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About the Speaker
Katerina Vastardis: Owner, Designs by KS
With over 15 years of experience in the design and renovation industry, Katerina and her partner Silvie create life-changing experiences through well-designed spaces and with their proven process, will turn your vision into fruition. Working in all areas of the Lower Mainland, packages for design, supply, and project managing services allows the team to tailor to the needs of each specific project.
Paul Shepski: Owner/Builder, Geography Contracting
With over 15 years of experience and a background in environmental science, Paul brings a wealth of knowledge to his industry. He’s a licensed BC builder and active member of Vancouver’s Homebuilders Association and Passive House movement, implementing healthier building standards that benefit our community. Paul approaches every project with care and works closely with clients to make sure their home fits their lifestyle and needs.
Check out the photos of the award-winning duplex! Winner of the 2023 HAVAN Award winner for Best Renovation: 1 million to 1.5 million, and 2023 HAVAN Award for Best Energy Labeled Home: Whole Home Renovation
Here's the Full Transcript of this Episode
[00:00:00] Jennifer-Lee: Hi, Mike, we’re back at Rami Film Studio to record another episode of HAVAN’s Measure Twice Cut Once. How are you?
[00:00:08] Mike: I’m fantastic, Jennifer-Lee. It’s great to be back here for Season Six, and we’ve had such an exciting season. And I absolutely love these conversations because most of the people we’re talking to have won awards or in this case multiple awards, and it’s a really great conversation because not only do we learn about what goes into bringing these types of projects to life, but also, there’s two worlds we live in, there’s the Instagram world, and then there’s the real world. And this is going to show us the real world and what it’s like to actually create one of these projects from when we think about it to when we go through, and we can actually see the awards at the end of it. And the people actually get to enjoy their space. So, I’m really excited to be back. And this is going to be an amazing conversation because we have an old friend returning and we have a new friend joining us as well.
[00:00:50] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. And I really love this woman that’s with us right now. We’ve been on one of the committees for HAVAN for a long time together. I’ve got to see her career unfold. And of course, she won Interior Designer of the Year award at the HAVAN Awards this year, as well as some other ones that we’re going to talk about in just a little bit. We have Katerina from Designs by KS. How are you?
[00:01:10] Katerina: Good. Thanks for having me. Very excited to be here today.
Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. Welcome back.
Katerina: Yeah. Thank you.
[00:01:16] Jennifer-Lee: And we have a new gentleman that I have never met, and Mike hasn’t met either. And we have Paul from Geography Contracting. How are you?
[00:01:24] Paul: I’m very good. Yeah, I’m happy to be here.
[00:01:26] Mike: Hey, welcome. We were chatting a little bit before. You have a very interesting background and we’re, it’s okay if we start with you just because you’re the newest one here.
[00:01:36] Mike: So, I love talking to people because we see where we’re at right now, but there’s always a story of how we got here, and you didn’t start out as a builder per se. Can you talk a little about your background and your journey to where you are right now? Because this really adds a lot of value to the conversation we’re going to have in a couple minutes.
[00:01:54] Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’ve been a builder for, our company is quite young. We’re only about three years old but I’ve been in the industry for about 15 years. I started as a carpenter, worked up to a project manager and did that for a while and then started Geography Contracting about three years ago. My background though I started, or I did an environmental science degree at the University of Waterloo. So, I’ve always been science minded and environmentally minded. So, our company really focuses on sustainability. So, we are into the high-performance aspect of home building with a focus on passive house.
[00:02:31] Jennifer-Lee: And you touched upon something that I really want to talk about with kids. It’s come up in past episodes, especially with Brian Baeumler and Graeme Huguet in the episode is the fact that a lot of people just start their company right out of school. They don’t take the time to learn and do a further apprenticeship and learn about contracting and all that, like you, I think it’s so refreshing that you’ve had those many years and now you’re at a point where you can start your company. How important do you think that is to the young generation of building to actually take their time and learn their craft before starting their own company?
[00:03:03] Paul: Yeah, I think it’s really important. I think in this industry and for me anyways, quality has always been an important aspect to deliver to clients and to homeowners. So, I think just taking that time to feel very comfortable in stepping into that role where you’re the direct contact for homeowners, for your clients dealing with trades. I just think it’s a role where you’re that central person for a lot of people. So, I think it takes a good amount of time to be comfortable in that role. So, I think it’s smart for me anyways, it was a good way to go to take the time work my way up, get that experience before I jumped in.
[00:03:38] Mike: And it sounds like with your background, it was very natural evolution, not just to go into construction, but into this type of responsible construction. Can you talk a little about what was your motivating factor for, we’ll lay it out on the line. There are people out there who don’t really understand the value of passive and they just see it as a little bit more expensive than a conventional build. But there are so many benefits. What made you want to get into this type of construction and what excites you doing it on a daily basis?
[00:04:03] Paul: Yeah. I think whatever industry we work in there is a responsibility, I think in today’s era to do what we can to make it as sustainable as possible to be agents of change. I think we’re at a point where that’s a necessary way forward is to start thinking about sustainability. And within the home building sector we know the stats housing and buildings make up about 30 to 40 percent of our carbon emissions globally. So, we do have a big problem there. And I think there’s a lot of change that can happen and is happening. So, we feel very aligned with that sort of change. Passive House is a great example of a framework that sets the stage to create houses that are about 90 percent more efficient to heat and cool than a traditionally built house. So, it’s something that, going back to my university days and having sustainability in mind. It’s been something that’s guided my way through to becoming a builder.
[00:05:05] Mike: Oh, bravo. You’ve come a long way from K Dub here. You’re on the west coast building homes that are showing a lot of other people what’s possible and in Katarina, welcome back. Absolutely love the last time you were on here and just always have such great conversations with you. What’s new and exciting in your world? Like you’ve got all these awards. You’re still doing your thing. What’s happening?
[00:05:23] Katerina: Yeah, there’s lots of good momentum. The awards bring great exposure to our little business and along with that we have some pretty unique and interesting projects. I do a lot of renovations. So that’s mostly what’s happening right now and yeah, it’s just fun clients, great projects getting a lot more creative control. The clients trust that they’re not just in good hands, but good creative hands essentially. So, some things are becoming more exciting and, on that level, and as of just about a week and a half ago, I got our first, maybe second technically, but anyways, international job. So, we’re doing a new construction. So, I guess I do have a new construction project in in Greece at a duplex in Greece is what I’m trying to say. And it’s in a resort town. So, the project itself is pretty unique what I’m going to get to design this time around.
[00:06:23] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. I think Mike and I need to come with you as consultants for that job.
[00:06:26] Katerina: Yep. You’re not the first one to say that.
[00:06:29] Mike: our services are available.
[00:06:31] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. We can do a podcast in Greece about your
[00:06:35] Paul: I’ve become well versed in working with Greek people too.
[00:06:41] Jennifer-Lee: We’re all vying for that job. And how important for you, Katarina, because you’ve been around for a long time, is it to work with people like Paul that have a passion about sustainability building?
[00:06:51] Katerina: Very important. It’s pretty much what our future is and it’s quite interesting because I work with clients quite often and you hear them address this issue time and time again. It’s not necessarily like talking about just passive housing, but it’s how or like cars are not made the way that they used to be made. It’s about how the fridges are no longer lasting as long as they used to and so on. So, they have these complaints that a house or a product that we have and that we live in, especially, should give more or sustain itself more so in the long run, right? So, you’re hearing it on many different levels. So, if the client knows it or not, they’re very well aware of what’s happening in this world. And that’s why it’s important for me to have people like Paul around that are passionate about this. And I go along for the ride.
[00:07:43] Mike: How’d you guys get connected, right? Because you both have your own independent companies, and you’re both at different phases in your business. Yeah. How’d you guys decide to start working together?
[00:07:52] Paul: So, we met through a project our award-winning project, actually, that yeah, we met on this project that was an Enerfit. So, it’s a renovation Passive House project. And it was through another Greek family. And the house was actually gifted from the grandmother of the family down to the granddaughter and the grandson siblings. So obviously one house didn’t work for two people, so they decided to make it into a duplex and also had the interest to take on that next step and turn it into a Passive House Enerfit so Katerina was hired by our client Pamela, and we met through that.
[00:08:32] Jennifer-Lee: Yep. And of course, we’re going to dive further into that project in just a little bit, but because you mentioned it’s award winner, what does winning the awards, especially the HAVAN Awards, mean to both of you?
[00:08:45] Katerina: I’ll go first. Yeah. I’m thrilled. I’ve been participating actively with HAVAN. I want to say I don’t know, over 15 plus years. Yeah, it’s crazy. And I don’t want to age myself, but it’s been so long. So then to start getting recognized from the community of people that you work with, colleagues, competitors, and so on, like just peers, and to get this kind of recognition is just amazing. And I have an interesting story to say about this. So, these awards, the day the awards were on a Saturday, on a Monday I go back to the office. Lugging my awards around. I’m just kidding because I didn’t have them yet. Anyways, but the point to my story is that, yeah, that Monday I got a call from a builder that from 15 years ago plus I’ve been wanting to work with. And I used to rep a product before becoming like my own business. So, I used to be a designer for somebody else. Anyways, I used to solicit that company back in the day, never really got to work with him. And that phone rang the Monday after the awards, and they were present at the awards and so on. So, it’s amazing on the customer front that our customers get to see that the work that we do is recognizable, award winning, we have passion for what we do, but also within our peers as well.
[00:10:01] Mike: Yeah, I think that’s really important and I want to say something for people watching this listening to this those of us who are part of the Homebuilders Association HAVAN, there’s a lot of events and when you talk about the recognition of your peers when I first joined the events you were at every one of them. You were sponsoring them. You were volunteering your time, and you were working very hard to support the rest of the community. So, this isn’t just something that happened. There was years and years of hard work and investment in this community back into this community as well. So, that’s something I want to point out because this isn’t a minor thing. This is a major thing. And it took a lot of years of hard work to get here. So very heartfelt congratulations to you.
[00:10:40] Katerina: Thank You so much. Honestly, it has been, but it’s been a great ride and I do it maybe for selfish reasons and not just to get awards out of it but it gives a lot back to you as a company, as a person, because you’re getting to hang out with likeminded people and you support likeminded people. They support you. You’re making phone calls when you need help. Anyways, it’s a community. I really mean it. So, I really believe in it. And I had a mentor that many years ago, like 15 plus years ago that had introduced me to this Association. And he said to me, don’t just wait for business to come to you, go participate in your industry, go be involved and so on.
And I happen to be an extrovert. I’m not an introvert. So, I have fun doing this and meeting people. And I met amazing people like you guys along the way. So, I don’t know where I was going with that point overall. Anyways, it’s been fun. It’s been rewarding. Yeah.
[00:11:31] Paul: It’s, you’re right. It is so great to have a network like this. We often think that to find new work and to grow our companies, we have to be putting ourselves out there externally and finding clients directly. But quite often it is business to business and those relationships we foster among the industry that feed work and help us grow. So, it’s, yeah, it’s great.
[00:11:52] Jennifer-Lee: But again, it’s patience. Like we were going back. It’s like learning your craft, same thing to network for your business. It’s like you got to put in and then eventually you’ll receive. And I think a lot of people, especially in our age group, don’t aren’t willing to necessarily do that. So, it’s nice to see the two of you guys do that and put the time in.
[00:12:08] Mike: Absolutely. Hey, Paul, what is winning awards like this? What does that mean for you?
[00:12:12] Paul: I think it’s huge for a small company, small new company like us. Again, we’ve been around for just a few years here. So, it really just shows it’s that stamp, that quality stamp, so for a new company, when we’re bidding on a project up against a, a company that’s more established It’s like why take the chance or why work with a smaller company? I think this helps to legitimize us and show that we’ve been peer reviewed. And we’re providing a very quality service. That we’re ambitious.
[00:12:44] Mike: We’ve had the homeowner here as well. The homeowner is obviously not here. What was it like when you told the homeowner that you won? What did that mean for the homeowner when they’d taken all the time and consideration to create a project like this? And it was as the recipient of not one but two major awards?
[00:12:58] Katerina: They were thrilled. They were very supportive from the start. They were proud of the project that they were building alongside us, I believe, from the start. It really showed. I think that they were one of my clients, only clients, to approach me like, hey, when are we taking pictures? They knew that I often do that. So, they were so proud that they kept reaching out to us. Me, specifically. And then along the way when it came to award submission season and so on, we approached them, and they were just thrilled. And then that enthusiasm just kept going up until last weekend I was actually at their house. And I see one family more so than the other. And the brother, so the family that I don’t see as often, was also over in the backyard, and he was so proud. He was congratulating us, but I feel like he was, he had more pride for what had happened than, to be honest, probably we do. I’m not sure.
[00:13:52] Paul: Yeah, they were fantastic clients right from the start and I think the energy efficiency, the desire to go Passive, I think came from Dean and Pamela jumped on as well. So yeah, they definitely have a lot of pride in it. Yeah.
[00:14:08] Mike: Congratulations to all of you. We’re going to talk about Grandma’s House, and there are some really interesting conversations to be had, because we’re talking about a duplex that was a single-family home, we’re talking about a heritage home, which is in itself a conversation, and we’re certainly talking about energy efficient homes as well. However, before we do that, we do have to take a short break to thank our wonderful podcast partners. So, we’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
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[00:15:51] Mike: Awesome. Welcome back. So, we are talking about Grandma’s House. Now, first I thought Grandma’s House and I was picturing plastic on the furniture and everything else, but it turns out this is not your typical grandma’s house. Katerina, would you start, maybe talk us through a little, obviously people listening and watching people to access photos later, but paint the picture for us. What did you start with? What were some of the things you wanted to accomplish? And What ended up happening?
[00:16:17] Katerina: We started with a really old structure.
[00:16:21] Paul: Do you, were you in there while their grandmother still lived there?
Katerina: No. No, I mean it was I think she’d been there for 50 plus years possibly. And she, I met her a few times, and she was very welcoming, and it sounds like she was an amazing woman.
Jennifer-Lee: Did she bake you cookies?
Paul: She didn’t, but she had this huge fig tree in the backyard and an amazing garden as well. And so, she’d send me home with bags of figs and all sorts of stuff, but she, yeah, she’d be in the garden constantly. Her garden was immaculate, and I think she would just walk back into the house. So, there was, bits of there were a bit of a trail from her, from the garden back into the house. And it was, yeah, you could tell she had been there for a while.
[00:17:00] Katerina: Yeah. When you see before pictures, it’s just a huge transformation. I feel like it’s just the shape of the house that’s similar, right? Like it’s just night and day. It was just not in. great shape. The house was old.
Paul: Yeah, there were holes in the roof. Yeah. That were, yeah.
[00:17:16] Jennifer-Lee: It’s not very pretty from the photos. Yeah. Not the before. That’s why I said the before is not very attractive though.
[00:17:24] Mike: So, you were taking a single-family home that is built in when? The 1930s, 40s, 50s?
[00:17:30] Paul: Yeah. I think we dated it to about 1930s to 1940s.
[00:17:34] Mike: So, it’s one of the first homes in the Vancouver area for sure. And what did you plan on turning it into like, how did this whole conversation start? Like it’s a duplex now. That’s very different than most people do.
Katerina: Yeah. And again, for them, it was I think an opportunity that they had this house in the family. It’s where they went to school, elementary school, I think just a couple of blocks down. So, it was where they would go at lunchtime to hang out with their grandma.
[00:17:59] Paul: And then as their grandma got to the age that the house was a bit much for her, she passed it down to them. So, they were presented with this opportunity that they have this land this lot in an amazing neighborhood in Kitsilano that they we’re going to do something with it. The two families decided to one take the back half, one takes the front half and call it home.
[00:18:18] Jennifer-Lee: Was it a hard process to get it stratified? Because sometimes we talk about it just seems so easy that everyone’s Oh, I turned my home into a duplex. But people don’t realize that, no, if it is zoned for a single-family home, it’s not always an easy process.
[00:18:32] Paul: Yeah, absolutely. So, we knew from the start that they wanted to stratify. I wasn’t part of the whole stratification process. At the end the homeowners took that on themselves. But we were very aware. So, we did make sure that all the elements were there so that it would be possible for them, obviously.
[00:18:50] Jennifer-Lee: Do you have any advice for any homeowners that are wanting to build that are looking into duplex or legal basement suites or anything like that?
[00:18:58] Paul: Working with a good architect or designer, because when you are taking a house and turning it into two spaces does become quite tight so storage is a big thing using the space in a, in an interesting or creative way Is definitely a must from the very start. The other thing to mention about I know I keep banging on about Passive House and Enerfit, but there are bylaws in Vancouver that allow more square footage in a Passive House or a Passive House duplex. I think it’s 16 percent more FSR for Passive House and 19 percent more if you’re going to do a multifamily home. So, it does help to grow the footprint a little bit, which is a great initiative.
[00:19:38] Mike: Out of curiosity, this is a much older home, would it not have been easier just to, responsibly, deconstruct the house and build a whole new home in its place? Why didn’t we just go that route?
[00:19:49] Paul: Yeah, that’s a great question and it’s one that I think everyone considered at one point because again the house was old, and it was in rough shape. But it did have overages, so if they did if they did tear it down, they would have lost square footage and they were already fighting turning one house into two is already a challenge, so they wanted to keep all the square footage they could.
[00:20:14] Jennifer-Lee: Was there any, I’m guessing there wasn’t any heritage, doesn’t it, then, if you had the option to pull it down?
[00:20:19] Paul: There was. There is as well in Kitsilano, it was zoned heritage, so it really wasn’t an option anyways, but it was something, you could maybe push the City to get done anyways, but they would have lost a lot of square footage as well.
[00:20:34] Mike: You went from one house to two homes, and… That’s about 1200 square foot per family. How did you make it work? We talked about space and having a place for everything. How do you, maybe this is a bigger, broader question, but how as a designer, do you look at that space and go, this is how I’m going to organize it to maximize the space efficiency. And that leads to another question. Why aren’t people doing that with every house they built? Because you actually have more space, 1, 200 square foot house, than I have in my full-size house.
[00:21:08] Katerina: How’d you, do it? You find every opportunity and you use it. And you invest some money into it, too. Often, the storage solutions are not inexpensive. So, the client being willing to fork out the money to do all these improvements in storage is a part of the deal. And then, on the creative side, I’m here for it all day long. But you have to have that willing client and it becomes a part of that big conversation, obviously. When you’re taking this house, turning it into a duplex, knowing that you’re about to live in 1200 square feet and that you have an X amount of things that you need to store, are just our basic things don’t really change in size between you living in a home, like a full size home or. Or in a duplex to an apartment like you need those items and they need to fit in any which situation of square footage and the bigger challenge I have to say is also you can give people storage you can give a box a lot of storage, but then there’s the risk of it feeling like it’s just storage like a lot of boxes a lot of built ins heavy so there’s You have to make it feel airy. It has to feel the same size. You should have the same feeling as if you were in a 2, 000 square foot or a 4, 000 square foot home. Like that airiness needs to exist no matter what the size.
[00:22:28] Jennifer-Lee: And again, I just love your creative solution for the washing machine because it’s underneath the stairs, isn’t it?
[00:22:34] Katerina: Yeah, so both the front duplex and the back duplex are slightly different from one another. They’re both utilizing the under stairs where typically it’s wasted space. So again, that costs some money to open that up instead of just blocking it in with drywall and framing, right? And just close it off. And then to do built ins that are on that angle that the stairs go up is also more expensive than building just a tall square cabinet. So, with that being said, to answer your question, the backside has a washer dryer under the stairs and a closet, an entry closet with a bench seat built into it where you put shoes below, you hang things on top. It all looks nice and airy when it’s closed off, but so much function when it’s opened up. And then on the other side, the front side of the house, the washer dryer is actually in the powder room. And underneath the stairs, again, utilized full storage, but that’s where their linen closet is just. It’s a lot of storage, lots of closet space.
[00:23:29] Paul: And honestly, the stair, under the stair storage, they, it’s become a feature on both sides. Yeah. It’s not just somewhere that storage that they’re quiet, visually attractive and it’s a feature of the home.
[00:23:43] Mike: So, when you do a project like this, there’s no manual on how to renovate a house. There are some basic guidelines, but each site is different. Each home is different. And I know there were some challenges with this one. Could you talk about some of the challenges you faced with this project? There are two certain things like, okay, there’s asbestos in the attic, but what’s buried underneath the house might’ve been a challenge as well. Talk about maybe some of the challenges you faced, but also some of the creative ways you were able to mitigate those challenges because that’s really the exciting part of the conversation.
[00:24:15] Paul: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, jumping into the project we knew that we were going to be installing a new ICF foundation which was just going to be a crawl space, but we did have to dig down below the house because it was just slab on grade before by about seven and a half feet. So, it was still a pretty big deep foundation hole. And once we did that, we knew we had to lift the house up, stilt it to install the new foundation. So, when we did that, when we actually we got the house lifted up and started dig out underneath we discovered probably 15 to 20 car sized boulders left over from glacial till from millennials ago that were just in the middle of the foundation that we had to remove somehow. So, I’ve got some amazing photos of the excavators below the house, dealing with these chipping apart, hydraulically breaking apart these boulders to remove them. So that is, I don’t know if it’s super typical in Vancouver, but it was definitely a surprise to us. And a bit of a challenge right off the start too, to get rid of all that.
[00:25:19] Jennifer-Lee: And did that add cost to the project to remove them?
[00:25:22] Paul: It did. As with any unforeseen things that come up, it, yeah it definitely did.
[00:25:27] Jennifer-Lee: So how do you have that conversation with the client?
[00:25:29] Paul: That one is fairly easy because it’s so apparent. You can bring them to site and say, there’s a bunch of car sized vans in the middle of your crawl space.
[00:25:42] Jennifer-Lee: So that one is fairly easy, but it’s like, how did you not know that?
[00:25:47] Katerina: Grandma didn’t tell you?
[00:25:49] Mike: She knew. You don’t show up to an initial meeting with ground penetrating radar. So, what were some of the other challenges? Obviously removing those was a fairly significant challenge. What were some of the other challenges that as you dug into this project, pardon the pun, you I didn’t plan it that way that you found what are some of the things you encountered that were vexing for you? And what, because part of it is, okay, these things will happen to people when they do a renovation, but the creative solutions that you guys employ are really an. Like a North Star for the rest of us. Like, how do we approach this in our own homes and how should other people in this industry approach it as well? So, where were some of the other challenges that you faced and what were the best ways that you can suggest for our listeners and viewers to, to deal with them?
[00:26:33] Paul: Yeah. One of the big ones was the house. Was in fairly rough shape, like I mentioned before. There were some holes in the roof so there was moisture in areas that was getting in and rotting some of the framing outs and the roof was also sagging quite a bit so again, just working with I don’t want to use the word fighting against the house, but it did put up its challenges and just to bring it back up to the seismic and structural standards of today. One of the things we did, because we didn’t want to just…it is a renovation. It’s not a new build, although we probably did structurally, change 90 percent of the house but we didn’t want to lose the essence of the house. We deconstructed, we didn’t, all out demolished. We deconstructed selectively and saved the material on the side that then we could reinstate back into the house. So, a lot of the studs, especially in non-bearing walls and whatever, we would set aside the old studs and then put them back in just to instead of, them going to the landfill and using new wood. Also cost, there’s a savings in just reusing what was there.
[00:27:39] Mike: Is that older wood better quality than newer wood?
[00:27:42] Paul: Yeah, there’s a lot of arguments to say that it is it was better graded wood back when we first used it used it. It was a lot of old growth wood too. So, it’s a tighter a tighter structured wood. So, there are a lot of arguments that do say it’s better and stronger as well.
[00:27:56] Jennifer-Lee: And another unforeseen that you to deal with, which we talk about quite a bit now, especially in older homes, is asbestos. Yeah. I want to talk about that because I think that’s the thing that everyone hears about. They see it on the TV shows, but they don’t necessarily understand why they have to remove it and why it’s such a big cost.
[00:28:11] Paul: Yeah. Asbestos is one of those things that was used in many products 30, 40 years ago. And it, so it is pretty prevalent throughout many of the houses in Vancouver and throughout Canada really. And we found it in the attic of the house. We found vermiculite and vermiculite is one of those ones that is a high risk. It’s can become airborne. quite easily. Many of asbestos are tied up in glues or whatever so you can keep them mitigated but vermiculite, it is just a gravelly type of material, so it was a high risk and the whole attic had it. So yeah, it just needs to be dealt with and dealt with in the right way.
[00:28:49] Jennifer-Lee: And it can be super hazardous. I think that’s a lot of times people are like why can’t we just keep it in there? But it’s once you disrupt it, it’s not great.
[00:28:56] Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve had it explained to me that the fibers of asbestos itself are like Velcro. They have little hooks. So, breathing it in, they can hook onto your lungs and stay there for years and years and cause issues.
[00:29:08] Mike: Yeah, it can be scary. And I think a lot of people don’t understand this. If your house was built before 1980, there’s a very good chance if you have the old linoleum. So, if you’re planning even just a minor renovation, even just a little bit of a drywall patch, it’s certainly worth your while to have it tested because yeah, there’s a cost associated with that, but compared to the cost of lying and withering away in a hospital bed 20 years from now, there’s very little costs associated with it.
[00:29:38] Paul: So, it’s a very important thing to look at. And as a, a builder too, you feel the responsibility for your homeowners and for all the trades that you’re bringing into the house that everything has been tested and you can give them confidently that green light that. The site has the full hazmat testing and it’s safe for people to be there.
[00:29:55] Jennifer-Lee: And that’s what we talk about too, is building these healthier homes. And then why we’re going to Passive House model and other high-performance, because they’re just better for you. We don’t have to worry about that. That we’re breathing in something that it’s like Velcro on your lungs. That’s terrifies me, the image.
[00:30:09] Paul: Yeah, totally. And it’s a big reason why we stand behind the Passive House standard as well. It’s, it’s great for sustainability reasons. It’s great that these houses are starting to use less energy. But also, they’re just a better, healthier product for consumers. You can control your indoor air quality in a much greater way. Thermal comforts you can manipulate and control your thermal indoor temperature as well. So, there’s just so many benefits to it. It really views the house as a whole system and a system for living opposed to just a wooden box where air is coming in, air is leaking out you’re pumping a bunch of energy into it to keep it warm or to keep it cold or whatever. Passive House is really based around simple, it’s a simple structure that can be controlled, the indoor space can be controlled a lot easier.
[00:30:59] Mike: So, for the people who aren’t playing in this world, people who aren’t considering a Passive House right now, thinking about a renovation, what are some of the things you’d do to an older house, that you can do to bring it up to Passive House standard? Because this is really going to help people understand that yes, there’s a complexity to it, but it’s not as hard as you think to renovate an old house and bring it up to that standard. So, what if we’re looking at my old house built in 1981, what would I be looking at, or some of the top headings that I would do to it to bring it up to this level of efficiency?
Paul: So, the two main things that Passive House looks at are air tightness, and watts, kilowatts per hour, so the amount of energy it takes to either heat or cool your house. And I think that’s why Passive House has been so successful. It’s streamlined the objective. And if you hit these two things, it basically says that your house will perform to their standard. So, to get there, the first thing on a renovation you have to take both of those things into account. So, you’d have to work with a Passive House Consultant. But the big things are making your house airtight. So that’s windows, doors, the membrane and the envelope of the house. And then insulation as well. So, a typical house is two by four framing or two by six framing. We add up four, six, eight inches on the outside as well to bring that you’re basically building essentially a cooler, it’s compared if you’re going to the park with a few beers and you want to keep them cold. It’s you could take a milk crate and fill it with ice, but that ice is going to keep melting and your beer is not going to stay cold for that long. So, a better way to do is to have a cooler and you’re not going to refill the ice. And it’s the same thing with a house. We’re just pumping energy into them to have it to have it leave the house instantly where these new standards change that.
[00:32:49] Mike: Really great explanation, by the way. I never thought Yeti coolers would make their way into our conversation on this podcast, but here we are.
[00:32:56] Jennifer-Lee: Anytime. And we could talk about construction all day long, but of course, we want to get into a little bit of the design aspect of it as well. I know we talked about storage, but are there any other challenges or was it just smooth sailing for design?
[00:33:12] Katerina: No, there’s always a challenge. They’re usually welcome to I think working with two clients at the same time running essentially on the same kind of schedule with different aesthetics, sometimes different budgets. That was a little bit. I don’t know if I call it a challenge. No, it was challenging. Yeah. It was fun. It was a fun challenge. So that was unique. Yeah. I was going to say, I don’t know, we’ve there are two designs of different budgets. Did they also have a different interior designer?
[00:33:42] Katerina: So, the front side Dean. He started with another firm, and I worked on the backside for with Pamela and her husband, Lance from the start, from the beginning of that, along the way. I’m not a hundred percent sure what happened, but Dean jumped a ship and also became my client. So, I did start steering that at some point, the front side as well. Yeah. In design.
[00:34:06] Paul: My thoughts are that you and I had a really good line of communication throughout the project so anything that came up on my end, I could reach out to you, and you were super helpful at coming to site, and we discussed problems together so you were very involved and, just having that eye and level of service from you is, probably, why it’s why they jumped on to.
[00:34:28] Katerina: Yeah, I’m glad they did. And I’ll take this opportunity to say that I do think that sets us apart at Designs by KS when compared to other people is that the way that we have our business model structured, we’re there to service the client until the end. So, we don’t just design, select materials, make this pretty picture happen, and then start walking away and become unreachable or anything like that. We’re there till the end. We’re there to answer questions that don’t necessarily even have to go to the client at some point because those pre planning stages would have been. So, I get to work with Paul along the way and towards the end and it becomes a little bit less of a bother to the client. The client doesn’t have to have consistent phone calls of what do we do with this? Because this came up and, or we didn’t think about it and whatever the situation is. So that’s how we’ve decided to build our business is to be there toward to the end.
[00:35:22] Mike: It sounds like it’s working because you won Interior Designer of the Year. You’ve won two awards for this project. So, keep it up. Paul, Katerina, it’s been phenomenal talking to you today about this project, both learning about who you both are as people, what makes you tick and the impetus behind this project and how you’re able to create these great results. We love talking to people like you, cause there’s so much we can learn. Always like to talk about the lessons we learned and there’s so many. Thinking about one of the things that really stuck out to me was finding out about having to do the blasting underneath the home and the impact of that, and how that might have impacted budgets and everything else as well. And also working with the right group of professionals. When these things happen, they will come up with a service, or a plan to service the issue, or whatever it is, and they know how to fix the problem. Good work. Great work actually for all of you because you were able to actually create, and I think what you did was create a template for the future because we need more people to live in the city and we don’t have enough homes. So, what you guys are doing, densifying these old homes, and keeping them is phenomenal. And it’s been such a great conversation. So, we really appreciate it. All the insight you gave us today. It’s awesome.
[00:36:29] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah, and congratulations again on your awards. Like Mike said your Interior Designer of the Year as well as for Grandma’s House; we’ve got 2023 HAVAN Award winner for Best Renovation: 1 million to 1.5 million, and we also have the 2023 HAVAN Award for Best Energy Labeled Home: Whole Home Renovation. So again, congratulations. I feel like I need some like sound effects or something. And one more piece of wisdom, either like what people should be looking for when they hire a builder or interior designer or something? Really great about the industry that people should know about.
[00:37:12] Katerina: Yeah, I would say to invest the right time in the planning stages yeah, the planning stages, design with the architect and hire good team people that you really click with because you’re going to be on a ride for a long time, a couple of years probably when building in Vancouver.
[00:37:31] Paul: Yeah. I second that. I think working with people that you can trust and lean on because again the relationships do become quite intimate. You’re with those people for, yeah, a year or two years, sometimes even more. So yeah, really just do your research on who you’re going to work with. Interview a lot of people.
[00:37:46] Jennifer-Lee: And yeah. And one more question I know they’re sitting right here, but where do you guys put your awards?
[00:37:53] Katerina: Yeah. I keep mine in my purse, just in case anybody wants to take a look at it, hold it. Mine are at my office. Yeah.
[00:38:01] Jennifer-Lee: Nice. Do you put yours in your purse?
[00:38:03] Paul: I sure do.
Katerina: His Murse.
[00:38:06] Paul: Yeah, I do. Yeah. No, I run around carrying them all day, showing them off. No, they’ll, they’ll end up on a shelf somewhere.
[00:38:14] Mike: Awesome. Once again, congratulations to you and your respective teams and to the homeowners as well. Great work. Hey, before we go, I have to have a brief reminder. This is one of my favorite parts, and that is to remind our listeners and viewers about something very important that by liking this podcast, telling their family and friends about this podcast. Please do share it with everyone who you think needs this great information. You can have a chance to win a brand-new Napoleon Prestige P500 stainless steel, natural gas barbeque valued at almost $1,500. Compliments of our fantastic podcast partner, FortisBC. All you have to do to win this beautiful new barbeque is go to www.HAVAN.ca/measuretwicecutonce.
[00:38:58] Jennifer-Lee: Yes, Mike will come cook you something delicious on it, I don’t know, burgers or something. I’m just selling your services. And for notes and links to everything mentioned on today’s episode, including resources shared by Katerina and Paul, go to www.HAVAN.ca/measuretwicecutonce. Thank you to Trail Appliances, FortisBC, Vicostone Canada, and Rami Films. And thank you for joining us.
[00:39:20] Katerina: Thank you guys.
[00:39:21] Paul: Thank you guys. It was an honor. ♪♪