Faced with a housing crisis, rising building costs, labour shortages, and the need to reduce the footprint of how we build our homes, Chris Hill of BCollective talks us through the BOSS system.
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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
Chris Hill, President and Partner, bCollective Homes Chris’ career as a high-performance home builder started long ago. He loved building forts and revelled in constantly improving upon his creations. In 2013 he and his brother started their first construction company, Ritchie Construction. Over the next few years Chris devoured every learning opportunity that was available to him, this quest for knowledge led him into the high-performance building world and helped solidify his vision of a world built better.
Chris brings other valuable skills to his high-performance building work. He is a chartered professional accountant (CPA-CMA) who holds a BA in Economics from the University of
Victoria. His deep knowledge of finance informs all of B Collective’s work and enables them to end the cost overruns which are so familiar to folks building their dream homes. He excels in his
leadership role within B Collective as well as his work with a variety of high-performance building-related associations. He has been a board member of Passive House Canada since
Here's the Full Transcript of this Episode
[00:00:00] Jennifer Lee: Hi Mike. We’re here for another episode of Measure Twice, Cut Once. I’m always excited to be here with you.
[00:00:10] Mike: I’m super thrilled to be here. Great to see you again, and really, really, really excited about this week’s guest. We have so much good ground to cover. I have to be honest. I just want to get right into it and start going.
[00:00:21] Jennifer Lee: Well, I’m excited. I know you know him a little bit more than I do, so take it away.
[00:00:24] Mike: Absolutely. Well, our guest is none other than the legendary Chris Hill from BCollective. Now Chris is a really neat guy. He’s going to talk about some of what he’s done and why he does it. But the really neat thing is that Chris is part of, a group of people have created a new open-source building system called BOSS.
[00:00:42] Jennifer-Lee: Bruce Springsteen?
[00:00:43] Mike: No. Even better. There’s only one of him. BOSS can be everywhere. So welcome back Chris. Great to have you back.
[00:00:49] Chris: Thank you. Glad to be here. Excited to get into this conversation.
[00:00:53] Jennifer Lee: Yeah, we’re excited to have you here. So, Chris, you have a company called BCollective. Can you tell us a little bit about the story, about the, because I know that you guys have a little bit of an origin story that’s quite cool.
[00:01:02] Chris: We do. I used to be a general contractor, Richie Construction. I was a company I formed with my brother, built a number of houses, started down the high performance passive house route. Ended up joining a like-minded builders’ group. It was actually a bunch of our competitors in that group. Couple of like-minded people. We saw similar values. Three builders came together to form BCollective. So, there’s, we have multiple partners in the common goal to sort of push what we can do. It allowed me to free up a lot of my time and not be as involved in the construction side of things and go pursue some bigger things like BOSS or improving what we’re doing in our business in other areas. So, yeah, that’s where sort of BCollective got going.
[00:01:41] Mike: You have a very diverse background. It feels like there’s a joke here. What do you get when you got someone who’s really good at math who can also build. Can you talk a little about your background, just so we understand what I’m talking about?
[00:01:50] Chris: I guess if we go right back, I’m, I’m fortunate, I have a degree in economics from UVIC and that put me on a path to actually being a lumber broker and I was trading lumber in the supply chains all over North America. Started supplying internationally, Europe, China, Japan, in those places, realized lumber trading, especially 2008, if we remember housing crisis, these things falling. I got out of that business; it was kind of scary at that time. Ended up doing my CMA, so I’m a professional certified accountant. Halfway through that, I’m realized I’m not an accountant. There’s no way you’re putting me behind a desk to pound through spreadsheets day in, day out, even though that’s pretty much what I still do.
[00:02:25] Mike: And you’re a member of a bunch of different organizations as well, and without going to a lot of detail, they all seem to focus on more efficient building and more efficient buildings. Can you talk a little about that as well, why that’s important to you?
[00:02:36] Chris: Sit on the board for Passive House Canada. It’s allowed me to get a pretty interesting perspective on impact, what we can do to improve the environments that we live in and in all of my research and what we’ve done, it sort of pushed me into those directions. Net Zero doesn’t necessarily believe everything needs to be certified or standards or push all the way that regard. But I think it’s really critical that we have the knowledge and continue to push that knowledge and that’s what’s pushed me in that direction. Recently I also sit on a board with Larry Clay, he tapped me on the shoulder because he knows that I’m an accountant. So, these are all board positions. It’s not because I’m smart, it’s because I have an accounting designation and they need a treasurer, like at Safer Homes BC. So, it’s about the universal standards. So, it’s designing buildings that are universally usable, starts with wheelchairs, but in any sort of disability, designing a home that can be easily modified or renovated so that it is accessible to everybody universally.
[00:03:27] Jennifer Lee: For sustainable systems. I know you are working on another one right now called BOSS. Can you explain what that is? Because it’s definitely not what I’m thinking. I like Hugo BOSS. Yeah. Bruce Springsteen. But it definitely has its own thing in the building world.
[00:03:42] Mike: Yeah. Chris is going to sing us a few bars of Born to Run.
[00:03:45] Chris: That’ll be the last thing You’ll figure out that an accountant is really tone deaf. BOSS, I mean, the acronym is Building Offsite Sustainable Systems. Put in a grant application two or three years ago to the Clean BC Innovation Fund to further develop the offsite panelized systems. Essentially what we ended up through the grant process and developing over a couple of years is an open source, a system that’s available to anybody. Anybody can download the content, the materials, the guides, sample plans of a carbon storing wall system that’s plans are built off. Be able to achieve passive house levels of performance. Right now, the focus, because we are in this area is, is our region here. So, the climate zone four, seismic zone four. So, it meets all of the needs. It’s, it’s pretty low tech. It’s, it’s funny you sort of think innovation and building and fancy words like BOSS, it follows a light wood framing standard. It’s for the most part materials that you can pick up at any building store, and that’s allowing it to be cost effective. And we’re really finding the system’s pretty simple. It’s really about the process, how we switch from stick building, how we currently do it on site, and switching it to climate-controlled factories that are a lot easier and to be able to execute that in those homes.
[00:04:57] Mike: So, I really love the fact that you can have a controlled environment because that creates better results. What I’m hoping you can do though, is this is certainly not the first panelized, or for lack of a better term, prefabricated system for homes out there. How does this system differ?
[00:05:14] Chris: Number one is, we’re letting a whole lot of IPO, so in the big picture, when you’re as an architect, designer, builder, developer, client wanting to build a house, you can specify BOSS and it’s not, it doesn’t have to be built by BCollective. BOSS isn’t owned by BCollective. There’s nothing proprietary about it. And that’s intentional so that you can have it built by others. BOSS if we are continuing to be successful is what it can do is reduce the learning curve as a whole. Because of the approach we’re taking. We live in an area where wood construction is still the predominant manner of construction. So, in other markets, specifically overseas, in other continents, that’s not necessarily going to be the case.
[00:05:49] Jennifer-Lee: You think it’ll ever be sustainable to use other materials like hemp or other natural material?
[00:06:00] Chris: I had a great conversation with from Hempcrete in Idaho this morning, and we’re going to try a prototype project. So, the answer is yes, we’re going to explore hemp on a couple of upcoming projects. There’s still some testing to be done within the bio-based or organic materials. We have to make sure it’s going to work. Moisture management being the biggest one, mold, those sort of pieces within hemp, within straw.
[00:06:18] Jennifer Lee: Yeah, I was going to say that again. Coming down to climate, you would probably have to be in a drier climate, like California or something for it to work, because here we just get so much rain.
[00:06:27] Chris: Yeah. I mean, as a builder, building science, our biggest enemy is water, undoubtedly. And we get a lot of rain here. Water’s a real enemy of Vancouver. But I would say like the system that BOSS has going to develop, it is built with some of the best building science knowledge organizations fully signed off by an envelope engineer, fully signed off by a structural engineer. We’re developing a vapor open system.
[00:06:47] Jennifer Lee: What does that mean? I was like, you nerded out for a second. I was like, ah, I don’t know what he’s talking about.
[00:06:53] Chris: The nerd side of it is, it basically means that we have to accept moisture’s going to enter our walls and moisture entering our walls if it is trapped, will mold and cause problem. Vapor open means that it will allow that moisture in a vapor state to be released.
[00:07:09] Mike: It’s interesting, you should bring up moisture and the impediment to building in Vancouver. They’re building a house around the corner from me right now, and they’ve doing a ton of framing for three months, which means it’s going to get soaked for three months and there’s obviously a period of time it needs to dry out. With this being fabricated offsite, we’re not three to six months in framing. It’s what a week to put the thing up?
[00:07:30] Chris: Yeah. We’re three to four days in framing.
[00:07:32] Mike: So in in that sense, is this a better way to get around the moisture issues that conventional building may have to deal with? Like you’re going to have to dry out that building once you’ve got the roof on, it’s locked up. It sounds like you can just pick a good week, do it and then we don’t have that problem.
[00:07:48] Chris: Yeah, and I’d argue you don’t even need the good week, because our panels come fully wrapped with the WRB and the on the plywood on the inside. So, there’s no reason why you can’t fly it in the, in the wet. I mean, we, we are going to get a higher quality product at the end of the day through factory conditions and the speed of install less disturbance. To your communities, your neighborhoods that framing process – what’d you say around the corner? You’re hearing the saws; you’re hearing the guns. Those impact, those impact drivers are great to get a screw in, but they are noisy. And so yeah, we we’re going to reduce all those pieces and get them up fast is, is really key. And then that moisture side of it, ultimately in the construction process. In a house and we stick frame. I have lots of houses that are really wet over the last couple of months. They have a dry out time in the mechanical period. Our current client is a little frustrated with the electrical bills of what that dry out process costs. People don’t realize what it costs to run. It’s like four, 220 heaters cranked to get it to the wood, to the appropriate moisture content to then put poly, drywall on, which is our conventional building system right now which is in the moisture vapor content to nerd out for a second. Poly is a, like a vapor barrier, permeating of zero where I’m saying our walls are vapor open, we don’t have any zeros. We’re airtight, so we’re not going to let air through. But kind of like a Gore-Tex jacket. We’re going to not let air through, but we’re going to let vapor out. So that’s how a Gore-Tex jacket can breathe, but they’re still waterproof.
[00:09:30] Jennifer Lee: Love that analogy. And I’m assuming this thing is probably a lot cheaper to build than opposed to stick frames. And even though I keep thinking of the little pigs like stick frame house, maybe they should have built a high-performance home and then they wouldn’t have got it blown down.
[00:09:47] Mike: The three little pigs would’ve ended very differently had the BOSS system going ton in place.
[00:09:50] Chris: Yeah, exactly.
[00:09:52] Chris: The BOSS system, the honest answer is, time will tell. So, our goal when I wrote the grant was to reduce construction costs by 15%, and I can show you math that makes that work. It’s really hard to get a comparable number to say what we’ve actually reduced it by. What I can say is it’s no longer for high-end custom homes. We are seeing developers that with the appropriate incentives and with repeatability, and as we push these numbers down, labor costs going up various impacts of different pieces. We are getting more and more competitive to nerd out a second. Apparently, that’s what I am as a nerd.
The Step Code in BC as we’re reaching up higher and higher up the Step Code, we’re having to build more energy efficient homes at step code three. We’re, for the most part in Metro Vancouver in February, 2023. That is, we’re probably not going to be in that place. But once we start to push up Step Code Four, Step Code Five, and the jumps in energy requirements are quite significant in those steps, that’s where this wall system becomes very effective. When people are listening to this podcast in two years, because it’s super popular, they’re going to be like, that guy was ahead of his time. Fabrication. These sort of things. Repeatability, those are, that’s a lot easier in a factory; custom is difficult. There’s no reason why there’s not as many custom cars driving around. They’re expensive, they’re hard to do. They’re one offs. So, this idea of a repeatable, the catch line these days is Vancouver Special 2.0. I think BOSS lends itself really, really well to offsite and significantly expediting those permit times, making that process significantly easier for the municipal. So, they’ve already got 90% of what they need to check off done.
[00:11:38] Jennifer Lee: If you can solve the permit process, everyone will love you.
[00:11:42] Chris: Yeah. My goal is not to do it for single family homes. I want to do it like duplex, multiplexes a little bit bigger. Let’s not make single family easier to build.
[00:11:51] Mike: Well, I mean, the fact of the matter is we’re moving towards higher density anyway, so really aiming for where we’re going to be in 10 years versus where we were five years. Is a better option anyway. One thing we haven’t really talked about is quantifying cost, so I know that starting at about $200 a square foot up to about a thousand dollars a square foot is the range that homes can be built in this city. Can you talk to us in very rough terms about what we’re looking at per square foot with the BOSS system? Because to help us understand how it costs in versus conventional building, that’s really going to help us.
[00:12:34] Chris: A big part of the trouble in our industry, number one, what I’ve, I’ve learned, some people calculate square foot costs very differently. There’s a real estate expectation on square feet. There’s an architectural expectation on real square feet. There’s a builder’s expectation on square feet, so there’s quite a range there. And then what you include in that square foot cost is, is it include management fees, gst, pst, soft cost, construction cost, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That being said, in the context of BOSS, we’ve got a house right now that most likely will win some sustainability awards.
[00:13:04] Chris: Passive house, one of the lowest embodied carbon buildings you could probably build with the BOSS system. It’s the first one we’ve ever built, so it’s got a lot of stubbed toes on it, and we’ll be probably what, $350 a square foot for that house completed.
Jennifer-Lee: That’s very reasonable.
Chris: Yeah. It’s not like we’re this has got to be affordable key things in cost, affordable. And I think this is something that we’re going to learn over the next few years. And for any listeners, if you have a budget, draw a simple house. So, I’ve got two examples that we’re building right now. Both are passive house certified, both are offsite constructed. Both could be conceived as simple homes. They have both 3000 square feet. There’s a lot of similarities for context of numbers. The simple form factor, and I mean, you count the corners on the plans of this house, and there’s four, and they’re stacked right on top of each other’s. It’s a very simple house. My five-year-old could draw it, but it’s very functional. It actually looks very good in a city of Vancouver neighborhood. It looks like a lot of the older homes, the forties and fifties homes that we’re tearing down. So, it’s got some character merit. It will be, the cost of pre-fabrication, the design materials, labor installation. So essentially getting us to lock up is going to be half. So, we’re 120 K for one project and $240 for the other. Essentially the same deliverables at the end just form factor in shape as the major difference.
[00:14:44] Mike: That’s a lot less than people I think. That’s very eye-opening that you guys have going ton able to make it more efficient. And what this correlates to is fewer entries to home ownership for people as well. It’s already hard enough to get into this market in this city, and the ability to bring a scalable and environmentally responsible construction methodology is really, really exciting. The more we talk about this, the more excited I’m getting, the more I can see the potential in the future as well.
[00:15:18] Jennifer Lee: Well, I think I was just going to say, I think there’s some misconceptions though when it comes to simple. Because a lot of people, as soon as you say that, they’re like, oh, that’s not like, I don’t want a passive house because I don’t want a simple house. But they don’t realize that just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it can have a little bit of fancy flare to it.
[00:15:34] Chris: I would argue good design, I think it’s lazy design is when you need, corners etc. If you actually look at a lot of the like so-called high end homes in Vancouver, truly, if you go through Architectural Digest – those things, that Scandinavian home that is really quite simple is what’s dominating, removing bay windows and you’re removing notches and bumps and all these things is, it simplifies the construction, but there’s also a style that’s coming out of it that’s really, really common.
[00:16:05] Mike: It’s got to be exciting for you creating a new system because you’ve done the old style of stick build for years and years and years. So being on the cutting edge and getting to do things differently has to be really, really exciting. And I want to dig a little bit more into the future of building science and where we’re going because like you said, near future, it’s really, really close. But before we do that, we have to take just a few moments to take a quick break to thank our sponsors. So we’ll be right back with more conversation with Chris Hill about the BOSS panel system and the future of construction.
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[00:18:16] Mike: Welcome back to Measure Twice, Cut Once. We are here with Chris Hill from BCollective, talking about the amazing BOSS panel system and how it’s going to impact the future of building and the building science overall. There are some really interesting techniques that you guys are using to create this system. Can you talk a little bit more about them and about some of the technology behind it as well?
[00:18:39] Chris: Okay, so technology. I’m like, which way do I go? There’s a big gap right now in offsite construction that I didn’t expect, didn’t see it coming. I’m right in the middle of it now, between architectural models, CAD, drawing, if you will, computer aided design, and you’ve got Revit. You’ve got these amazing tools, even SketchUp, and that’s what we’re used to. We’re typically used to an architectural set of drawings that is submitted for permit and we maybe get issued for construction drawings. They’re 2d. Every once in a while, we get some 3D renderings. Pre-construction, pre-fabrication requires a significantly higher level, similar to what we do for cabinets. We do shop drawings and they’re really detailed. They’ve got all the details, they’ve got every drawer laid out perfectly, which you don’t see in architectural drawings. We essentially need to do that for all the walls and so created modeling CAM is a big gap right now in the industry. The biggest players in the industry across, I would definitely say North America, Europe’s ahead as usual. A couple of steps ahead of, are figuring that out we’ve going to working with a company in the UK. They’re working with AI to aid in this process. So, we’ve sent over seven or eight Revit models. They strip it down to the basic form. They’ve taken the BOSS system, the way we put things together, and they’ll generate like 10,000 options in a second, and then we will start to optimize it based on different triggers. We want to optimize drywall, sheathing, embodied carbon. There’s a number of different rules that we can apply to is a system for whatever we’re looking for that project or whatever we’re trying to figure out that day.
[00:20:29] Jennifer Lee: I’m curious about 3D printing because it’s something that I’m hearing more about from even builders here in Vancouver that a lot of it’s going on in Mexico and their interest in that. Is this have any similarities to what you are doing with the panelized system, or is 3D printing something completely different?
[00:20:47] Chris: Yeah, I mean, at this point it’s probably something completely different. We’re following what I can build today and source today, so light wood framing code, those sorts of pieces. I do see a lot of potential in 3D print. We’ve sort of stayed within wood, as a lumber broker, wood guy at heart, BC, and I do believe that is a building system that does make a lot of sense. 3D printing, the shape, the requirements and the material content. Although improving leaps and bounds every month, now you’re getting into hemp crate and all sorts of really cool materials that they’re using it. I don’t think there’s a much of a place for a pure concrete building. A 3D printed building in Vancouver at this point with the moisture management, embodied carbon, thermal bridging, all these things start to pull away from it. That being said, I do think there’s a huge opportunity for 3D printing. If I lay a bed at night and let my mind go too far, I could see a panel being 3D printed and then, and then filled with various materials that could be super eco-friendly and take it a lot further. I think there’s a big battle subterranean that is really interesting for 3D printing as well, potentially as it comes, as it comes to market.
[00:21:57] Mike: Because of how these homes are built. I’m hoping you can elaborate on what does that imply for us, whether it is vehicles or anything else. But the question that I’m going for this at the end of all this is because you’re creating a lower carbon house. Does that help? Like some of us really like our gas stoves and we’re worried about the, you know, balancing our carbon output and stuff like that. Does building a, a more environmentally friendly home help balance out some of that so we can feel better about wanting our gas stove and our gas barbecue and stuff like that?
[00:22:33] Chris: My take on it is every bit counts. We’re using the word climate crisis, and so we have to, we have to do that as each individual. We have to make our own account our own balance, and so if we want to be net zero and we still want to continue to live the way we’re living, which I think is fair. There’s no reason why we should be restricting how we’re living, then we’re going to have to look to, to ways to reduce. And I think there is a space in in that, in what we’re talking about. And I think one of the big ones is reduction. And that’s what you’re sort of getting at is carbon reduction, thicker walls. That BOSS provides can dramatically reduce through a number of other key building principles the ongoing operating energy that you put input into your house, it’s a really, an exercise on reduction.
[00:23:25] Jennifer Lee: I always feel though, like we’re like, oh, it’s one thing is bad, so now we’re going to use this other thing because it’s better. Oh no, that’s bad. Now we’re going to use this other thing that’s better. Like how we reduce to a point instead of just putting all like essentially eggs in one basket game, we’re like, we’re going to use this one thing that’s going to save the world.
[00:23:44] Chris: There’s an element of that that’s natural human progression and where I think we’re getting each time we’re getting smarter and smarter and learning more and more. I mean, I think there’s a big gas stove controversy in the US of banning, banning gas stoves, and we’re learning more about what the emissions could be from burning gas stoves in our houses.
[00:24:02] Jennifer Lee: But food just tastes so much better on it. Like I, I love a gas stove, so I was like, , so you get some emissions.
[00:24:11] Mike: I earned my cooking 80% less on a gas stove,
[00:24:13] Chris: I’d say I’m happy with my induction stove, but don’t take away my barbecue outside. That’s where it’s like I, you have to draw a line somewhere. So, no, I think it’s, it’s an interesting, I think we are, like you we’re using a lot of words like transitions and those sort of things in a lot of these conversations and, and that is the, that’s progression and as we evolve and those sort of things and explore what this change is. I think we have to sort of acc accept at some point. We’re going to have to make some changes because we can’t continue the way we’re going. Housing crisis. Climate crisis, a bunch of these things that maybe are said too often for certain people and those sort of things. But I think the reality is, is there’s enough data and proof that we’re going to have to make. We’re going to have to make a difference, we’re going to have to change something. The way we, the way we drive, the way we use transport, most likely has to change. And I think one of the biggest things is how we consume.
[00:25:05] Mike: I think as consumers we have a lot more choices than we used to, and I think that’s the part I like about it, is we can pick what level of responsibility or stewardship we want to undertake.
[00:25:15] Chris: We’ve going ton doing a lot of work in the recent months on duplexes. New construction is still a luxury item. We can’t forget that. Especially in metro Vancouver. The affordability conversation in there is, is a little bit lost on me, especially people fighting for single family affordability in Metro Vancouver. There’s nothing affordable. It’s a luxury item. I think the affordable fight is in non-market rental, capped market rental. The condos. I think there’s also, for somebody starting out in Vancouver. I sat down with the real estate agent yesterday and we were talking. Condos are really important. So, the people that he sees buying new houses, even off the spec builders or building new homes for themselves, which is a very expensive piece, they have, they’re on their third or fourth real estate transaction in Vancouver. They bought a condo. They sold it, they bought a two bedroom. They sold it. They bought a triplex. They’ve made a number of moves and that equity and asset with their wage is where they’re able to now be exploring a luxury item. And the other one, the other huge one, is there is a massive amount of wealth changing hands in Vancouver. So, you’ve got people that, families that have owned property in Vancouver that have arguably won a lotto ticket because they’re mortgage free on a piece of property that anywhere from, depending on where you go from the west side to east side, minimum 1.5 million to three or 4 million. Those are, those are big numbers. And so, and the, the downsizing and those sorts of problems, so I think we have this, the real estate industry is quite as, and you start to get into the, the other, the other crisis. The housing crisis is, that’s where this conversation is, is what are these next moves? What makes the most sense? I’m quite excited to see the multiplex coming into play in Vancouver, giving the ability for RS one zone lots to be able to have more multi stratas on it. Looks like 33’s – It’s going to go in front of council pretty quick. 33’s will be able to do triplexes and 50 foot lots will be able to do a six plex. Which would be quite cool.
[00:27:30] Mike: Well, it’s exciting though because where one family was housed now, potentially up to six families can be housed. So, there’s a lot of implications for things like community planning, transit schools, all those things that we were talking about earlier that are so important to where we build our homes. And so, it’s interesting that we’re actually in the process of influencing something that will benefit all of us later. So, it’s almost like planting a, a tree for your kids. Right? We’re not going to be the recipients. But our kids might, and I mean, it’s these concepts of a 15-minute city, everything available in 15 minutes to where you’re at, and then we’re going to have to find this missing middle.
[00:28:08] Chris: We’re going to have to get higher density to even attempt to win on any of these levels. And it’s funny, the most sustainable building is one that is not single family. It houses more people because it uses less.
[00:28:18] Mike: So, it sounds like we have some choices to make over the next little while. And speaking of choices and informed choices, I want to transition into another facet of our conversation, specifically having to do with making informed choices. We have a lot of decisions as homeowners we can make. And obviously the style of homes we build, and the methodology of building has a huge impact on that. Can you give us your perspective on all of that? Because you live it and breathe it every single day and you work with clients who are doing it as well. So, help us understand some of the choices we have and some of the solutions we have to address the challenges we face today.
[00:28:55] Chris: Choice, it’s, I mean, it’s such a huge part of what we do and I do day in, day out with our clients is this education process is providing them the information to make an informed choice. And one of the interesting things on a, a consumer level, and especially in new construction, when you’re building a, building, a new house or a new home or, or whatever it is, the level of influence and power you have, people just don’t understand. It’s a huge amount of money that consumer can really make a difference. And as we go through a process of change management, understanding how to make those choices and the impact and what those choices have for the end result of design and beauty and, and what the client and consumer wants, so, it meets their expectations is a big part of it, but also the impact and choice.
[00:29:48] Mike: It’s no longer an option that’s going to be on the table. There’s going to come a point where it’s just what level of efficiency do you want? And that’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying this conversation because we’re talking about some very future leaning stuff that is happening today. So, you’ve, you’ve basically jumped into where we’re going to be five years from now, today. I do want to take a couple moments and look towards the future because obviously what you’re doing today is not necessarily what’s going to be the State of the Union five years from now as well. What does the future of housing in the Lower Mainland look like beyond the next few years, in your opinion?
[00:30:24] Chris: There’s some fun stuff coming down the pipe. Was talking to a hemp guy today. I think mycelium is interest. We’re like, really weed and mushrooms and houses are what popped out. And we’re like, could be. So, I think there’s a lot of, in the biogenics and those materials and insulation specifically, there’s a lot of advancement coming down that could be really interesting. Various different waste products. I think we’ll start to see more in the circular economy coming into play as we’re what waste products. Can we reintroduce them into, into housing? Housing? The sheer volume of materials needed is a bit staggering. Construction scale is huge, like huge, like mind boggling, large.
[00:31:08] Chris: We have a lot of waste. Construction also is intended, once it’s in place it has a life, it stays there a long time. So, it has a big opportunity to make some, some pretty big dents and unfortunately in the past few years, 50 years. We’ve going ton pretty wasteful in that space. And so, we’ve got a lot of opportunity to improve and that’s what I’d hope to see in, in that space.
[00:31:32] Jennifer Lee: But I don’t know. We could talk a deeper conversation about this too, as much as we want to say that we want to change and there’s options to change you have to also admit that there’s some greed too, because there’s a lot of homes around here that maybe don’t need to be rebuilt, but people rebuild it because they’re like, well, that’s not my style. That’s not what I want. So, I think we also have to teach people, like, I don’t think the change is necessarily going to come just with the construction companies and learning all these new ways to do it. I think at the end of the day, people are going to want to live in multi-family, and a lot of people don’t in North America either. We have this idea that everyone deserves their own home with like four bedrooms. So, until we really flip people’s minds, I don’t know how we’re going to do that as a society.
[00:32:17] Chris: Yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting in that space, I think I’ve switched my tune a lot lately. I don’t think it’s up to builder to make that call at all. I think it’s policy. It’s why we have government, it’s why we elect have elected officials, and I think you’re starting to see it in the early makings of the multiplex. I’m a big believer in, in diversity too. I think there’s a place for single family. I think we have to be aware of what we’re doing retrofits to, or what we’re building. I think right now, even with our long permit times, the process to build a single-family house versus to develop something that could be more useful to, what we’re kind of talking about in this conversation is really easy. Like the, the permit time and process is dramatically easier to build a single-family house than something larger, something more impactful. What I’d like to see is that that policy shift to, to allow for that and that’s what the multiplex plan has going to. And it, and it doesn’t, it actually, it’s kind of cool cause it empowers an individual versus like these companies and corporations or developers. Larger scale developers are what I mean by that. There is this idea and everyone, I mean, we haven’t exodus. I have a lot of friends right now in their twenties that are in our employees in this labor shortage that are, that are leaving to other places that they can afford a house and that house, that picket fence dream is really critical to them. I think it’s still, it’s probably what we have to accept is that unless you’ve won the lotto, had a large inheritance or done really well successfully to build a new single-family home for your place, as closer to the City of Vancouver’, It’s just simply a luxury item. And, and that’s, and that’s fine, but we still need to find housing and affordability. And I think we also need to change what a multi-family home is. We often think about it and it quite quickly becomes a small condo, one bedroom condo, studio, 600 square feet. There’s some great projects in Toronto that, that a company’s doing that they’re doing six story buildings multi-unit residential building. So they’ve got commercial on the bottom, but they’re doing larger format spaces, homes, and so they’re getting into like three, four bedrooms, 1100, 1200 square feet, kind of like the old Kits, apartment buildings, you know, those old ones that you go in. There’s like two massive bedrooms and they’re just bigger space. So, I think that’s an opportunity. We, we often think of condos in those small, big towers when we talk multi-family. but I think row house townhouse still making it very li livable. It has to be. Livable, usable. It needs storage, it needs all these pieces.
[00:34:54] Jennifer Lee: Well, like this is not a new concept of multi-family living. Like North America really is the only one that is more into single-family homes. Like I know we were discussing before, but in Europe, like Paris has tons of multi and, and you would never know it. It still looks aesthetically pleasing, but it houses a lot more families. It’s just because it’s huge skyscraper that I think it’s ruined it for people, that everyone thinks that’s what multi-family living is. They don’t realize there’s different varieties of it.
[00:35:21] Chris: I mean, there’s a lot of people that say it. What it is building Paris, if we emulate what they’ve done in some of the old-world countries is you, you go to, you go to Paris. It’s one of the densest populations in the world and I don’t believe there is a skyscraper. I don’t even know if there’s a high rise like the Eiffel Tower’s not that tall, but it looks tall because all the buildings around. Five to six stories. I think they’re seven, eight, but they just don’t, this, it wasn’t in that air of time. You didn’t build that high, but it’s still one of the densest populations and a beautiful and amazing and architecturally stunning city. And they’re also, if you look carefully, they’re all a bunch of boxes. They’ve dressed up the boxes really well. And so, I think that’s where we’ll start to explore that. And then, and the reality is, I’m no city planner and have no desire to be, but if we start to take a big picture, I think we have to mature as a city a little bit. And we’ve had some planning and policies around zoning that are probably a little old and have missed the mark on that missing middle. And I think it’s, it’s how do we adjust and catch up on that? Yeah. Super high density’s not there’s a place for that in a couple of pockets and then we, then we constantly move on.
[00:36:31] Mike: One more question along that vein before we move on ourselves. One of the challenges we talked about is affordability. So, there’s a couple challenges. Number one, what does that person who is, you know, a paramedic and a teacher or, or just, you know, not what we call uber wealthy, just regular working folks like the rest of us. How are they going to live here in the future? And how are we going to scale that issue? And the other challenge we face is, how are we going to have places where people like, look at all these stores downtown. Look at all these businesses downtown. Most of the people working in retail can’t afford to live there, and they’re not going to want to commute two hours. So how do we scale that problem in the future? Because it’s never going to go away that we need people to work in our cities. But what has happened is most people can’t afford to is it a matter of us living in smaller homes? Is it a matter of changing how we build our homes through new construction techniques like BOSS? How in your opinion, do we address this issue so that our kids can afford to live in the same time zone as us?
Jennifer-Lee: That’s a big question.
Mike: It is, but if you answer right, you get to become the next premier.
[00:37:36] Chris: There’s a lot to unpack in that and I think it, we’re going to need to build differently because if we don’t build differently, we may not have a place. If you look at it extremely, I’m pretty worried about climate change. The temperature raises and those sorts of things. So, number one, we’re going to have to build differently. And right now, that way of building costs more. So, we’re going to have to find ways to build less, hopefully, offsite production, automation, material, supply chains, all those things are going to come in line and support them. We’re going to have to build denser. We’re going to have to find ways to do that. And we’re going to probably have to change the way we live close to our cities. I mean, we talk about teachers and, and firemen and policemen. You drive on, we talked about it. You drive on the highway right now between van like North Vancouver or Vancouver out to Coquitlam, the trade vans out to the valley are pretty intense.
[00:38:32] Mike: Like, oh, if you lined them all up, they could go around the sun and back again. There are so many people getting off that highway and they on a Friday afternoon,
[00:38:38] Chris: it’s a big piece and it’s, it’s a pretty common problem though. I mean, San Francisco new like we’re, we’re a city now let’s accept that we are a city and we’re going to have, and to do And it’s. It’s, it’s an echoed problem along around a lot of North American cities there. I do believe it’s, it’s, it is in smart building. I do believe that it is in the six, six to seven story building and diversity. Is have – being able to accept that our single family zoning, we can have a single family house beside a duplex, beside a sixplex, maybe even by beside a seven or eight story building, and still have the fabric of what makes Vancouver and Metro Vancouver great. So, I don’t think we have to lose as we build this. There’s also, yeah, I mean, you, you start to dive into the infrastructure problem pretty quickly in this space, but it’s not going to happen overnight. But I do believe, I mean, I want to stay here and I want my kids to stay here. So, it’s a, it’s a problem. We’ve got to look straight at and tackle.
[00:39:40] Mike: It sounds like some of the things we talked about today are the beginnings of that, and we really, really, really appreciate you taking the time to go through everything. I wish we could keep going because this has going ton so interesting and so informative and I think we’ve all learned a ton having this conversation, but unfortunately we do have to part companies shortly. However, before we do that, do you have any tips to leave to homeowners thinking about a project like this or thinking about a project in general that you wish they knew.
[00:40:13] Chris: find the right team at the start. Interview multiple builders. Interview multiple designers, and do your homework at the start, and once you trust them and do your best to let them do their job. Because the more you interfere in that process as it goes on and on, the harder it gets.
[00:40:28] Jennifer Lee: Great advice. As a daughter of a builder, you just said it. Thanks Chris. You brought so much knowledge, you’re charming, everything to this conversation. I just could keep talking. To you forever about this. Thanks for joining us today on another episode of Measure Twice. Cut Once. It’s been a great conversation.
[00:40:45] Mike: It’s been a phenomenal conversation and what’s really inspiring is what the future of home building and home construction has to offer. We covered so much stuff. It’s kind of hard to summarize everything, but the big ones to me, were the BOSS system. And that open-source solution you’ve created. You’ve talked about the equations to bring housing costs and solutions into everyone’s ability to own and to solve a number of problems and the future of building materials, carbon capture, and just the need to rethink some of the ways we’re doing things as well. And the biggest point that I think you made in all of this is that homeowners can make a series of decisions that will make a huge difference to the planet we live on as. So, Chris, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a real pleasure. It’s a real inspiring conversation as well. To our listeners, if you enjoyed this podcast, please like, follow and share with your friends and family. The more followers we have, the more people will find our podcasts and the excellent resources our guest like Chris are sharing.
[00:41:45] Jennifer Lee: For notes and links and everything mentioned on today’s episode, including resources shared by Chris go to havan.ca/measuretwicecutonce. Next week we’re going to be in the studio with more home building trends and building solutions.
[00:41:58] Jennifer Lee: So, see you next week. Thank you so much.
[00:42:01] Chris: Thanks guys.