woodland Park Avenue North
Seattle, 98103

Please come out in support of energy efficiency!

March 5, 2010 at 11:25 am 1 comment

American Innovation

Contributed by Sam Lai:

“OMG!  Who picked these colors…a bunch of preschoolers?  You should pick colors that fit in with the rest of the neighborhood!”

These were some of the negative reactions to the paint colors of one of our current construction projects, the Sequoia House.  The colors certainly stand out; they were selected by a pair of chic urban color consultants who run Blackbird Painting, our paint contractors.  A poll of local architects, graphic artists, designers, visual artists, developers and real estate agents were also keen on the bold palate.  But perhaps the most meaningful inspiration for the paint colors came from an early 1900’s paint color chart.  While modernizing the functional utility of the home, we’ve aimed to pay homage to the original bones of this home.  Regardless of the historical rooting, the bright colors of the Sequoia House may be controversial because they don’t conform to the grey, taupe and monotonous blue most of us are used to seeing in modern cookie cutter suburban neighborhoods.  Which begs the questions…what’s the big deal?  Why is it so important to conform?

As Americans, do we value protecting the status quo instead of innovating and making progress?  I would hope not.  Our national ancestors should inspire us with the ingenuity of light bulbs, space travel and modern Democracy.  Perhaps we have inherited so much that we think we have more to lose if we step out of line.

The American mortgage industry deemed the conformity of our housing stock bankable.  And it was.  When our neighbors have black roofs, we tend to want to fit in, even when it’s antithetical to the principle that form should follow function.  As a residential real estate appraiser, my entire discipline is built around the premise that we value conformity as a society.  The market sales comparison method is deemed the most direct and dependable valuation approach.  A property’s market value is determined by comparable sales (“comps”) which give evidence to the repetition of the same marketable characteristics.  Line items on the standard Fannie/Freddie 1004 sales comparison grid include:  design style, quality of construction, room count, gross living area, energy efficient items…woa…energy efficient items?  One might ask, “what is the standard boilerplate data input for energy efficient items?”  The answer is “Typical/None Noted.”  Thus far there has been little evidence of notable energy efficient innovations in our residential housing stock today.

Our mission at G2B Homes is to drive energy efficiency into existing buildings.  Our current tactic is to renovate existing older homes utilizing green methods & materials with a primary focus on energy efficiency.  Combining comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits and green methods & materials in an old 1926 Tudor has certainly raised eyebrows of the same folks who stop to criticize the paint colors.  Some comments include;

  • “What’s up with the huge Sequoia tree in the backyard?
  • The 20’+ circumference redwood in the backyard would compel some developers to break out the chainsaw, but we saw the tree as an elegant carbon siphon that’s been around longer than our grandparents and a gorgeous canopy for the backyard.

  • What’s up with all the green hype? All that expensive greenie stuff doesn’t amount to anything!
  • Comprehensive insulation & air sealing is a core element of our program.  It is typically one of the most neglected, yet critical, tasks in a residential remodel.

  • Why would you use a light colored roof?
  • Lighter colored roofs reduce urban heat island affect and building overheating.

  • What are those weird glass tubes on the roof?
    A 30 tube solar system can produce more than 70% of the yearly energy requirements for domestic hot water for a 3 bedroom house.

So why do we stick our necks out?  Why risk standing out when other builders can flip houses by covering up un-insulated walls with a quick coat of paint and a layer of cheap carpet in muted tones of grey & taupe?  Why is innovating worth the risk for G2B?

  1. We aspire to be innovators; deeply connected to those unflappable, optimistic American pioneers who were unafraid to try and make life better.
  2. The new American home buyer understands- “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” -Henry David Thoreau
  3. It’s worth the risk for our planet and our kids.

So, what about those bright colors? If enough neighbors complained, would we be willing to re-paint the house to fit into the neighborhood?  Probably.  The core of our mission is to drive energy efficiency into our existing housing stock – having accomplished that we have room to be flexible  But then again, maybe not.  These colors are, after all, classically American.

March 3, 2010 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

G2B in the News!

G2B Ventures and our “Sequoia House” aired on King 5 news channel on February 22 during the 5 o’clock news segment!  Check out how G2B is differentiating homes in a difficult market. Watch here!

February 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

Aaron Writes for the Daily Journal of Commerce

Aaron Fairchild, CEO of G2B Ventures, recently wrote an article for the Daily Journal of Commerce.  The article, titled “3 Steps to Put Homeowners on the Path to Energy Efficiency”, discusses the growing desire to make homes more energy efficient.  However, many homeowners do not have the knowledge or resources to tackle these upgrades on their own.  Aaron mentions how using a shared metric, expanding lending options for energy efficiency projects and requiring energy assessments at the point of sale will both increase homeowner’s knowledge about and ability to complete energy updates and help drive energy efficiency in the residential real estate market.  Check it out here!

February 22, 2010 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

A Healthy Tension

Post contributed by Aaron Fairchild:

Doing good for society and the planet and being profitable at it isn’t easy, nor does it come about without a healthy dose of daily tension. At G2B Ventures, the tension we deal with comes with our mission, which is to drive energy efficiency in existing buildings to the greatest extent possible while continuing to make solid, for-profit, self-sustaining decisions. Last week a segment on G2B and our program of buying distressed homes and driving energy efficiency was aired on our local NPR affiliate, KPLU. The day after the segment I received some emails that challenged us on our efficiency work. They didn’t doubt our approach; they challenged the need to replace the windows and tightened up the home in West Seattle to prevent leaks.

Whenever you put yourself out there in the way we have done so far, you have to be open to feedback and criticism. G2B is not only open to it, we encourage and welcome it. So I thought I would put the email discussion out there and available for everyone to understand what goes into these sorts of decisions. So without divulging the source, the concern with windows relates to the imbedded carbon associated with simple replacement verses refurbishment as witnessed through a life cycle assessment. In many cases the embedded carbon associated with replacing windows can be much higher than the efficiency gained through new windows. The second concern is the indoor air quality issues that come from and older house that has been tightened up and is not well ventilated, potentially causing mold/rot problems. The G2B response to these concerns can be read below:

“Restoring the original windows in the West Seattle home was not an option. We had five different types of windows from different vintages, with many of those cracked or not sealing due to the house settling over time and through multiple earth quakes over its 100+ year life. Once the house was lifted and leveled-out, at least one window broke in the process and many others became dysfunctional and couldn’t open preventing egress. We are happy to point out that in our next house we will receive Built Green Certification and dramatically improved energy performance, while NOT replacing the windows.

“As you know, “sealing up air gaps” is a common phrase used in building performance, but obviously it’s not as cut & dried as running around the outside of the house with caulk guns and 2part foam.  Using the West Seattle house as an example: exterior rigid foam acts as an additional drainage plane and reduces thermal bridging between framing members, but horizontal seems are loose, ‘Z’ flashed with building paper for moisture vapor escape.  We had ship lap for exterior wall sheathing to deal with, so the wall needing to breathe is one of multiple problems to address.  Attics are vented of course, and special care was taken to fir out the vaulted ceilings to create additional space for ventilation.  Insulation is largely blown cellulose.  And finally, airtight barrier is at the drywall with air sealing at light switch and outlet boxes, penetration & physical air sealing in joist bays, below the knee walls if blocking is missing.  You are correct that mold/moisture is an issue in old homes, and frequently this occurs due to condensation at the cold/hot junctures inside the wall cavity due to a lack of insulation.

G2B Homes does NOT approach each project with a cookie cutter and pre-planned approach. This is the challenge with existing building rehabilitation. We try to be thoughtful and deliberate and in addition to the G2B institutional knowledge we work with some of the best residential building science folks in town to help inform each project.

“I hope this helps address/alleviate concerns. We are very dedicated to this discussion and have it on-going with every project. Our intention is to be mindful of these issues and to transparently create thoughtful solutions. We want to set the bar as high as we can, but we may not always get it right. We are human, makes mistakes, and as you know the market will only allow for so much efficiency to be profitably pushed into projects.”

February 17, 2010 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

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