Three local building projects honoured

RDC, Alta Lake Lumber earn Georgie nominations

Three local projects were recently named finalists for the Canadian Home Builders' Association's (CHBA) annual Georgie Awards, which honour excellence in construction and design in the home building industry in British Columbia.

One of the three nominated projects is a "green" renovation on the home of Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed and his wife Uschi.

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The Melamed residence, which is nominated in the Best Residential Renovation Under $100,000 category, and a residence on Coyote Place, which is nominated in the Best Residential Renovation $500,000 and $749,999, earned nominations for Whistler-based RDC Fine Homes, which has been similarly honoured by the CHBA in the past. The third local project is a home in Horstman Estates, the construction of which was spearheaded by Whistler-based Alta Lake Lumber Co. Ltd. It's nominated in the Best Single Family Detached Home Over $3 Million category.

The three projects are among dozens in the running for the annual Georgie Awards that will be handed out Jan. 30, 2009, at a gala at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver.

In addition to the Georgie nominations, the CHBA Sea to Sky chapter handed out its inaugural set of awards at the first annual Builders' Ball on Nov. 28 at the Bearfoot Bistro. RDC Fine Homes was honoured in several categories (see below).

Bob Deeks, who started the company in 1993 and still heads it up (RDC stands for Robert Deeks Construction), said the company's first truly "green" project was in 1997, a home on Alta Lake Road that was built mostly of Douglas fir recycled from a building that had been demolished in Vancouver.

"Over the next five years we built five houses in that style," he said on Friday (Dec. 5). "In building each one we learned a bit more about that style and making homes more energy efficient."

Two key elements in that regard -spray-foam insulation and heat recovery ventilation - were part of both renovations nominated for Georgies.

Before the renovation, the Melamed house in Alpine Meadows had a cedar-shake roof that was perhaps 30 years old and leaked; the Melameds, Deeks said, also wanted the home made more energy efficient through improved insulation and ventilation.

"Uschi was tired of living in a drafty house, and at the same time they wanted to do it in as environmentally friendly a way as possible," Deeks said. "At the same time, we put in an air exchanger with a heat recovery on it so that the heat is captured and reused."

Deeks said that with today's much higher R values (which indicate the ability of a building's shell to trap the air inside and use energy efficiently), it's important for homes to have efficient air exchange systems.

"I think today it's absolutely the most important feature that you can add into your house," he said. "To me it's a health thing. Even a code-built house is designed and built to much higher standards than even 20 years ago. We have so many volatile compounds in our houses these days, and they're more efficient, but they don't breathe as well, so having an air exchanger, I think, is key."

The home on Coyote Place was a log residence that had been built in 1994 and used as a rental property for many years. The owners now wanted to move in permanently, and asked RDC for an extensive upgrade for energy efficiency and appearance, Deeks said.

They also were looking to enclose a couple of exterior decks to make extra rooms, and to redesign some of the interior spaces for better overall liveability.

"They really just wanted to upgrade it both cosmetically and physically," he said. "Everything that we would typically do if we were to built a green house, we tried to incorporate into this house as well."

RDC added a ground-source (a.k.a. passive geothermal) heating system, which uses the natural heating capacity of the Earth to heat a building with minimal need for other power sources. To supplement they added an airtight wood fireplace, the heat from which is ducted into the ventilation system.

The company also added a rubberized caulking product to the exterior log structure to improve its insulation, and used spray-foam insulation in other, hard-to-reach parts of the home.

"There was so much air movement through sections of the log walls that there was mould developing within the log structure," Deeks said.

The Horstman Estates project is a custom home designed in the Gothic contemporary style by local architect Brent Murdoch, with the interior designed by Jennifer Heffel.

Builder Glen Lynskey of Alta Lake Lumber Co. Ltd. said that all told, it took about four years to build the home. What makes it special, he said, is "probably the extreme attention to detail at every level, from top to bottom."

The home, he said, is built of carefully selected materials, primarily Douglas fir that was sourced in both Squamish and Vancouver Island and milled at Alta Lake's own sawmill in Whistler. The stone work on the outside is Brohm basalt from the Squamish area and limestone from California, Lynskey said.

One reason the home took so long to build is that the level of collaboration that was necessary between the architect, builder and interior designer and, yes, the clients, Lynskey said.

"Their (the owners') patience and focus on details was essential and a guiding force," he said.

After first describing the entire home as a "cabinet," he said, "This entire house was more like a piano, like building a huge piano. It was all exquisitely worked together."

Awards handed out at the recent CHBA Sea to Sky awards gala included:

Employer of the Year: RDC Fine Homes Inc.

Sub-Contractor of the Year: Corona Excavations, Dave Johnston.

Project Manager of the Year: Alex Tavuchis, RDC Fine Homes.

Realtor of the Year: Rob Palm, The Whistler Real Estate Co.

Site Supervisor of the Year: Rob Leblanc, RDC Fine Homes Inc.

Green Builder of the Year: Bob Deeks, RDC Fine Homes Inc.

Supplier of the Year: (tie) Bob Chop, Standard Building Supplies, and james Harper of Griff Building Supplies.

Builder of the Year: (tie) Peak Ventures and RDC Fine Homes Inc.

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