Shedding light on high-performance building trends, Eric Lee of VictorEric Design+Build shares insight on the latest in AI technology including electrochromic windows, and the importance of a design-solving client-goal approach when building a high-performance home.
Check out FortisBC to learn about their latest rebates and information on renewable energy options.
Vicostone Canada Inc: Unique and beautiful designs. Superior A grade quality. Competitively priced. Everything in stock. NO Waiting for inventory! For all your countertop needs!
Trail Appliances make everyday life better. With the best selection in Western Canada, hassle-free delivery, and a price match guarantee so you always get the best deal, Trail Appliances make sure you’ll love buying an appliance as much as you’ll love using it.
Co-Host, podcast editor: Jennifer-Lee Gunson: jPod Creations
Co-Host, Mike Freedman, AI Technology & Design
Production: Rami Films
Distributed by Black Press Media: Today in BC.
About the Speaker
Eric Lee is an Architectural and Interior Designer, Project Manager, serial Entrepreneur, Father, Mentor, and Coach.
He’s a self-taught designer who designed his first home when he was only 18 years old. He loves to draw, sketch and most of all, dream! So he gets what it’s like to be the creative type.
However, he counter-balances that with his project management experience. He’s also action-oriented and understands the next steps on the critical path and helps people be focused on a successful outcome.
He also comes from a long line of successful entrepreneurs. He established his own group of companies and built them into a well-known, award-winning brand. Now, he’s the CEO and Design Director of the VictorEric Group and has also founded 8 other companies in the past. Having built VictorEric from a single-person operation to a team of 55 people gives Eric some real-world experience on what it takes for a creative person to run and grow a business to success!
With Starfish Coaching, Eric is able to bring all his super-powers together to help enable creative businesses to find success while aligning with their passion!
Here's the Full Transcript of this Episode and Resources
VictorEric Design+Build projects
- Venturi project, South Vancouver (James Bond) https://victoreric.com/venturi-residence/
- River Road project, Richmond (most recently finished High-Performance Home) https://victoreric.com/richmond-residence/
- Palmerston Project, West Van (Net Zero Custom Build – almost done) you can find the home tour videos we did explaining this technology here https://youtu.be/Y8tObzW15Ms
HAVAN EP 36
[00:00:00] Jennifer-Lee: Mike we’re back for another season of Measure Twice, Cut Once. I’m really excited to be back in the studio. Season four, we were out in the field with the Burden family and of course you can still follow their progress of their heritage B home and I’m really excited to be back here for Measure Twice, Cut Once season five.
[00:00:16] Mike: Jennifer-Lee, I am as well. And you know, I wasn’t part of season four, but I was following along. There was so much great information and so much good material for anyone at that place where they have to make some decisions and we at my home are still trying to decide what we’re going to do as well.
And it was always a question of do we renovate, or do we build new? And so, it was so inspiring to watch the Burden family go through all of this and get some guidance and some direction as to where we can go as well.
[00:00:44] Jennifer-Lee: And the house turned out beautiful. And I also love hearing about their story of being in the basement for 18 months with a hot plate and two young children. So, make sure you take a listen in to the podcast because like if you want to know how to survive a basement suite, Well, your beautiful home is being built above you, well, that’s one to listen to.
[00:01:04] Mike: I’ll be fine. I lived in the dorms of university for four years, but I think a lot of people would find that to be a very difficult situation. But I picked up so much, so many tips, so many tricks, and they were so open about everything. That’s what I really enjoyed. It felt like we were talking to, or listening to old friends talk to each other. So much to talk about with budgets and design boards. And of course, if you have any questions about that, HAVAN.ca is the place to go.
[00:01:27] Mike: It’s on our website, you’ll find it right there. But these days, because of what I’ve heard talking or listening to those folks, it we’re, we’re now leaning towards a new home. It’s literally shifted our thinking that much. And you know, I’m passionate about building science and actually, I think as a result of this, I’m started becoming a bit of a building science geek.
[00:01:46] Jennifer-Lee: Well, with your background in home audio and home automation systems and you get to work closely with some really amazing builders and no doubt that you see a lot of cool ideas, you want yourself,
[00:01:57] Mike: It’s a very expensive prospect going out and working with our builders, but it’s also very inspiring and you must have a lot of the same experiences because you come from a family of builders.
[00:02:06] Mike: So you grew up going to amazing projects and seeing amazing things as they were underway.
[00:02:11] Jennifer-Lee: True. I, I wish I had a budget to have a lot of them. I guess we’re both kind of a little bit of building geeks, but yes.
[00:02:17] Mike: Hey, it’s a podcast co-host team made in HAVAN.
[00:02:20] Eric Lee: Oh my gosh, I love it. Why don’t you introduce our guest today.
[00:02:26] Mike: Absolutely. It’ll be an absolute pleasure to introduce Eric Lee from VictorEric Design+Build. The knowledge and information he shares with our industry is absolutely inspiring. And he’s one of the first people I met when I went into business for myself, and he gave me the time of day and he made me feel important. And most people don’t when you’re new in business, we appreciate that. But beyond that, Eric is not just part of a team that designs and creates amazing spaces. He’s also starting to pass on the knowledge he’s accrued over a lifetime to other people. So, he has a podcast, he has a coaching service, and I have to tell you, Eric, to someone like myself, especially when I was just starting out, that was really inspirational.
There were some lonely times out there, and I love that you’re helping professionals develop as well. So thank you so much for your leadership in our industry. But more importantly, thank you for taking some of the time out of your busy day to come here and talk to us today.
[00:03:17] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah, I’m really excited about this, and I’ve heard so many lovely things about you over the years, so I’m really excited to get to know you more because everybody just is so kind in the industry.
They really talk about you. So, I hope you know that because you’ve had a lot of accolades and I think what you do is great. So, tell us a little bit more about yourself. How did you get to be where you are?
[00:03:36] Eric Lee: Oh wow. Okay. Well, maybe. Cover a few points. Victor, I, I started as a design company and we were doing custom homes, and the one thing that I found how evolved from design, to design/build is I found that there’s a missing gap. Although I designed the, the design and passing on to builders. Some builders, we talked previously on this show. Wasn’t able to execute at that level, and I saw that there’s this missing thing for the client. For me, the most important thing is the client’s experience. All those horror stories that you hear about marriage, breakups, and divorces and stuff through a construction process should not be out there.
[00:04:13] Eric Lee: And one of the things that I felt was okay, one of the things that I can do to mitigate that is to offer both design and construction, because now the client has. Place one team to go to take care of all of that. And there’s not this, what I call a gray missing scope in between that where fingers start pointing and then they have to come in and be their own project manager to resolve that.
[00:04:34] Eric Lee: So, I saw that as an option for my clients. So, that’s why we create design build. And really, we’re unique on the construction side because we actually don’t build for other designers. We only offer the construction service for our design clients. And even having said that, we actually don’t build all of our designs.
[00:04:50] Eric Lee: We, we collaborate a lot of, with a lot with other builders. And, I’d say we build maybe about 30, 50% of our design jobs only. But in those design jobs, I found that it’s been a completely different experience. It’s almost stress free for the client, where they really don’t have to worry much because of our full service process.
[00:05:09] Eric Lee: And I think that’s one of the things that keeps me going is how do we keep on bettering this industry, this community of ours, design, construction, all of that, right? And that’s another reason why I want to do that. I do want to raise the standards of our industry, whether it’s in the design, the construction, or even now in business.
[00:05:27] Eric Lee: So, that’s kind of what got me here.
[00:05:30] Mike: And you’ve been doing this quite a while. So, when you started were terms like passive home and high performance home? Part of the discussion?
[00:05:36] Eric Lee: My year in school, that was the first year they offered building science. So that’s us. How early that was. It was the first time we had that option and, and we learned about it.
[00:05:45] Eric Lee: I think it was still pretty sleepy in terms of code requirements and, and construction technology. But after that, when the building science aspect of construction came in, the learning curve and the growth of the technology really kicked off, and that’s exciting to see. I’m a big believer of growth and I love seeing new things come into the industry and learning about it and seeing how it can better our, our building.
[00:06:06] Eric Lee: So that’s an exciting time right now for me.
[00:06:08] Mike: What were some of the growing pains that you went through during this transition? Because I think this is relevant because there’s always new things, there’s always new technology, and it’s likely that the journey you had scaling up in this area is going to be similar for people looking at other new technologies.
[00:06:23] Mike: So, can you talk a little bit some of the growing pains?
[00:06:25] Eric Lee: For sure. Your point about always having something new is right. There would be a tip that I would give to something that’s too new is let it play it out a little bit. Right? Especially in construction because you, you don’t see the side effects until a few years.
[00:06:38] Eric Lee: The latest, greatest product out there. Do you really want to try, maybe look at the testing behind it and, and the science and the engineering behind it. You’ve had products that come in the market and they, they claim it’s good and then five years later we find out. Okay. It wasn’t performing the way it’s supposed to be.
[00:06:54] Eric Lee: So, I think that’s the first thing I would recommend is to look at the testing behind it. Is there enough thorough testing? If it is, great, then maybe give that a try. That’s one aspect. And the city, I would mention it’s just keeping up with the city, especially Vancouver. There are always new regulations that come in and you know, that’s a whole other podcast.
[00:07:13] Eric Lee: But us being in the design profession have to keep up with that. And they are introducing new bulletins every single time, how do you keep up with that? And then more so how do you explain some of the crazy stuff that the city is asking you to do to the end client? You become that middle person. So, as a designer, I’m always a big believer that we’re not to be creating something.
[00:07:33] Eric Lee: That’s what we want for the client. Really, we are of service to them. So, we need to understand what their requirements are, their lifestyle, their family, requires, all of that stuff, and then come up with a solution. We are basically problem solve. So, come up with a solution to solve that family’s problem that they’ve come to you with.
[00:07:48] Eric Lee: And if someone comes to me and says that, Hey, I want a high performance home, and most designers and architects aren’t just giving me a box, that doesn’t have to be it. There are reasons why they’re proposing a rectilinear or a square shape, because it’s the most efficient form in terms of thermal bridging and such.
[00:08:05] Eric Lee: But if the client’s priorities are for aesthetics over the performance, then that’s a conversation that we can have and, and see what outweighs. In high performance design. It’s not a prescriptive path, which says that as long as you do this, this, and this, you will get that certification. It’s a performance path, which is what I like about high-performance homes is as long as you can meet this performance, you can do whatever you want.
[00:08:28] Eric Lee: So it’s more of an end result measure, then, okay, here’s a book and follow it. And all of the code is changing towards that. You know, in the eighties and the nineties when we were building, it was very prescriptive. At the back of the building code, there was wall assemblies that you picked from, and that’s it.
[00:08:41] Eric Lee: Now it’s open to your creativity. As long as you solve the standard that they want of air change, of our value, all of that stuff, then you’re good to go. And that makes it much more, much more possibilities for whatever design you can come up with. And whether that’s a traditional home with different shapes or just a modern box.
[00:08:58] Eric Lee: So really what’s important at the end of the day is that we understand the client’s requirements, their priorities, their values, and that goes towards their home’s performance. Whether that’s their concern about the sound, uh, the air quality, the energy efficiency, and then also the other stuff, lifestyles, cost, schedule even.
[00:09:19] Eric Lee: From there, once we have all those parameters, we can deliver, design, and deliver a home that really meets their requirements.
[00:09:28] Jennifer-Lee: And when I was looking at your website, I was looking at a very futuristic home and I was like, wow, that’s a cool high-performance home that I’d live in. Because again, when you’re thinking about high performance homes, you don’t necessarily think about that.
[00:09:38] Jennifer-Lee: But I think. Beautiful. That’s a showstopper. And so, I think a lot of people have to get out of the mindset of just because we’re leaning into these building strategies that it’s like you can still have a showstopper like this one. Like, I don’t know how to explain it for the listeners, but it kind of looks like something that you would live in in the future.
[00:09:54] Mike: I think it’s really, really neat and I think what’s neat about this conversation is typically we are either talking with a designer who’s looking at for lack of a better term of designing a space and the functionality, or we’re talking to a builder who’s focused heavily on the building science.
[00:10:09] Mike: What’s really interesting is you are blending both of them, and the results are so radically unique compared to some of the other people who are playing in this space. And that leads into the next part of our conversation as well, because you’re coming at this from a very different perspective than a traditional builder.
[00:10:27] Mike: You must have seen this things that you were doing a few years ago that were considered luxury or unique builds are now becoming more mainstream as well. What are some of the trends that you’ve been doing or things you’ve been doing for the last few years that you see becoming more main?
[00:10:44] Eric Lee: One of the things that we started doing quite early on was to do the out insulation, they call it, to put the insulation on the outside.
[00:10:51] Eric Lee: And that’s just good building science practice because you’re breaking the thermal bridge and for the longest time some of our projects with other builders, we’ve been really trying to just push them towards that and they’re still stuck to their two by eight framing, because with two by eight you can still get the R value, but for some reason they like that. Maybe the frames are just used to dealing with that. Now I’m seeing more and more people starting to do the outsulation. Which is a much better practice. So that I think would be one example. Another example is this idea about design build. So, whether you call your company Design build or not, it, it doesn’t matter.
[00:11:22] Eric Lee: The principle of design build is to have one team take care of everything, meaning from the design to the construction. And the benefit that you get with the design build firm is that. We are looking at the cost of construction right up in the beginning at design. The old process, the old way of design and building is you go and get a house plan done with a design and architect, and then you go and get the building permits and then you go and tender for your builder.
[00:11:46] Eric Lee: The problem is that then the build tenders come back and oh wow, it’s over your budget. What do you do? Go and revise the drawings. It’s very inefficient. It’s not serving the client. They’re making approvals of design of the form without any numbers in their mind, and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to do design build, is to help with that client experience.
[00:12:05] Eric Lee: So, every design iteration that we’re showing them, we’re showing them with a budget because I have my project manager and my construction manager to advise. And we become their cost controllers along the way. So now the process is actually much more efficient. So every iteration of that design, every material that we pick, you are deciding and saying yes or no to that with a price in mind.
[00:12:25] Eric Lee: And I think that’s the way buildings should have always been. For some reason we it, it was never the thing in Vancouver. And I’m seeing more and more builders offer that, whether they collaborate with a designer or the other way around. But I think that will serve our community and our clients.
[00:12:42] Jennifer-Lee: Well, I think a lot of people like the one stop shop aspect too, because I’m seeing a lot more design builds, even compared to when my dad started his business over 30 years ago.
[00:12:50] Jennifer-Lee: And I think it’s because people have so many choices. So, they want to go of one person, then they don’t have to make as many choices, like home building’s got a lot of decisions to it regardless. So, do you want to spend all that time interviewing a whole bunch of people?
[00:13:02] Eric Lee: And I think to your point about making choices, the clients are coming to you, rely on you as that industry professional.
[00:13:08] Eric Lee: So, when you advise on a decision, you should be coming with it from a holographic view, which means all aspects of it. And that’s the beauty about the design build process that we can bring. Any decision, any changes on site we’re before we even talk to the client, we’re presenting to them, this is what happened.
[00:13:25] Eric Lee: And because of that, these are your impacts. From an interior design spatial perspective, from an architectural code perspective, this is what you have to change. From a construction cost perspective, this is the impact of the budget. And from a construction scheduled delay, so now they have all the information, then they can make that decision whereas if you separate those two, the designer, of course is going to be protecting the, the vision and the design and that, and which, which is fair. They’re not thinking about the other aspects. Same as the builder, right? They’ll come and they say, no, I want, I like this option because it’s going to get me the the least change in terms of cost, but it might not be the best recommended.
[00:14:01] Eric Lee: The biggest
[00:14:01] Mike: advantage I can see as you know, someone who’s not directly in this industry. The way you are in this industry are twofold. One, someone’s building a house in this area, they’re busy because it costs a lot of money. So, they’re professional and the time that they have to devote to this is going to be their most precious asset.
[00:14:17] Mike: So the ability to make things more efficient by only having one person to meet with that manages everything is huge for busy people. And the other advantage that I see that is massive is the account. So, I see this all the time. I’ll be on site and the builder blames the designer. The designer blames the builder.
[00:14:33] Mike: Well now there’s accountability and there the buck will stop here, so to speak as well. So there are a lot of advantages for people who are looking at which way to go beyond just what you talked about as well. These are the intrinsic things that we as homeowners really, really appreciate and make our lives easier too.
[00:14:48] Eric Lee: Yeah, and I, I tell my clients that a lot. If you go to two separate companies, fingers will be pointing. But if you come with a design build firm, there’s only one finger to point, and that’s it. We have to solve that. Of course, I, I, I’m not saying that there’s not a good designer out there, not a good builder, only out there.
[00:15:05] Eric Lee: My recommendation for those who are looking for their designer and builder team would be to make sure they work well together and bring the builder up. So even if I’m not building that, I still recommend my clients to decide on your builder, bring them up early in the design period so that they can advise on the construction because that’s what we would do if we were there and that’s the better process.
[00:15:24] Jennifer-Lee: I love that because a lot of times the builder is a forgotten piece. Like everyone wants to design, which is the, the fun and sexy part. A homeowner, when they’re thinking about their home, they’re not necessarily being like, oh, these are the materials that it’s built with. It’s like, what do I get inside? What are the faucets going to look like? What does it look like from outside? No one. You know what? I really want a sturdy home, like that’s my top priority.
[00:15:46] Mike: It’s not, well, no project has ever been harmed by better communication and better connections between the people working on that home.
[00:15:53] Mike: That has never had a negative effect ever in the history of construction. Quite the opposite effect actually. It improves things, it lowers costs, it does a lot of natural things. That people don’t necessarily think about. I want to chat with you a little about technology and options that you are utilizing today that are not only cool James Bond, futuristic things, but will also probably become standard in a few more years in our market as well.
[00:16:17] Mike: There are so many areas, but the one that’s the most exciting to me of all things is the windows. Can you talk a little about some of the windows that you’re using now? Because it’s come a long way since I was a kid, and it was a double pane. Or if you were really, really, really, really wealthy triple pane with gas in the middle sort of thing. Right. So, we’ve moved so much beyond that. Can you talk a little about the future of windows?
[00:16:37] Eric Lee: I think what’s driving this window change, obviously, is the performance of a home, which is driven by the. Right. So, by 2032 the provincial code is pushing everyone to be net zero. net zero already, and there’s certain ways to get there.
[00:16:52] Eric Lee: Windows is one of the big energy leaks in the house. So, we look at, okay, how do we improve this big hole in our wall, right? There’s no insulation there. And that’s where a lot of the technology innovations has happened. A lot of it comes from Europe. Gone are the days of aluminum frame, single glaze glass that just sweat like crazy.
[00:17:10] Eric Lee: Then we move to vinyl, double glaze, and now we’re putting gas inside and then possibly triple pane. The house that Jennifer-Lee mentioned, we were using very advanced window system from Silicon Valley. And the storm view glass and what they use, the technology there is called electrochromatic glass.
[00:17:29] Eric Lee: And what that is, is basically there’s, I think, electrons inside the glass, and when you charge it, it kind of comes to the corners and then becomes clear. So that’s how you tint it, and you can control that by the amount of charge. But the reason we use it there is we wanted to control the solar gain and also the thermal comfort. And by doing that, you’re having this window system. The reason why so advance is it’s tied to intelligence. It’s tied to weather data. There’s a weather monitor up at the roof of that house, which knows what the weather is today, and senses where the sun’s coming through, and 30 minutes before the sun hits that window, it’ll slowly tint down.
[00:18:07] Eric Lee: So, you don’t have to get up from your chair. It’ll read all of that data and help you with the tinting. By tinting it down, you are eliminating or you’re reducing the solar gain, which from a solar gain perspective, imagine if a sun hits a southern window, it’s going to get way too hot in the summertime to sit by that window.
[00:18:25] Eric Lee: By tinting it, you’re shielding that, and that’s what we mean when we say thermal comfort is the air quality. In the old houses, the air temperature at the window could be a drastic difference from the air temperature in the middle of the house. It’ll be uncomfortable with thermal comfort. What we’re trying to do is create a very small temperature of flux no matter where you are in the house. And that’s what we’re using to create those results.
[00:18:49] Mike: Like I said, James Bond stuff. Because in the old days how we used to deal with it is if it was getting too hot or too cold, you had to drop a heavy blind, which reduced your ability to have that beautiful view and had a whole bunch of other challenges associated with it as well.
[00:19:02] Jennifer-Lee: The tinting also reminds me of like a lot of people, like my parents have like just regular glasses and they go outside and then they tint. So, would it be something similar like that?
[00:19:11] Eric Lee: It’s a different technology. So, for those that have flown with the newer Boeing aircraft.
[00:19:16] Jennifer-Lee: Oh yes, I have. Their windows are so cool.
[00:19:18] Eric Lee: Actually, yes, that’s the exact technology. You can tint it and it slowly just gets clears.
[00:19:25] Jennifer-Lee: I was trying to find the thing like that you pull up and I didn’t realize it did it for you as you’re like flying through and it’s actually nicer because then you’re not fighting with the person beside you to be like, can you pull that down?
[00:19:36] Mike: I assume in my own home, if I have this technology, I can also press a button and someone will bring me a cup of coffee.
[00:19:42] Eric Lee: That may be in the future, maybe season 10.
[00:19:44] Mike: Windows are really cool, but there are a lot of other elements that pertain to thermal comfort and energy management as well. And obviously I deal with integration a lot.
[00:19:54] Mike: Can you talk a little about how the whole home has integrated from a comfort perspective because obviously when you started out, integration wasn’t nearly as extensive as it is now, and we tend to think of it in terms of luxury items, speakers, theaters, and everything else, but that is the end result.
[00:20:11] Mike: The first part is what we’re going to talk about here, which is maintaining comfort in the home. So, let’s dig into that and talk a little about that.
[00:20:19] Eric Lee: Really anything can be integrated. Now, I think the Tesla car has shown that e every single piece of a Tesla car has a relay, which now can be controlled by your app, similar is your house. And the trend is, I think, just going to continue in that aspect. Besides the luxury stuff or, or the, the fun to have stuff like speakers and, and such. You also have the building management aspect. So that’s your security, that’s your heat, your cool, your water, possibly if you have a gray water management system, anything can be tied into integration.
[00:20:49] Eric Lee: Now there’s of course, different cost factors to that. In the house out, we did the James Bond house, let’s call it that, what we did was we did tie in the security. That’s a unique one because we were actually running hot water or cold water inside the concrete slab. Now most people have heard of radiant heat.
[00:21:07] Eric Lee: That’s a similar idea, but here we’re taking heat and cool through the slab. The reason we can do that is because we’ve controlled the temperature flux, the windows, and I think steers so much that you really don’t need to change your heat or cool temperature by much, because it’s not fluctuating that much.
[00:21:23] Eric Lee: It’s not like the old houses where you have to put a big blast of AC because it’s too hot just to bring it down temporarily. But the problem with that is it always fluctuates and you’re never happy. So, if you control that temperature flux and keep it mild, you actually don’t need to change the temperature too much.
[00:21:38] Eric Lee: And then you can also let the computer manage that, right? It’ll learn your habits. It’ll learn when you slowly shut the thermostat down, that’s your sleep time. Or when you wake up, your weekend behaviors are different than your weekday behaviors. And even when you’re away on vacation, you can shut that off on, on an app or pre-program it.
[00:21:55] Eric Lee: So, there’s a lot of learning that will happen, and I think that will be the trend as AI gets more and more advanced. We’ve seen it this year with Tesla. There’s just so much AI going on. I think that is the trajectory for building integration.
[00:22:07] Mike: Eric, it’s so exciting to learn about new technology and building trends.
[00:22:11] Mike: I want to get into a deeper dive on building high performance homes. But before we do that, we have to take just a 30 second break to quickly thank our sponsors.
[00:22:21] Jennifer-Lee: Measure Twice, Cut Once is grateful to our podcast partners FortisBC, Vicostone Canada Inc, and Trail Appliances. Support from our partners helps us share expert knowledge and resources with families looking to build, design, and renovate the home right for you.
Vicostone Canada’s showroom and warehouse are located on Broadway Street in Port Coquitlam. Specializing in the manufacturing and distribution of superior quality engineered quart SLS for all residential and commercial countertop requirements.
Trail Appliances make everyday life better with the best selection in western Canada. Hassle-free delivery and a price match guarantee. So, you’ll always get the best deal. Trail Appliances. Make sure you’ll love buying an appliance as much as you’ll love using it.
And we all need reliable and efficient equipment for better comfort, health, and safety of our homes. Whether you want to adopt some energy saving habits or take on a major energy efficiency upgrade no matter what your budget, FortisBC can help you save energy. Be sure to visit FortisBC.com/rebates where you can also find amazing tips on low and no-cost ways to save energy, plus buying advice for energy efficient products.
Competition alert. Listen, and like this episode, for your chance to win a Napoleon Prestige P 500 stainless steel natural gas BBQ valued at $1,649 compliments of our podcast partner, FortisBC. Details at havan.ca/measuretwicecutonce. Now let’s get back to our guests.
Welcome back. Something that comes up all the time, and we’ve talked about it a lot of times on this podcast is high performance homes, but what is the benefit of a high-performance home?
[00:24:07] Eric Lee: There’s many benefits to high-performance homes, but maybe I’ll clarify a little bit first, because high performance is a catch-all phrase and it’s, it’s a great phrase because it tells me right there that it’s not what we call a code built home. And a code built home means the minimum spec is required by the.
[00:24:26] Eric Lee: So, if you are building a home for yourself, it’s not a spec home for the market. You really should be considering something that’s higher than code. And with the city and the municipality, they’re pushing everyone towards 2032, goal of being Step Five. So, that’s another term that gets tossed around. And Step Five, Step Four, Step Three, all of that comes from the BC Energy Step Code. It’s basically the province’s way of pushing everyone, not overnight, but gradually towards their end goal. Of course, you can’t just say, okay, this is going to be the new rule and its effective next year. It’s just too much of a learning curve for people, and that’s why they broke it down to different steps.
[00:24:59] Eric Lee: Right now, all municipalities are at Step Three or higher. I’m not going to get too technical, but it’s basically at a certain level for your R Value for measurability of the performance energy and all that. Step Four will be coming up next. And then Step Five, essentially. Step Five is when a house is net zero ready.
[00:25:17] Eric Lee: So, another term, net zero gets tossed around. And essentially what net zero means is that your building your home be generating as much energy as it uses over the the year. So, it is not, of course, summertime for instance, we’ll be generating a lot from solar power, which time we won’t, but they average out for a year. So that’s essentially what net zero means. Now, another term that would get tossed around in the high-performance umbrella is Passive House. So, if I was to break it down very simply, for our listeners, high performance would be the overall umbrella term that covers all buildings. Better than code, let’s put it that way. And then within that, there’s various degrees. And I would say that passive house is probably the highest standard within the high performance. So Passive House, you’re getting a really good quality home. Their claim to fame is that they can be heating and cooling the typical house. 90%, less so you’re only using 10%, 90% less than the average typical home.
[00:26:14] Eric Lee: So that’s how energy efficient it is, and that’s the focus of Passive House. You can heat or cool a house with the same power as a blow dryer, and that’s tends to be about 90% savings over its traditional home. And how they do that is really being so efficient with their walls, their envelope, their windows, that there’s so little energy loss that doesn’t take too much to warm it back up or cool it back down in the summer.
[00:26:40] Eric Lee: Now from doing that, you actually get a few other benefits, which I might get into later. Below that level though, then you have net zero. So, net zero, Step Five, and then Step Four, Step Three. So, those are all the different terms. But I want to paint a very simple picture of the varying degrees. So, if you’re out there thinking of building high-performance home, then at least you know what you’re asking for.
[00:27:00] Eric Lee: If you’re asking for a Passive House, it’s going to be the highest standard there. And you’re, there’s cost with that and, and there’s other implications or are you in for Net Zero and people might be looking at different standards for different reasons? Typically, when people are looking at high performance, there’s, there’s a few factors.
[00:27:15] Eric Lee: They’re either looking for better indoor quality, like indoor air quality, whether they have asthma or allergies and such. So, they want a better indoor air quality. Indoor air comfort is part of that. So, like I said earlier, can you sit by a bay window and not feel drafty if you do it well? Passive House for instance, definitely can do that because the temperature fluctuation at that bay window versus in the center of your house will be very small.
[00:27:39] Eric Lee: So, it feels, makes no difference. It feels the same. So that’s air quality. Then there’s also the energy efficiency. Are you building a high-performance home because you want energy efficiency? Then that will point you to a certain direction. Are you building a high-performance home because you are concerned about the environment and the sustainability of it cause that would lead us down another path. There’s this whole other term now that’s coming online and being more trendy, if you will. You’ll hear it more, is carbon footprint and carbon offset. This talks about where does your building material actually come from. So, if I’m using wood versus steel, it takes more carbon footprint to manufacture steel than wood.
[00:28:17] Eric Lee: So, now people are calculating the carbon footprint within that material. So that’s another aspect. So, if you’re someone that’s concerned about our environment and the carbon footprint for, then that’s a consideration. LEED is a standard L. E. E. D. for homes. They look where the origins of the materials are, or are you concerned about sound?
[00:28:37] Eric Lee: Passive House is very quiet. Even a high-performance home is more quiet than others. So that’s the first thing we do when we sit down with a client that says, Hey, I want a high performance home. I ask them, why? Why Not In a doubtful sense, but why? What’s important to you? And I think that’s the best way to approach it.
[00:28:52] Eric Lee: Like I said before, as a designer, you’re a problem solver. So, what’s the problem in front of us that we’re trying to solve is the. Concerned about environment. Do they, do they have a child with asthma? Do they want to save their energy bills? Are they have a house like this? The client came to me, they don’t care about high performance, but they wanted a quiet house because they were living underneath the airplane route in Richmond.
[00:29:13] Eric Lee: But by making a quiet home, I actually give them a lot of the principles of passive house. So, there’s many other things that you need to consider, and when you understand what the client’s looking for, then as designer and the professional, you can prescribe the proper building method for it.
[00:29:28] Jennifer-Lee: And do you find your clients when they come to you know exactly what they want?
[00:29:32] Eric Lee: I think in our profession any designer can probably tell you that a lot of it is the handholding. And I would say a lot of what we do now is actually de educating them. Because HGTV or, you know, the other very flashy IG photos and stuff like that got them thinking that, oh yeah, this, I can have this.
[00:29:50] Eric Lee: Why can’t I? But then behind that, there’s a price, there’s a cost, there’s a code issue. So, there’s a whole bunch of factors that says, sorry, you can’t have that. So now we’re spending our time deed educating them and then re-educating them on the right.
[00:30:04] Mike: One thing you said that was really interesting to me is you said a designer is a problem solver.
[00:30:08] Mike: And it’s interesting because I’ve never really approached it like that. I’ve always thought of a designer as like an artist or a creator instead of a problem solver. But really that’s what it is. I’m enjoying this a lot. Now when we start talking about high performance passive house, Net Zero and all of that, the question I always have is, who’s driving that?
[00:30:24] Mike: Is that being driven at a municipal level, a provincial level, or. being driven by private industry? So, companies like yours saying, hey, we’re going to do this now, what’s driving this evolution?
[00:30:34] Eric Lee: It started with the Paris Climate Accord, where Canada and other countries basically committed to a certain change in environmental practices, if you will, had by a certain date. So, from there it trickles down. So, you have federal rules, you have provincial rules, like the Energy Step Code. And then you have municipal rules that all work towards that agenda. And for instance, Vancouver doesn’t, because they have their own charter, they don’t follow the energy Step Code, like every other city does, because it’s a provincial thing.
[00:31:01] Eric Lee: But Vancouver’s priorities are about carbon footprint. So, they have a slightly different set of regulations. For instance, you might have heard that they’re trying to cut natural gas and that’s part of that carbon footprint initiative that they want to reduce versus other cities is more about energy usage. So, they’re giving incentives for building and design and net zero home. So different municipalities do have different initiatives that they’re trying to push. Now, of course, having said that, the client also has requirements that we need to understand, right? Sure, Vancouver says, no gas does that really matter to you as a lot of my clients say, I can’t give up my gas. I have to keep my gas. And we’re trying to think of ways to solve that. And right now, it’s still possible because it’s just a gas cap. It’s not a gas ban yet. So, we’re doing other things to, to offset that greenhouse gas calculation.
[00:31:52] Jennifer-Lee: And a gas cap would be maybe like; we deal with this with our clients too. It’s like, okay, you have the stove and then like one fireplace.
[00:31:57] Eric Lee: Correct. Every gas appliance has certain points and you calculate. So, like for instance, a lot of people are not going to be able to put in a gas boiler anymore. So, the rate in heat of the eighties and nineties when it got really popular is not going to be anymore.
[00:32:13] Eric Lee: You’re going to see the trend of heat pumps, which provides hot and cold air through a force air system, or similar to force air system.
[00:32:22] Mike: So, all this conversation about what we’re doing and how, let’s put a bow on this and tie this back to the most important thing. So what are the benefits of building this style of home for a homeowner specifically, regardless of carbon or any carbon footprint or municipal bylaws?
[00:32:39] Eric Lee: If you are someone that’s living in this house, you definitely should considers some level of high-performance for a few reasons. One, you’re getting that indoor air quality that I’m talking about. So now you’re actually enjoying that and, and you’re reaping the benefits of that. You can be walking around all parts of your house without us pulling out a sweater, because the temperature flux is nil almost. You’re getting a better thermal comfort. The indoor air quality is also part of, because what’s happening is you’re using a HRV system which filters the air that naturally brings a better quality air. Also sound. We built a passive house and when we opened the door, and this was not on a big street, it’s on a small residential street, you still notice a difference.
[00:33:19] Eric Lee: It’s dramatically different. There’s this video on my website, which is demoing this Gutex material, it’s insulation, but it’s very cool. There’s this loudspeaker that they’ve boxed over with insulation, and when it’s all boxed in, you can’t hear a thing, but it slowly releases a layer by layer and then you can hear the sound. That’s how powerful exterior insulation is, and you’re getting that sound benefit, of course, energy. So, your bills, if you do passive, you’re looking at close to 90% savings in your energy usage. So, for the life of your house, that’s the calculation you can make. And quality. At the end of the day, it’s quality because what happens is when you build to that level, it’s a well-engineered design system. The products to be certified as Passive House, let’s say, they actually go through rigorous testing and the technology is better quality. So, in the olden days, if you’ve ever done a reno in an old home. Let’s go to mid-century. When they had insulation, the house was not airtight. So, what’s happening is they’re taking the moist air inside the house. That’s your cooking air, your shower air, all of that stuff. It’s naturally escaping the house because it’s a large air gap, but the moisture is now being stuck in the insulation. So, when you rip out those houses of drywalls, you see black insulation, that’s mold and that’s not good indoor air quality. And that’s not good quality either rot and all that stuff happen, but now with an airtight home, that moisture’s not escaping us much and we’re letting the HRV deal with that issue. So, you’re getting a better quality home overall.
[00:34:49] Jennifer-Lee: These all sound great, but when it comes down to it, everybody wants to know how much does it cost?
[00:34:52] Eric Lee: Yes. And that’s a common question for us. Unfortunately, I can’t give you an exact answer. I can give you some percentages, and there has been tests done. So, the City of Vancouver, along with Red Door Energy at the time, they did a cost study on a standard 33-foot lot in Vancouver building passive versus building code. And I think what they found was the, there’s a few aspects of it, and it’s on my webpage if you want it, but the overall construction cost was about 25% based on that study.
Now, I would take that with a grain of salt because the difference with Passive and High-Performances, there’s. So many different variables. In the olden days when you built based on prescriptive, meaning it’s a prescribed formula, you use two by six walls with this insulation. That’s easy to guess because everyone builds the same way with performance, which is what High-Performance methods, and the passive house is, they’re basically saying you can do whatever you want in your wall assemblies as long as you get to this result. Now, it’s a lot harder to compare apples for apples because one passive house could be facing south with a large window, and that will have a different assembly versus another one, which is a corner lot, and there’s a tree shading it, and my window is smaller. So, now there’s a whole completely different solution that you have to apply to that house. Every house is specific. On average, I would say that guesstimated to be about 25 percent if you are working with the right team, and that’s the key.
[00:36:13] Mike: Now, that being said, there’s a slight incremental cost versus traditional building, but can you help balance and offset that by talking about how much more resale value a Passive Home is versus a traditional home from terms of long-term ownership as well? Do you have any data to support that at all?
[00:36:28] Eric Lee: I don’t have data on that. I, it would be very interesting to look at, I think as the code gets closer to 2032, which is their goal, if you’re selling before that, for instance, you would have a head start and you can market that. Especially we go certified pass house. Now there’s a plaque in front of your house, so there should be value in that that you can look at and that would be an interest. Thing to look at, maybe with, with a realtor. And I think it’s all, all the market, right? Like if you’re looking at a person who’s, who cares about all those aspects, yes, they will perceive to have value there.
[00:37:00] Eric Lee: But then again, you don’t have to go all the way to Passive House. That is the highest standard of high performance. But there’s varying degrees. There’s Step Four, Step Five, Net Zero. So, if someone is interested in taking some of those high performance principles and making their house more efficient than a code built home, then they could choose something below that, and the cost is reflective of that.
[00:37:20] Eric Lee: For example, we did a house in Richmond River Road. And it’s interesting because the client came to us not even wanting to do high performance. They weren’t interested, but they were right under the flight path of the airplane. So, they said, look, I want a really quiet home. So, because of that, what we did was we brought in high performance principles, we had the exterior installation, uh, for the sound barrier, we, their air barrier so that there’s less leakage.
[00:37:46] Eric Lee: We increase the windows to triple glaze. So essentially, you’re getting equivalent of step four house. The difference that we found in construction cost was only 5% more. Now, what contributed to that is they were starting at a high-cost rate. It was a luxury home, and we were starting at a base of $600 square feet anyways, so when you compare the higher cost, jumping only a little bit more to get those High-Performance is a small fraction, but then if you bring in the High-Performance cost and compare that to, let’s say a spec home that is at $350 a square foot or so, then it’s a bigger jump. So, I think you have to understand where you’re coming from too, to look at the delta of that increase to get the high-performance features.
[00:38:30] Eric Lee: I want to finish one more point, which affects cost, which is the team that you have. Passive House and High-Performance require a lot of pre-planning. Not like the old days where you can just design a house, get a permit, and then go and find a builder. Now you have to be very collaborative with your builder, with your design team and with your consultant team.
[00:38:46] Eric Lee: There’s energy advisors, there’s passive house consultants. If you do Passive House, there’s building envelope. Sometimes you may need to pull them on. High-Performance home needs a lot of pre-planning. If you pre-plan it well, your costs come down. If you don’t pre-plan it well, you are going to be learning as you go, as you build it and you’ll be making changes and that’s when it gets very expensive.
[00:39:05] Eric Lee: So, I would encourage anyone listening to this to, if you are a serious, about passive house or high-performance, find a consultant team and a design team that knows passive and high performance, and then find a builder who’s done it before that will save you a lot of grief. It’s like one of those things that we top up with new technology.
[00:39:19] Eric Lee: It’s a learning curve and this is being thrown at us. So, find someone who’s paid for that learning curve price already, and they can leverage that learning in yours.
[00:39:27] Jennifer-Lee: There’s a lot of teams that do know how to do this style of home and maybe some that say they do and they don’t do it as well. Is there any questions that you would tell people who are going out to search these teams that they should ask them that would be like, okay, they know their stuff.
[00:39:41] Eric Lee: I think the first question would be certification. So, ask them or their team if they have done education in from a construction side. BCIT has some great education to teach framers to teach building envelope assemblies and all. From the design side, you have the Passive Institute that certifies passive designers and you also have a few other associations that teach. HAVAN themselves have ongoing educational stuff to support all this.
[00:40:06] Eric Lee: So, I think start there. And then the next question would be to show me some high-performance homes that you’ve done before. Or can I tour one of them? And then lastly, I would ask to call one of their clients and say, see how happy they were? That’s all pretty typical for any home. But now you can focus towards high-performance.
[00:40:23] Mike: One of the things we don’t talk about very often is, you know, in my neighborhood, a house gets to 30 years, and they tear it down. So, we seem to be building 30 to 50 years currently with our current logic and. and it’s always struck me that in other parts of the world, like in England, 500 years old and that house is considered just broken in.
[00:40:40] Mike: So, are we building longer term homes using this methodology or are we still going to find them to be something we want to tear down and do something different within 30 years? Like what’s your take on all of that in terms of longevity and sustainability?
[00:40:54] Eric Lee: Right. I think the difference is culturally, first of all, The thinking in Europe and maybe there’s some tax stuff to that too.
[00:41:02] Eric Lee: I know in the States they, it’s actually disincentivizing to tear down house, so there’s a factor there. But if we look at the construction type Europe, Asia, they’re mostly masonry concrete versus North America, where wood is cheap, we’re typically wood frame and wood frame. We looked at it as, oh yeah, it’s nothing.
[00:41:17] Eric Lee: I can take all that wall. No problem. So maybe we take that for granted versus if you’re looking at a concrete wall, it’s like, do you really want to remove that wall? Right. So, it’s a different attitude probably because of the type of construction. That’s for one. And then I would say that we’ve been seeing a lot of houses get torn down 30, 40 years.
[00:41:34] Eric Lee: But that’s probably because the technology back then was mid-century and they weren’t great homes back then. Like I said, when you rip out the drywall, you see the black mold. Okay? I don’t, I want to tear it all down. Now, if people are going high performance and Passive House, I’m hoping that they would see that as longer enduring quality, that they won’t have to tear down.
[00:41:53] Eric Lee: I’m sure the performance will be there because they’ve tested that thoroughly with the Passive Institute in Germany. But then there’s the whole consumer attitude too, and that might be driven by market, by tax incentives, all of that stuff.
[00:42:04] Jennifer-Lee: Eric, this has been such a great conversation about high-performance homes. I feel like I learned a lot more about them. After talking about you I feel like everything everybody said about you is correct. So, I’m excited that you’re here and thank you for being part of another episode of Measure Twice, Cut Once again, great conversation.
[00:42:22] Mike: It’s been an absolutely fantastic discussion to kickoff Season Five. I can’t think of a better way to get started. Because we’re looking at home building trends and where we’re going. So, we talked about a lot of stuff. Luxury home building, trends becoming mainstream, and that’s a constant theme throughout this season. Several areas to consider when deciding on what type of home to build, including energy efficiencies, thermal comfort, and of course the environment as well.
[00:42:45] Mike: And what I really love about talking to you is the concept of design comes first and supports all the other aspects of the project, as do your values. And by placing your values and goals first, the building science pathway will follow. Absolutely inspiring discussion here.
[00:43:00] Jennifer-Lee: And Eric, just before we go, do you have one more little bit of wisdom for our listeners?
[00:43:05] Jennifer-Lee: If you can give one more tip, what would it be?
[00:43:07] Eric Lee: Yeah, so one more tip I can give, especially for our listeners here, is to trust your professional. I think there’s been some people who, you know, there’s basically two kinds of people. Either you value your time more than your money, or your money more than your time, and that’s fine, whichever priority is yours.
[00:43:25] Eric Lee: People who want to do it themselves, we’re not talking about a simple reno here. We’re talking about a new home that’s getting hard and harder to do for those types. So, I would say find a good team, experience team, vet them thoroughly, and then trust them to lead you through that process. We have had customers that think that they can do it on their own, and they do a bunch of research and that’s where that de education comes in.
[00:43:47] Eric Lee: We actually spend more time de-educating what they’ve got in their head through YouTube, through everything else that it slows down the process, and I would say with a client and a professional’s relationship, the biggest and most important thing is trust. If you have trust, the project goes a lot smoother for both sides.
[00:44:05] Eric Lee: Not just for us on the design side, but also for the client. If you don’t have trust, then it’s not going to go anywhere. So, I would say find the right professional, make sure you and trust them and let them do their work and let them deliver that full process for you.
[00:44:17] Mike: Fantastic advice. Thank you so much Eric.
[00:44:20] Mike: And to our listeners, if you enjoyed this podcast, please like, follow and share with your family. And. The more followers we have, the more people will find out about the podcast and the excellent resources our guests, just like Eric are sharing
[00:44:31] Jennifer-Lee: And for notes and links to everything mentioned on today’s episode, including resources shared by Eric, go to havan.ca/measuretwicecutonce.
[00:44:38] Jennifer-Lee: We’ll be back next week with my family and we’re exploring Iceberg Homes.
[00:44:44] Mike: I’m almost afraid to ask, what’s an iceberg home? Are we making a salad? What? What’s happening here? Talk to us.
[00:44:49] Jennifer-Lee: I’ll let you know next week. You’re going to find out. It’s going to be a great episode with Euro Canadian Construction.
[00:44:55] Jennifer-Lee: See you next week. Thanks for joining us.