Infill home takes a new approach to sustainable design
By FIONA MORROW
to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jun. 20 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
The last thing
Martin Warren planned to do was to demolish a house and build
a new one.
Vanglo Sustainable Construction Group, was named, not as a statement,
he says, but as a goal. "Not an hour in the day passes
when that goal doesn't come up."
down a livable property to rebuild and turn a profit is not
in his ethical wheelhouse.
Yet, here we
are, sitting at the dining room table of the company's first
from-scratch build - a startlingly modern addition to Vancouver's
Main Street neighbourhood, on a street where the only previous
sense of style was the lack of one. It wasn't supposed to be
for their renovation work on heritage houses and for the design
of some of the city's hippest restaurants - the original Boneta,
the short-lived Corner Suite Bistro Deluxe, award-winning vegetarian
spot The Parker - Vanglo was, Mr. Warren says, looking for their
first total build project. "The criteria were: It had to
be in a neighbourhood I'd want to live in, and we had to build
a house I'd want to live in, too." The
goal was to create what Mr. Warren calls a "healthy house"
that was low maintenance, using sustainable materials and built
to the highest energy-efficient standards.
an empty lot on East 17th Avenue, they became distracted when
a property across the street came up for sale. A derelict hodgepodge
of a house that the company thought would be great to renovate,
it went to another buyer, before appearing back on the market
a mere six months later. Vanglo pounced. "We bought it
in 2012 hoping to renovate," Mr. Warren says. "But
it was such a mess, the bank deemed it 'unlivable', and it was
going to cost us so much to get it up to code, it dawned on
us that this was our new build."
The result is
a head-turner: a sleek, undulating structure that appears beamed
back from the future - local kids call it the spaceship - it
has curb appeal in spades. Sitting on a decidedly odd lot -
66 by 44 feet - and pushed right up to the sidewalk (the front
property line of the townhouse block next door sits on the back
property line of the house), the design constraints gave Mr.
Warren and collaborating architect Oliver Lang an interesting
challenge. "We didn't want to build an ugly tall rectangle,"
Mr. Warren smiles. "So we came up with this multi-faceted
front that provides some shape."
shape led to a linear floor structure - open plan kitchen/living
room/roof deck upstairs; three bedrooms, two baths downstairs
- which allowed full exploitation of the south-facing frontage,
with masses of natural light flooding in through multiple artfully
placed windows. It also lent itself to one of the features Mr.
Warren is most excited about: no load-bearing walls within the
house (the frame consists of TJI trus joists made from engineered
wood), allowing future residents to reconfigure the interior
to suit their needs.
The result is
a hyper modern interior, with heated concrete floors and white
walls, accented with poplar - stairs, cabinetry, master bath
ceiling - to warm things up and give an organic feel. The attention
to detail is notable: every conceivable storage space becomes
a sleek push-release drawer; the master shower floor is heated
to allow for quick drying and to negate the possibility of mould.
A legal, full-height,
one-bedroom basement suite, finished to the same high standards
as the main residence offers a budgetary incentive for purchasers
looking to break into the sought-after neighbourhood (it's listed
at $2,228,000), and a 400 square foot "flex-space"
heated garage offers creative solutions to those wanting to
remain urban, but needing room to expand.
are estimated to come in at least 25 per cent lower than the
average house. Mr. Warren can hardly contain his pride in the
finished product. "It is beyond what we were hoping for,"
he says. "I think it's fun and sophisticated."
But would he
want to live in it?
the images to the right and see some of Fusion Woodwork's custom
kitchen and living area millwork in this beautiful Vancouver
home or click
here to see more photos of this home...