St. George Townhomes 5731 St. George Street 16 Townhomes by Silk Properties

April 17th, 2014


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Don’t get stuck with a builders lien

April 17th, 2014


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Zen 62 townhouses at 6588 195A Street Surrey by Zenterra

April 17th, 2014

Come home to inner calm


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Passive House Technology for Super Energy Efficiency

April 15th, 2014

Jill Bowen

All houses have personalities… but passive? It’s not a word that is commonly used to describe the places we call home… until now.

According to Dr. Guido Wimmers, we are poised on the edge of a revolution that will see the number of passive houses in our neighbourhoods increase dramatically.

“Passive houses were largely developed in Germany in the early 1990s – comfortable, compact houses that are better insulated and better oriented to harness the power of the sun,” says Wimmers, who is arguably Canada’s leading passive house specialist. “Not only do they provide a healthier living environment, they operate on approximately 80 per cent less heating energy. That can translate into a 50 per cent reduction in your energy bill annually.”

There are now about 40,000 to 50,000 purpose-built passive residential, commercial and institutional buildings in Europe compared to a handful – perhaps 20 to 30 – in BC to date. Wimmers started teaching passive-house-building science three years ago at UBC, SFU, and BCIT, and founded the Canadian Passive House Institute to offer training for professionals. He expects to see more passive houses popping up soon.

“Comfort and well-being are the biggest drivers when someone decides to build a passive house,” he says, “but cost efficiency is also a deciding factor. It’s the most affordable way to build today. Passive houses are better built and more durable. Yes, you have to spend more up front, which means slightly higher financing costs on a monthly mortgage. But from day one, you’re saving that or more on energy costs. Over the long run, energy prices are going to go up, so you’re better off building a passive house. Its resale value is much higher than an ordinary house.”

To meet passive house standards, a building must meet specific energy requirements. The standard is up to 10 times more stringent than levels required in regular construction in North America and generally exceeds the energy savings achieved by LEED Platinum buildings. Passive houses use an efficient building shape, thoughtful solar exposure, super insulation, advanced windows, air tightness, ventilation with heat recovery, ventilation air preheating, and thermal bridge-free construction. The design results in improved air quality and uniform temperature levels throughout the building.

Passive house technology, Wimmers notes, is tricky to apply to older buildings undergoing renovations.

“A precondition to renovating a home to passive house standards is that the actual building needs to have a relatively high value,” he cautioned. “If this is not the case, it can be difficult to achieve a financial advantage. You would need to have an emotional attachment to the home or it would need to be a heritage house.”

Wimmers is one of the directors of the Canadian Passive House Institute, an educational organization that provides information about passive house design, technology and construction. The site’s member directory allows viewers to find architects, engineers and contractors who specialize in passive house technology.

Wimmers himself purchased and renovated a Vancouver Special with passive house technology and components a few years ago. He spent about 25 per cent of his renovation budget on energy-efficiency upgrades for the building, which also increased noise reduction and thermal comfort.

“I was curious about how far you can go with passive house technology and an older home,” he said. “Vancouver Specials are relatively compact – they’re essentially boxes, and much easier to retrofit and achieve meaningful energy reductions than character homes.”

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

Rize open house gets mixed reviews

April 15th, 2014

Naoibh O’Connor
Van. Courier

Critics of the Rize development planned for Mount Pleasant didn’t appear to be mollified by updated details on the project unveiled at an open house Monday evening.

City council approved the rezoning application for the site in April 2012. Residents are now being asked their thoughts on the revised development permit application for the project, which features a 21-storey tower, 258 residential units, 7,295 square feet of commercial space, 399 parking stalls and 350 bicycle stalls.

It goes before the Urban Design Panel April 23 and before the Development Permit Board June 30.

Chris Vollan, Rize’s vice-president of development, told the Courier before the open house that the design conforms to council’s directions at the rezoning and also responds to some feedback gathered at a previous open house last July.

“I think the major moves are in reducing the height of the Broadway building by 30 feet and really introducing a lot of character and craft into the building that really does complement the neighbourhood. This is a really unique structure that would fit nowhere else in our city other than Mount Pleasant,” he said.

Vollan pointed to the mosaic brick for the exterior of the building on Broadway, which he said speaks to the century-old Lee Building nearby.

“That level of detail and understanding the context just doesn’t happen in Vancouver.  It’s taken a long time to design and it’s crafted versus pushed out of a computer,” he said. “Mount Pleasant is a very unique, crafty neighbourhood and this building is designed to fit it and move it forward. It’s a contemporary expression of a very cool neighbourhood.”

At the open house, Marilyn Gardner, who’s lived in the neighbourhood for six years, remained unconvinced.

“I really feel they don’t listen to any input we’ve provided at community input sessions,” she said, adding residents were told there wouldn’t be a lot of parking because it’s a transit hub, yet parking spaces have increased from 320 to 399.

“[The development] doesn’t fit into the Mount Pleasant plan — never has,” she said. “Basically Vision [Vancouver] doesn’t listen. It’s all smoke and mirrors.”

Barbara Jeffery said the project is out of place and fears it will spur further development and turn Mount Pleasant into “another Yaletown.”

“I can’t imagine this in the middle of Kerrisdale or Kitsilano,” she said. “Mount Pleasant is losing its friendly neighbourhood feeling when you start to do things like this.”

Project supporters included architects Juan Gurrola and Antonio Vasquez who filled out feedback forms.

“The architects have gone through great lengths to do something coherent in the neighbourhood,” said Gurrola who works in Mount Pleasant and lived in the area when he first moved to Vancouver 13 years ago. He said he looked forward to finding out what commercial tenants will lease space, although he hopes potential competition won’t drive out Buy-Low Foods at nearby Kingsgate Mall.

He also thinks the tower should be higher, arguing highrises offer a sensible approach to density in the city.

“Yes, I do like the building. I do like the project. I liked it better when it was higher and more playful in its massing. Now it’s more practical,” he said.

Vasquez added that he appreciates the use of colours and texture in design features and how the architects played with heights and scale.

“I look forward to seeing how it will animate the street,” he said.

In an email to the Courier, Russell Acton, from the firm Acton Ostry Architects, which is working on Rize, says the architecture for the project “reinterprets the rich, varied and vibrant artistic expression of the Mount Pleasant community that is captured through contemporary street photography, West Coast painting and sculpture, and the phenomenology and order of steep and colourful hill towns. The tree-topped crown of the tower marks and distinguishes Mount Pleasant in Vancouver’s Greenest City skyline.”

Brendan Caron, meanwhile, still opposes Rize and objects to plans to increase parking nand the number of condos.

“It’s a real money-maker for them… It’s not good for the community,” he said, adding he fears residents will soon no longer be able to afford to live in Mount Pleasant. “This is the knife in the very soul of this area.”

John Allison said the project’s proponents have done a better job of trying to make it fit into the neighbourhood’s “artsy vibe,” but “it’s still a giant tower.”

Grace MacKenzie called the project “ridiculous.”

“It’s still too high on Broadway,” she said. “Personally I give up. I really do. This is the kind of bullshit that Vision Vancouver has been pushing from the beginning.”

The city will accept written comments about the development application until May. 5. Comments may also be considered up until the date of the decision.

© Vancouver Courier

Details of Rize development revealed at open house

April 14th, 2014

Naoibh O’Connor
Van. Courier

More details about the mixed-use Rize complex planned for Kingsway and Broadway will be revealed at an open house Monday evening (April 14).

City council approved the rezoning application for the project in April 2012. Residents are now being asked their thoughts on the revised development application for the site, which features a 21-storey tower, 258 residential units, 7,295 square feet of commercial space, 399 parking stalls and 350 bicycle stalls.

The project goes before the Urban Design Panel April 23 and before the Development Permit Board June 30.

Chris Vollan, Rize’s vice-president of development, told the Courier Monday before the open house that the design conforms to council’s directions at the rezoning and also responds to some feedback garnered at a previous open house last July.

“The main thing, in responding to council directions, is the character development of the building. Height, use and density are fixed as they were approved two years ago, so we’re largely talking about those other things.”

Vollan said council asked that “shadow performance” be improved on Broadway, so that building block was lowered by 30 feet. The Kingsway and Watson blocks we’re also lowered, as was the 10th avenue block.

“On top of that, the big move is separating each into a different character based on the character and the feel of the street that it’s on and separating them such that it lightens the massing and it makes it feel more like a grouping of unique buildings,” he said.

The Residents Association of Mount Pleasant (RAMP) continues to be critical of the project and argues that so many changes have been made that it should go back to public hearing.

On its website, RAMP states key differences between the proposal and the one that went before council two years ago include the 21-storey tower, which is up from 19-storeys; the inclusion of 399 parking spaces — up from 320 parking spaces; condo units numbering 258 — up from 241 units; and the fact there’s no food co-op.

RAMP spokesman Stephen Bohus told the Courier the inclusion of the food co-op was one of the reasons mayor Gregor Robertson supported rezoning.

“This is a bigger question of bait and switch,” he said. “…The question is if they want to make these changes, it should go back to city council for a full public hearing.”

Bohus also maintains misleading graphics were used during the process and facts weren’t presented correctly.

He said the project would only have been palatable had it followed the Mount Pleasant Community Plan, which didn’t indicate the site would have additional density.

Vollan, meanwhile, says the tower height is 65.3 metres — exactly as approved.

He said the food co-op dropped out of the project because it couldn’t get financing and parking spaces were increased after and input from potential commercial tenants indicated there wasn’t enough parking for a large anchor tenant.

Vollan said the number of condo units was increased by 17 through “more efficient planning.”

“We took a number of two-bedrooms and split them into one-bedroom suites. That was based on both how they fit in the building and the market demand we were hearing. So we haven’t increased our area at all,” Vollan said. “But we’ve introduced a few smaller homes.”

Vollan dismisses RAMP’s call for a new public hearing.

“RAMP is sounding like the Tea Party of Mount Pleasant,” he said. “There are no significant changes to the application… We’re bang on for height, use and overall density. So there are no grounds for that argument.”

The city will accept written comments on the development application until May. 5. Comments may also be considered up until the date of the decision.

The open house is April 14 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church, 2881 Main St.

© Vancouver Courier

Paragon the preferred MLS® system replacement

April 11th, 2014


The Fraser Valley, Greater Vancouver and Edmonton real estate boards have commenced negotiations to replace our MLS® platforms (MLXchange and Fusion) with a new system called Paragon. This approval is subject to successful negotiations with Black Knight Financial Services (formerly LPS), the owner of the Paragon system. The implementation of the new system will not occur until mid-2015.

The motivation behind this project stems, in part, from necessity. Our current MLS® provider, CoreLogic, has shifted its focus and resources away from MLXchange and Fusion. They had intended to have Fusion become their key MLS® product. However, for a number of reasons they reconsidered that strategy.

Members and staff from the partner boards have been working for months to test and evaluate potential replacement systems for our MLS® software. Through that process Paragon, used by over 230 MLS® providers in North America, rose to the top as the preferred system.

After contracts are negotiated, the partner boards will move into the design phase expected to begin this summer. We’ll continue to seek your input throughout the project. Once the new system is launched in 2015, we’ll run the MLXchange and Fusion platforms in parallel with the new system for three months to ease your transition.

Our recommendation to proceed with this project and to adopt Paragon as our next MLS® supplier comes with deep consideration for the disruption an MLS® system change will cause you. As we did in 2004 with MLXchange, the Boards will provide extensive training and support to make the transition as straightforward as possible for you. Recognizing that people have different learning preferences, you’ll have access to classroom, online and a variety of other learning options and tools. We’ll keep you informed at each stage of this project.

copyright© real estate board of greater vancouver

Eight steps to smarter house hunting

April 11th, 2014

Rob Carrick

Contrary to popular belief, home is not where the heart is. Home is where the head is – and if you don’t use your head when house-hunting you could find yourself wishing you’d never said “I do” to that not-so-dream home.

Though it’s sometimes appropriate to let your heart take the lead, finding the right home is a matter of hunting with your head.

But as we learned after talking to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) about the most common mistakes people make when buying or selling a home, people fall in love all too easily.

Luckily, we can avoid the broken hearts (and the broken bank) with a few simple steps to smarter home-hunting.

8 steps to smarter home-hunting

  1. Don’t be blinded by the love

That means: don’t overpay, don’t rush through the process, and don’t ignore glaring concerns just to win ownership. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.

  1. Keep searching for your “sales” mate

According to RECO, there are more than 60,000 real estate brokers and salespersons in Ontario – meaning you can expect to meet a bunch before you find “the one”. Make sure you discuss the services you expect of them and get it in writing.

  1. Know there’s never such a thing as “no strings attached”

Do you know what the terms in your contract with your brokerage mean and your obligations to one another? (And please don’t tell us you didn’t even bother to read the agreement in full?!). Read your agreement thoroughly and fill in every blank before signing. Remember that verbal agreements mean little. Get everything you discussed and agreed upon in writing to avoid problems later on. Always get a copy of the contract for your own files, too.

  1. Check that prenup – who gets what after you ink a deal?

The furnace, fridge, and other items at the showing might have been major selling features for you, but never assume they’re part of the package. The sub-zero might go with the seller; the furnace could be on lease. These details – called “chattels” - ought to be outlined in writing and clarified amongst all parties before any offer is laid on the table. Who knows – you may be able to get your seller to pay off the balance on that furnace lease as part of your offer.

  1. Know it’s what’s on the inside that counts

It’s easy to overlook the more mundane things in a nicely staged home, but ask questions about the insulation, wiring, plumbing, upgrades and past permits. Better still, sign the agreement conditional on a satisfactory home inspection. A qualified home inspector is an aptly-trained necessary third party – and someone who is looking at this transaction totally objectively.

  1. Get to know what’s on the outside, too

Get to know the neighbourhood. When you get into a home, you’re also getting in with a whole family of homes – as well as the parks, the kids, and the community.

  1. Know your home’s past relationships

A simple Internet search for the address can go a long way; or even ask the neighbours for their take on your potential purchase. You never know what kind of mischief the house may have been involved in.

  1. Know what it really costs to seal the deal

Land transfer taxes, title insurance, a home inspection – these are all costs not included in the listing price, but can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Budget and shop accordingly.

Copyright 2014 The Globe and Mail Inc.

Vancouver House 1412 Granville Street a 52 storey twisted building by Westbank

April 10th, 2014

Introducing the Beach District

Martha Perkins

t’s not often that a condo development gives us a new word. But Vancouver House doesn’t plan to be like any other condo development.

The word is gwerk, as in “Vancouver has to stop resting on its laurels; it’s got to gwerk it,” says Vancouver architect Trevor Boddy, the curator of an exhibition, Gesamtkunstwerk, which chronicles the evolution of what is hoped to be the next “special moment” in Vancouver’s architectural history.

Or here’s another example from Boddy: “’My office needs a real gwerk,’ which means a total redesign.”

Thank goodness the developers are giving us the new word because otherwise, few of would be able to pronounce, let alone remember, gesamtkunstwerk. It’s a German word, popularized by the composer Richard Wagner, that translates into something like total work of art or synthesis of the arts.

Those are the words on the side of the building next to the Granville Bridge where the exhibit is being held. And while people have seen drawings of the gleaming twisting condo tower that will rise next to it, it’s what’s happening under the bridge that gives the concept a totally radical reputation.

Introducing the new Beach District, a new urban village that will run under the bridge along Beach Avenue. It’s going to be a collection of pie-shaped buildings that include rental apartments, offices and retail outlets. It will also be providing the nine o’clock gun a run for its time-keeping money. At nine o’clock every night, a spinning chandelier by artist Rodney Graham will twirl its way down over the street from its base underneath the bridge, dazzle the crowd and then twist back up into its perch for another day. But it won’t be the only time people walking under the bridge will want to look up. Westbank, the company behind Vancouver House, is commissioning a second installation of public art on the underside of the bridge. The light boxes will display a changing exhibit of photos produced with students from Emily Carr University.

People talk about the amazing planning that’s happening in Vancouver but they don’t talk about the moments that are very special,” Ian Gillespie, the principal at Westbank, said at a press conference moments after spring officially arrived in Vancouver. “What we lack are a few special moments and this is what Vancouver House will represent. It will be one of the lasting things that stays in [visitors'] minds…. Can we turn the Granville Street Bridge into a moment itself?”

James Cheng is the architect who nursed the concept from the time when it was a glint in Westbank’s eye seven years ago until last October, when the City of Vancouver gave it its blessing. Cheng, who worked with Arthur Erickson during the “mind-blowing” years of exciting development, has passed on the project to Bjarke Ingels whose Copenhagen- and New York-based firm, BIG, has been creating innovative and dynamic buildings around the world.

Cheng said the Vancouver we know today got its start in the 1970s when Mayor Art Phillips pulled together a team to think about what the city could be doing architecturally. The first projects centred on South False Creek, which blended the city’s talent pool. Then the federal government bought into a plan to turn its lands on Granville Island into a thriving food, arts and theatre district. After Expo 86 came Concord Pacific’s False Creek development, and then eyes turned to the downtown, with questions about how to turn Coal Harbour into a continuation of this waterside housing community.

But then we became a little complacent, a little too blasé about the accolades, Cheng said. We stopped creating special moments, which are like the punctuation marks of the city’s evolution. (Joo Kim Tiah, the CEO of Holborn, has a jump on the desire to create Vancouver’s iconic icon architectural image with his 63-storey Trump Tower and Hotel on West Georgia. Its slated to open in 2016.)

He noted there’s five decades between Erickson, whose Project 56 drawing of twisting buildings straddling English Bay is part of the exhibit, and Ingels.

Ingels said first knew of Vancouver as the home of two of his favourite writers, Douglas Coupland and William Gibson. He wanted to see the city the spawned such fabulous thinkers.

Vancouver House was born out of the need to figure out how to deal with the bridge and the odd-shaped pieces of land underneath it, he said. The bridge couldn’t be moved so the project had to work around it. The main condo tower starts on a 6,000 sq.ft. footprint at the base of Howe Street (where the Buster’s Towing lot used to be) to honour setback requirements but once it’s higher than the bridge, it starts to turn and add floor space until, at the top of its 52 storeys, its floor plate is 13,000 sq. ft.

We’re turning it into an urban village,” Ingels said, with the bridge’s underside becoming the canopy. It’s where all aspects of life — art, landscape, design, culture, human interaction — come together. It gwerks.

The exhibit, which is free at 1460 Howe Street, runs until May 18. Construction is to begin next year, with Rodney Graham’s spinning chandelier to be installed in 2017/2018.

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

REBGV March 2014 Stats Package

April 9th, 2014


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