Pacific Northwest companies merge and raise cash to build energy efficient, modular construction tech – GeekWire

2022-06-15 11:36:42 By : Mr. Johnny Yu

by Lisa Stiffler on November 3, 2021 at 2:51 pmNovember 3, 2021 at 7:53 pm

While COVID-19 and vaccinations have pushed many into us-versus-them camps, for Bec Chapin, the pandemic instead inspired an appreciation for how much we’re connected.

“We’re in it together already,” Chapin said. “So let’s be together.”

Chapin realized that togetherness in a newly announced business merger between NODE, the Seattle-based, carbon-cutting construction company that they co-founded, and Seattle and Portland’s Green Canopy, an eco-focused real estate developer and home builder. The venture, called Green Canopy NODE, has raised $10 million in new funding to help launch the partnership. The business has 31 employees and expects to double that number over the next year.

Chapin will be co-chief executive alongside Green Canopy co-founder Aaron Fairchild. The business will maintain offices in both cities. Splitting the CEO role will require a lot of collaboration and clear communication, Chapin said, but the model, which is more commonly found in European leadership structures, is a workable one.

“We have a ‘king complex’ in the U.S.,” they said. “It ends up that we can really collaborate. Together we can be exponentially more effective.”

Chapin and Fairchild have already demonstrated their professional compatibility. Chapin worked for Green Canopy for a few years, helping the business reorganize to cut costs and improve speed. Chapin admits to re-organizing themselves out of a job, but their friendship with Fairchild endured. In fact, Fairchild is the one who connected Chapin with Don Bunnell and the two launched NODE in 2016. The startup was featured in GeekWire in 2018.

With the merger, Bunnell has left day-to-day operations and is serving on the company’s board of directors.

There’s general agreement that the construction sector is well overdue for modernizing, and many see modular or prefab technology as part of the solution. NODE has been developing an approach to building energy-saving homes out of pre-fabricated components made from environmentally friendly materials. The strategy cuts the amount of labor needed, has a smaller carbon-footprint and could help address the housing shortage, Chapin said.

But construction technology is a tricky business to make profitable and to scale, particularly when getting started. One of the big challenges is the super slow permitting process. It takes 12-to-18 months in Seattle for building permits to be approved; in nearby Tacoma it’s three months.

“Think about your startup mentality,” Chapin said. The time scale is totally different. “It’s what can you do in one month, what can you do in a week?”

And it’s a complicated ecosystem with lots of moving parts. Merging with Green Canopy, which started in 2010, helps flesh out that ecosystem. The Portland business encompasses real estate development, manages real estate funds, and provides project design, feasibility and construction of energy-efficient residential multi-family projects.

The merged business will incorporate the structural panels that NODE has developed into Green Canopy projects. The long-term plan is to engineer a system of modular panels that will assemble into an entire home. Chapin hopes to reach that goal within two years, and ultimately create a modular kit that anyone could order and hire an independent contractor to assemble.

Green Canopy NODE is part of the Pacific Northwest’s growing climate tech sector, which includes businesses trying to cut the carbon emissions associated with construction, transportation, agriculture and energy production. Climate tech companies in the region have landed more that $1 billion in capital since the start of 2020, according to a GeekWire analysis.

Before this latest round, Green Canopy raised nearly $15 million and NODE has received $2.8 million from investors. The new round includes Chloe Capital, Portland Seed Fund, Techstars and others.

There are other successful companies building energy-efficient, modular, sustainable housing and commercial spaces:

But the sector has had notable failures as well. California-based construction giant Katerra went bankrupt in June, despite raising more than $2 billion in venture capital. The company worked on more than 10 projects in Washington, and in 2019 opened a 270,000 square-foot timber factory in Spokane, Wash. The business was working on modular building and other technologies, but experts say it tried to do too much too quickly.

Greenfab, a trio of Seattle companies that designed and constructed environmental, pre-fab homes, filed for bankruptcy in June 2020. Greenfab had operated for 11 years and left customers in a lurch with the sudden closure, according to news reports.

Track all of GeekWire’s in-depth startup coverage: Sign up for the weekly startup email newsletter; check out the GeekWire funding tracker and venture capital directory; and follow our startup news headlines.

Seattle jumps to No. 9 in global startup ecosystem rankings

Tracking fish: University students use machine learning for fishery monitoring startup

From ‘hippies’ to heavy hitters: This social good platform bolstered its C-suite, raised $47M

Take in the views, enjoy a cold beverage, chow down on awesome BBQ and connect with members of the tech community at this fun-filled summer party. Celebrity guests, cool swag and other surprises in store.

Thanks to our presenting sponsor First Mode. Learn more and register here.

Learn more about underwritten and sponsored content on GeekWire.

Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline

Have a scoop that you'd like GeekWire to cover? Let us know.

Climate tech startup funding: UW-spinoff BattGenie, Microsoft vet, and weeding robot raise fresh cash

Startup funding news:, Xemelgo, Joule Case, others raise fresh cash

2022 GeekWire Awards revealed: Community celebrates big winners in Pacific NW tech

Norwegian maritime battery company says ‘ja’ to new manufacturing facility in Washington state

Microsoft to curb use of non-competes, drop NDAs from worker settlements, disclose salary ranges, launch civil rights audit

Convoy, which just raised $260M, lays off 7% of workforce in latest tech startup cuts

Stratolaunch lands its mammoth airplane early after a flight test that didn’t meet all of its objectives

What this software engineering leader learned working peak season at an Amazon warehouse

Catch every headline in your inbox