Todd Best of Best Builders teams up with Ian McLean Architecture sharing the story of Triadic, an award-winning home recognized for its environmental initiatives, housing solutions, and excellence in energy efficiencies, with two mortgage helper suites, including one stratified suite. It’s a winner!
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About the Speaker
TODD BEST, OWNER | PRESIDENT, BEST BUILDERS
Construction has always been instrumental in Todd’s life. Starting at a young age, each summer was spent on-site working for this father, Garry Best, who did commercial builds. Todd’s passion for building was evident early in life and he never doubted that one day he was going to own his own company. In 1994, Todd acquired his Red Seal in carpentry, and by the age of 27 had started Garry Best Design and Construction, which would later be shortened to Best Builders Ltd. In his spare time, Todd enjoys trips to Disneyland with his family and doing work on his hobby farm in Delta.
Ian McLean, is an architect who’s been helping clients create their dream spaces for over 20 years, both at a local design firm and in my own practice. His designs help families and businesses make their visions a reality. From interior renovations to custom-built family homes, his diverse portfolio shares a common thread of sustainability, and connection to our beautiful West Coast landscapes.
As someone who has designed and built his own multi-unit family home, Ian understands the importance of getting it right, and in making the process an enjoyable one.
Check out images of the award-winning home, Triadic
Here's the Full Transcript of this Episode
EPISODE #48 HAVAN Awards Best Environmental Home
[00:00:00] Mike: Hey, Jennifer Lee, how the heck are you?
[00:00:05] Jennifer-Lee: I’m great. Welcome back to another episode of Measure Twice, Cut Once.
[00:00:08] Mike: I am still having trouble coming to grips with the fact we’re already in Season 6. We’ve had so many great conversations including last week we had Jim Smith on and we’re going to keep that conversation going. We have an amazing two guests joining us today. Of course, my dear friend, Todd Best, and we have Ian here as well. Ian McLean from Ian McLean Architecture and we’re going to have a really cool conversation about how to renovate an award winning dream home.
[00:00:34] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. Ian’s going to be your best friend after this too.
[00:00:37] Mike: I can already tell that I can already tell that.
[00:00:41] Jennifer-Lee: I’m really excited to have you guys on. Todd, I’ve known for you for a long time as well. Also, a child of a family builder. You, of course, you’ve got your son’s who are going to be taking over your business one day as well. And so, I always love chatting with you, but for our listeners that maybe don’t know you as much yet, can you give us a little brief Todd history and how you got your Best Builders?
[00:01:03] Todd: I’ve never done anything but construction. So, my father was an architect for the department of public works. So, a lot of his jobs back then when I was a kid were restoring old heritage buildings that are here in Vancouver. That was his forte, if you will. He retired early and started the first generation of Best Builders. And I remember the first project that we had as his company, which was then Gary Best Design and Construction. We built three pavilions at Expo. And that’s where I think I really got a love and knew that this was what I wanted to do. I really enjoyed the building aspect and the camaraderie with the guys and stuff. That sort of pushed me along that line of, okay, I want to be on hand, but tactile learner, I did struggle in school a bit. But as soon as I found that you can build stuff with your hands, schooling became really easy because I could put what I learned in class to use and then see the finished product. And I think that’s also led me to wanting to make sure I can apprentice all these young guys. And we have a new program, of course, but we can go into that later. But there, I always had a love for the impossible. I wanted people to tell me. You can’t build that or that can’t be built. And I think that’s what I’ve set the basis of Best Builders on is we don’t want to take on, 15 projects. I could be building as many homes at a time as I want, but I’m really looking for those clients that want something special, maybe an expression of who they are or an expression of how they like to live. They want to be a little bit extra creative. They don’t want just that another house on a block. And this is what Ian brings to the table for me as well as again, you get tha, that teamwork. That like-minded thinking, and if you can get a client in that too, then it makes everything really fun. It makes for an exciting project, and I’m thinking, after all these years, I’m finally at the point now in my life where the business is very comfortable. We have steady clients coming in. We’ve won a lot of awards. And I’m starting to wind down. So, I’ve put in all this hard work. So, I’m very fortunate to have two sons that are very interested in the business. And they want to see it better. Like they still see the flaws, if you will, in their dad. Dad, if you’d done that a little bit better, this would be that much of the want to put their own touch on it as well, which, I find very exciting. They want to get involved with the conversations with the clients. They want to get involved with the marketing. So, to see, I think as a dad, you want to see your sons be a better version of you. And I think that goes with my company too. I wanted to do the things my dad couldn’t accomplish, which I’ve managed to do a lot of the things because he struggled. But having said that now I’ve taken the company to a very comfortable place in the market. I’ve got it. Lots of great friends with HAVAN, like tons of great friends with HAVAN, lots of great associates. A lot of my friends now are handing their companies on to their sons. So my sons are making friends with their sons. So this is a really exciting time for Best Builders.
[00:04:02] Jennifer-Lee: That’s great. And again, like I said, similar situation, except I’m not taking over the family business because they don’t trust me with a hammer, but my brother one day will. Yeah. And Expo 86, so funny. You mentioned that a lot of great builders came from that. My dad also worked on a few pavilions. Yeah. So, it just seems to be like, it was the start to a great generation of home builders and Ian, how did you get into architecture before you met this lovely gentleman?
[00:04:28] Ian: I grew up on Vancouver Island and I would work with the framing company, a contractor building houses on Vancouver Island. My grandfather also was a builder immigrated from Denmark. And so, I always was inclined to, I always knew I wanted to be an architect, but I wanted to get practical experience with house building. And from there I went to pay my way through University of Victoria and then did my Master of Architecture at UBC. And it was while I was interning with Don Stewart Architect that I met Todd on a project we were doing in West Vancouver.
[00:05:03] Todd: My first Georgie.
[00:05:05] Ian: Your first Georgie. My first Georgie. And so, we’ve known each other since 2006. And been working together on a number of projects since then.
[00:05:15] Mike: You have a very unique story because you wear multiple hats, right? There’s all sorts of different kinds of architects, just like there’s all sorts of different kinds of buildings. And what I find very fascinating about you.. forget about what I think. Tell everybody what you do primarily, because this part with homes is a passion project, right?
[00:05:35] Mike: You wear multiple hats.
[00:05:36] Ian: Yeah, In my primary job I’m a director at a large local architecture firm, HCMA. We do community centers, pools, schools, community based buildings but I have never been able to let go of my passion, which is building houses, designing and building houses with good builders. I take on a select number of clients and it’s something that I’ll never let go of because I love doing it and I love working with people who have a very collaborative approach. Like Todd says, we work very close to the builder and also we need a good client. That’s part of the team. If the 3 of us have a good synergy and work together, then there’s great results.
[00:06:22] Mike: But it’s got to be challenging, right? Because when you’re doing commercial design, that’s for lack of a better term, an industrial finish, right? So doing what you’re going to do a commercial basis is first of all, larger scale, but also it’s very different in feel. Then a residential area. How do you go between those two worlds?
[00:06:40] Ian: It’s a good question. They are quite different. But I find that the residential world is much more, it’s a little bit less rigid and it’s a little more. I can have a little bit more creative touch and sort of collaboration with trades with good builders than with the institutional work. It’s there’s a certain rigidity and structure to it. And so I find it’s good to have both.
[00:07:04] Todd: You’re not playing with the owners either, which we like, right? You like to get into the owner’s head. When you’re building a school, it’s a school. You can’t be that creative.
[00:07:13] Ian: It’s much more personal. I feel like a pool would mean, the result of it is quite spectacular and beautiful, but you have to remember it’s a much larger team and you’re one part of a much larger process. Whereas with a custom home, you can really develop close relations with the owner and with the trades and the builder that you’re working with and have a much more sort of personal creative contribution I feel. So, I do love, I love both.
[00:07:42] Mike: well, and at the end, when you have that homeowner walk into their home for the first time and see it for the first time versus like a school trustee, right? Like it’s going to be very different. One question I ask a lot of people in the design into things is this when you’re dealing with a commercial and industrial design it’s like you said, very rigid, there’s certain things you have to use for fire and this and that you’re a lot more creative. You have the other side of your brain growing, going when you’re doing home stuff, where do you draw your inspiration from, right? Because you’re going from one world where you have a lot that you can’t be creative. And then you’re going to another world where it’s literally a blank slate. How do you figure out all of these details for people?
[00:08:20] Ian: That’s a good question. It’s part of the creative process. I think all architects, or at least, it’s drawn on, it’s like a personal reservoir of creative ideas. And it’s about getting to know the client and understanding what’s important to them. So, I’m not a sort of a top-down architect. I like to get to know the client and get to know what’s important to them and then work collaboratively. Obviously, I have my own things that I feel are passionate and important to me and I’ve always loved housing. So, I love imagining a domestic space and how people are going to occupy it and live in it and enjoy it with their families.
[00:09:01] Todd: And that’s it’s something that I draw upon. If I can add in something for you and I’ll tell you one of the things that makes them so valuable for us. Is with all buildings in Vancouver, you have these building envelopes, which people don’t realize because these invisible lines around your existing home or the home you’re going to build and you have to build within those lines. What we found is that Ian’s very good at creating something really unique and special. With maybe an area that otherwise would have, say, just been trusses and dead roof space. Ian’s been able to take a very unique, maybe shape for a small lot, and then being able to maximize what we can get out of the house. And Ian’s quick, even when, it’s one of us will say, hey, what about this really neat space? And you’ll go, Oh, wouldn’t that make a unique place for the for the kid to have a little fort in the house or something that is also constantly evolving. It’s not like Ian’s a, draw and drop a guy which, a lot of people are. Here’s the drawings, build the house, goodbye. Ian wants to come by, wants to visit with the carpenters, he wants to, that’s what makes it exciting for the client. They see us together and you’re getting energy and you get, I always get goosebumps on my arms because then the creative juices get flowing and then the client picks up on them and they get, what if this was crazy, but what if, and Ian’s yeah, I could draw that. And then that’s where Ian’s creativeness really starts to pay dividends.
[00:10:15] Jennifer-Lee: But that’s why it’s so important that we always repeat this on this podcast is having the right team. And you guys, you can already tell that you love working together because I think sometimes and this is not you obviously, Ian, but sometimes the architects and builders don’t necessarily work together. Like you said, Todd, they’ll drop off the plans and that’s it. But a lot of things too, just because it can be in drawings doesn’t necessarily mean when you get it to the stage, it can be functional. So sometimes you guys really have to put your problem-solving hats on and being like, we want to keep that part of the architect’s design, but how does this work the conflict?
[00:10:47] Todd: You get a lot of jobs that we’ve gone to builders and architect are in constant conflict because the architect has a vision and the builder saying, there’s no way I can physically build that. And I think that’s where you get a lot of commotion. And when the owners pick up on that energy, then they start getting worried because all they see is I’ve got two guys at $200 an hour each arguing over how they’re going to frame that piece of roof. And that makes for a kind of a dysfunctional job because then the carpenters are listening to it. And there’s no chemistry anymore on the project. I think what we want to do is when we set up a team for a project is, Ian just came in to help me with a project that we’re doing because the architect was struggling, and we introduced Ian, but Ian was able to take the details. He’s worked so well with all the carpenters on my team. He worked through all the details really quick. Had it done, solved, found some cost savings, solved the problems and moved on.
[00:11:41] Ian: There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of aspects of our industry that are stressful and as Todd says we try to find we always find ways to, always to work through, and we’re problem solvers and we have each other’s back.
[00:11:59] Mike: So, you also have good timing, right? We keep talking about this. It’s when you engage your entire team, you can’t engage part of your team part of the time and the rest of your team, the rest of your time. So, what you guys have just done is underscored A, the importance for me as a homeowner to make sure that I’m talking to everyone on my team and B, making sure they can work well together at the earliest possible opportunity as opposed to waiting until it’s too late. You guys have just proved everything we’ve talked about correct yet again, so thank you.
[00:12:28] Jennifer-Lee: And you can answer Todd is part of your answer if you like to, or you can use another builder, but yeah, I just want to know, have you ever have done a design where you feel the builder actually brought an extra special something to your design to life?
[00:12:43] Ian: I would say that probably happens all the time. Almost all the time. And yeah, it’s a collaborative process. Like I have probably the initial vision and then it’s I think it goes back to my working directly with builders. And also, as my grandfather was a builder and just having that respect for what is brought to the table from the practical side, from the builder, from the key trades, like it’s not me dictating the design. It’s us working collaboratively together, to deliver a great home for clients.
[00:13:17] Jennifer-Lee: So, because at the end of the day, we got to remember too, we’re not going to live there. It’s got to be functional for the people in there. So it can’t be like, it can be our showpiece but we’re not going to be living there and doing this with them.
[00:13:28] Ian: It’s not all, it’s not all about me. I have a vision, but I it’s based on what the what’s practical, what the client’s budget is.
[00:13:38] Todd: What’s buildable and then you get back to the owner being, the owner is confident that he has a team also that has his back and is willing and wanting to express their points. This project that we’re going to talk a little bit about, this was a job that kind of went all over the place and there were lots of opportunities there. And some of the options are brought up by the carpenters vaulting the upstairs ceiling to get extra height turned into a beautiful detail that we just figured it out as a team, told the owners what the costs were, they went for it because it improved their view. So, you created these really cool little features out of a home that really didn’t have much of a budget, but because we hit the points at the right time, they just became part of the actuality. So, it wasn’t like going backwards to go forwards and there wasn’t like what do you think? That wasn’t my idea, so we’re not going to do it. So, there’s no egos with this team, which I love. Sometimes you unfortunately get that, and you go with the builder or the architect, or they’re always arguing over whose idea is it? Who’s designed it anyways? Happens a lot.
[00:14:34] Ian: This is just an ego business. But this is just us having a good time. It really is.
[00:14:39] Todd: And I think that’s what I tell clients as soon as it stops being a good time, I don’t want to work for you. No.
[00:14:44] Mike: You’ve just underscored why it matters, right? Because I go to a lot of different projects with a lot of different people. And when I’ve been on your sites, the clients have been very happy with you because this can be a stressful experience. It can be a difficult experience because of people like yourselves who’ve made the process very integrated and very accessible to the homeowner. There’s no surprises. So, a lot of that. Stress and trepidation that can come not working with the right team or not having team timing properly isn’t there. And that creates better results, not only in the finished product, but for us who are homeowners, the whole process. And that’s really important. And that’s something not enough people think about. They’re looking at bottom lines and that’s it.
[00:15:25] Todd: And there needs to be a mechanism for stress. Even when clients are like, they come home and they go, Oh no, like this is not working. With us, it’s always been a quick phone call to myself. And then I get Ian on the line and all of a sudden they’ve gotten the whole team. So, we find our clients aren’t stressed. Cause we’ve said, if you’re worried, phone. And we’ll make something work for you. And we’ve always responded very quickly. So we’ve actually alleviated that homeowner calling over and over again. And every time they call, a little bit madder, a little bit madder. They’re climbing up the chart before they finally explode over something that could have been fixed very easily by a very skilled team. So that’s what we’ve told the client, you’re helping us with the low voltage. That’s a very difficult rental that Ian and I did. And there were lots of times, believe me, I’d get the call at midnight. I can’t sleep because I can’t think how this is going to work. Okay. And I’ll call in the morning, we’ll call you and we’ll come by the house. And, in the morning we go by, we’d fix it and she’d be happy. But that’s again, the importance of a good team covering for helping each other. It’s not me saying Ian, that’s a silly detail that Ian drew. There’s no way I can build that. I would never do that. I’d phone Ian and say, hey what was your vision for this? Cause maybe I can make that work. Client doesn’t even need to know about it. So, you’re just cutting that stress out of the loop. So, I think that’s important for more people to realize that you can fix that with a friendly phone call as opposed to that’s not me. That’s that guy. So, deal with that guy. And then call me Back.
[00:16:45] Jennifer-Lee: Like you said, it’s so important to have great communication with the people on your team. Great communication with the clients because at the end of the day too, it’s an emotional experience for the clients because there’s a money tied to it and that can be volatile if you don’t handle it the proper way.
[00:16:59] Todd: It’s their life savings. A lot of the time.
[00:17:01] Mike: Yeah. Hey, speaking of great communication, we should take just a couple of moments and take a break to thank our amazing sponsors.
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[00:18:32] Mike: All right. Welcome back. You guys have known each other for a very long time, and the results of you collaborating closely for a very long time are very evident in the awards you’re winning. Before we start talking about this project, can you just quickly explain how you guys met? You guys have known each other for many years, haven’t you?
[00:18:49] Todd: Yeah, since 2006, I think you mentioned. 2006, yeah. It’s an interesting story. I was actually my first crack at building a really big multi-million dollar home came from a fellow named Don Stewart and a client that believed in me named Al Shearer. And Ian at the time was interning off of Don Stewart Architect. With Don Stewart. And that was a, I talk about highly detailed homes. 64 pages of details. Everything was hand built. Everything was clear for an amazing home. And I fell in love with, working with Ian, we worked very closely, Don was a very hands on architect and we worked on several big projects together with Don Stewart and Ian, and then we drifted apart. I hadn’t seen you then five or six years maybe, or?
[00:19:37] Ian: Yeah, I went to work at HCMA to finish my registration and become registered, so that’s, that was the hiatus, and then I continued to do my own. Work on like houses and so forth and it was a project, a renovation project in on 17th Marple, yeah, 17th that you guys, we reconnected again and it was great project. We and then since then we’ve been doing probably about eight projects or more. Yeah. So quite a few.
[00:20:09] Todd: We’ve got three or four on the go right now. Yeah. But we were looking at a project. And I said who’s the architect? And I said, Ian McLean. I went, Ian, that rings a bell. I went, I had to call him right away and say, Ian, I’m looking at one of your projects. And that project was really tricky, very tight budget, but turned out to be really well done. It was very fun. And then from there, so we keep we’re not going to let it end here. So, we just started referring work back and forth and giving each other a first chance, if you will. And from that has come, yeah, usually two or three jobs a year together.
[00:20:43] Jennifer-Lee: Wow. It’s been good. It’s a great origin story. And of course, you guys are now working on a project together, or you’ve worked on a project that has won some awards. So, let’s have a little bit of a celebration here, but congratulations on these three awards. Best Environmental Initiative, BC Housing Award for Excellence in Housing Solutions, and FortisBC Award for Excellence in Energy Efficiency in New Residential Construction. I feel like we need to pop the champagne or something.
[00:21:13] Mike: Absolutely. Applause.
[00:21:15] Jennifer-Lee: Applause, yeah there we go. It’s woo, I need to like, do something.
[00:21:18] Mike: We have our own sound effects here at Measure Twice.
[00:21:20] Jennifer-Lee: Budget issues, just hand clap. Yeah. Anyways, congratulations you guys. Thank you. The HAVAN Awards are very coveted, very hard to win, and so you guys did an amazing job. So, let’s talk about the project. How did you guys get on it together? Let’s set the stage. What there drama like?
[00:21:39] Mike: Yeah, how to get started. Who initiated it?
[00:21:40] Ian: Nathan, because you referred me Nathan? I did refer Todd and his team. I am trying to recollect how I met Nathan. We, he reached out to me and I don’t know if he, how he must’ve connected me somehow. He, the homeowner, Nathan Lee is the homeowner. Nathan and Allison are the homeowners. And he’s like minded in a lot of ways, his background is landscape architecture, and he’s a very creative artist, and so we connected and started working on the design together, Nathan and I, with his wife Allison as well and then referred Best Builders and we were from, it was quite early on because I like to get the builder connected early on. It’s much better for the overall process.
[00:22:26] Jennifer-Lee: Let’s talk about that for a second because now we actually have two of you in the room together and we’ve always talked about this on this podcast about a lot of builders feeling that they should be on the project pretty close to the beginning, especially when things are being drawn up. So, can you tell us a little bit of that process we’ve taught? And again, like you, you said a little bit of why you like to buy, want to take a deep dive through that.
[00:22:46] Ian: Well, a big part of it is getting feedback on budget early on. If we’re starting, the design is starting to take shape and it’s good to have the builder. Get to know one, the client, but also the site and where the design is going. And oftentimes they can provide feedback on like high-level feedback on budgeting, which steers the project it’s fed back into the design. So, I and also it’s just the longer history we have on a project together, the better it goes when it comes time to handing it over to the, like the builder starts actually building it. The more familiar they are with the client and the designs developed, they know it’s important to the client. They know it’s important to the overall design.
[00:23:31] Todd: So, I think there’s definitely with ourselves, I can’t speak for all builders, of course, but, different builders come from different backgrounds. My background being, I’m a red seal carpenter and when you’ve had as much experience building as I do, I think part of what I really appreciate is Ian opens that door for me with the owner and says, okay, so here’s the design. What do you think? Do you see any problems? Do you see some areas where maybe we could do this a little bit less expensive or is it easier for you? So he’s actually taking into account that, we’ve got to build this. It’s my guys building it. And I’ve been blessed with the experience that I can look at this and say, if we designed this a little bit differently here, or we could utilize products and that’s where it’s become a lot more. Fun. I don’t feel like I’m just getting, here’s a drawing. You got to build it exactly like this. I could build spec homes all day long in my sleep. I can honestly say I don’t really enjoy them. It’s just nothing to it. I can have apprentices build spec homes. But when I build a home where I get to make an expression, if you will. I think Nathan’s house was almost an artistic expression for us. We didn’t have a lot of budget. He was really cool to try different things. He had an old chunk of bowling alley in his garage. He said, can you do something with this? Yeah, we’ll make a countertop out of it. So he actually built his kitchen countertop off an old bowling alley. Wow. So those are the kind of experiences I really want to encounter.
[00:24:54] Mike: Yu’ve underscored something very important. When you are working with the right team, neither of you are about your egos. It is about the client first and foremost and about the results. And the collaboration that goes with two professionals who get it like that will create much better results. Because this was not a traditional renovation where I’m going to do a new bathroom and kitchen.
Ian: It’s a brand new house. It used to be what? A cottage from the 1930s and 40s?
Todd: Yeah, we blew it down.
Mike: You blew it down and you created a new house, but this isn’t like a regular house, right? This is a very unique situation in the number of units you’ve created, right?
[00:25:30] Todd: That was the difficulty and that’s all hands off to Ian for that. Because he basically took a very squishy place and built like a legal duplex with a rental suite. So this client was able to have a beautiful home with a yard with his kids and then create a rental suites, which was also, we had a rental suite originally, and he had a tenant that he wanted to get back in.
[00:25:51] Ian: I think as prices are so high in Vancouver and everywhere now in Canada, a lot of clients or homeowners are looking for mortgage helpers and ways to make the dream of living on a sort of what feels like a single-family lot more affordable. So this was a legal duplex, which I believe they’ve held onto, but they have the opportunity to sell. And realize, if they need the capital for that. But there’s also a mortgage helper, a rental unit that’s tied to the main unit. And we’re not sure if the listeners can see the photos, but
[00:26:28] Jennifer-Lee: Oh yeah, we’ll have them up on the website just so they can take a look. But it’s called triadic for a reason. You have three suites. And so just so I get my head around it, and of course to paint kind of the theater of the mind for the audience, it is a duplex. And then there is a suite attached to one of the ones. Why did you not make it a fourplex ish then?
[00:26:49] Ian: There, there was the opportunity to do a laneway house. But the client wanted to use that for his studio, for his landscape architecture and so forth. So there’s three units in one building, and so that was a tall order because it’s, there’s zoning constraints, heights, setbacks that we need to work within an envelope. And then it’s about how to make the space, each of the three spaces, they’ve all got to have good outdoor space, good natural light, and so what we did was more of a front to back duplex.
Jennifer-Lee: Not a side by side.
Ian: Not a side by side, and so Nathan and Allison have the main unit which is essentially oriented more towards the back, and they’ve got a great room, like a main space that we did some tricks with the zoning so we were able to give them a taller sort of grand room without any additional square footage. And they still get the benefit of a crawl space underneath it for mechanical and so forth. So, there were building challenges around that, that we worked through together. Super easy build, but it maximized what the potential was for the lot and still reserved the space at the back for the homeowner’s studio.
[00:28:06] Todd: And he wanted the studio in the back. We probably could have been a laneway, but the studio being something we’re actually just completing now, we built a, we basically took his old garage and restored all used, utilized all the old lumber to build. The studio in the back with like hand cut vaulted ceilings and the photos for that will be really cool when they’re all done because now the studio is finished. But he was really into reusing as much of the old product that we pulled out of the heritage home. So, you’ll see the claw foot tubs we reutilized countertops. We even hand picked a lot of the fur beams out of the home. We selected some and then utilized them back again for like handrails, windowsills, just so the house told its own story. I know the one thing I really loved about this place is we actually, in his original house, that’s where they had their kids, there was some casing molding in there. And it was very simple. He had all the kids little lines for as the kids grew. And so, we actually kept that piece of casing. And then used it to match and put it back on his son’s door and then match the casing down the hallway, all with the same. And then the other little cute thing is the two kids bedrooms. The kids had never slept apart, the son and the daughter, because she has really bad night terrors. So, one of the things that we thought up with Ian is we actually put a little secret door in the room so that at night she could open the door if she was having nightmares and she could hear her brother breathing or she could climb into the door and climb into bed with him. Love it. So this is something really, but she was so scared about having her own room and she expressed this to us. And we said, what if we make you a little secret door in the back of your closet? And that’s those little things too, that, for me, I get really excited about doing something simple and then she goes, that’s the first thing she shows all her friends when they go, where’s your secret door. But there’s little stuff like that, that maybe you don’t get from Your average everyday builder.
[00:29:53] Mike: those special touches little things. Yeah. And, those are really neat, but what I really like about it, a very high level is, first of all, this is not an expensive place to live or a cheap place to live. Sorry. It is a very expensive place to live. And it’s becoming less and less affordable for families. And so we have to be creative. In order to maintain the lifestyles we want to maintain. But at the same time, we are also dealing with densification issues, and how do we make sustainable neighborhoods without radically altering their DNA. And so what’s great is, where one family could barely have room to live, now two or three families will live, and that’s going to solve a lot of problems at once as well. Can we talk a little bit about some of the bits and pieces of the home? We want to talk a little about some of the energy efficiency and maybe indoor air quality, because those are important conversations, especially if we look at the smoke outside of this window right now. Can you guys dig into a little about how you tackle that? Because I imagine it would have been more challenging to engineer three separate climate zones than one separate climate zone in that same size space, right?
[00:30:58] Todd: Yeah, and we have the restrictions the city lays on us too. And of course, you have firewalls to think about and sprinkler systems. And the firewalls, especially every time you penetrate it, the city or something like that, and we had to do, floors were firewalled. The clients, again, there are ways of creating an efficient way of heating your home, if you don’t mind doing a little research without breaking the bank. And this was actually our challenge from our client, was how do I get my air conditioning, how do I get my air changes, and efficiently heat these units, because again, we’re hydropower. To be able to create that system we used hot water baseboards in a lot of the home which also tied into the hot water supply. The air conditioning system is actually designed by our mechanical contractor, and it became a very low cost, high energy efficient system without having to break the bank.
[00:31:54] Ian: I also feel like we, we worked a lot on passive ventilation. So Nathan’s unit, Nathan and Allison’s unit, for example, has great natural light, a lot of operable windows and a big folding door at the back. But it also has a top. Like it’s got a allows for natural ventilation through the upper floor as well. I think the sort of party of the design helped a lot with that too. And one of the things that we really try to do is These are smaller homes and, or it’s not that small, but it’s a small house. It’s a small house, but it’s 3,300 square feet total for all three units. But they feel there’s great light, natural light, and there’s great connection. Each unit has great connection to outdoor space. Which in Vancouver’s climate and just people want that sort of sync. It’s a, it’s an element of a single family home that people want to maintain. They don’t want to necessarily live in apartment boxes. They want to have a sense of a yard and or garden.
[00:32:57] Todd: And the current code changes are going to make this interesting. As you said, how do you jam three or four units into a 33-foot-wide lot and still give you a feeling like I may as well be in an apartment. Yeah. This is what the design of this worked very well because it did give, so Nathan and his family has a beautiful big private backyard all on their own. Don’t have to share that with the neighbors or anything. In the front yard, there are two separate areas for yard. Both of them have their own gardens. So it does give you a feeling like three individual units. The complexity of the home was a little bit more to build it. Because of all the firewall issues and stuff we had. But having said that. We were met, we met, I almost want to say we fluked out but to be able to be able to see the job when it’s done and to be able to realize that you’ve accomplished everything that client has asked for, which in the end is what we’re looking for. We’re looking for acknowledgement from him and his wife and the smile on their kids faces as you see the bedroom. That’s the biggest reward we get. Is you realize you’re going like, I hope this is everything they dreamed of and more. And then to see that smile and you realize, okay, we nailed it. To get the awards, to be honest, I wasn’t going to even enter this house in because it wasn’t one of our big budget homes. It was a very simple build. And we were actually talking with with Mr. Knowles, who does our photos. And he said, this is a really fun project. Why haven’t you entered this one? And I said. I don’t know, what would I enter it in for? And so we started walking through it and talking with Ian about it and realizing you know, it was, it is a unique home and had a lot of really neat, special features that maybe we just I couldn’t, I didn’t see for myself cause it was just something to be we just do it.
[00:34:35] Jennifer-Lee: what I love about it, like you said, it is a modest budget because it makes it being like, Oh, a lot of people could build something like this. And how do you work the two of you with someone’s budget like this to keep it on track and make sure that it is realistic. And
[00:34:48] Mike: what was the budget for this out of curiosity? Inquiring minds want to know.
[00:34:54] Todd: The budget for this was one point, actually the budget originally was 1 million. It went up to 1.2. So it was $1.2 million. We actually, opposite, Nathan actually followed our system, which is probably the first time we give him a budget and an outline of saying, this is what you can spend in every category. You have so much for tile, so much for hardwood, so much for, and he actually followed it. Some of the things he asked for in additional was more where our carpenters came into play was like the extra for trim work and the countertop. And then the studio became a separate issue, which we budgeted separately, but Nathan wanted to. Nathan knew the importance of teamwork because the other thing Nathan didn’t use was an interior designer, which we thought was going to make it very difficult, but he was very on point. I wouldn’t recommend that for clients. He’s a very rare. He were very closely with Ian and worked closely with us. We did a lot of extra groundwork for him, but he was determined to come in on budget. So because we were able to work all so closely together the job just came together. It just fell into place. And we’ve done a lot of preplanning, a lot of pricing up front. So we knew what all the costs were going to be. So when he wanted something extra, we could say this is how it affects your budget. Do you want it? No maybe I’ll do it later. Is this something I could do down the road so that when we did hit a problem, it was easier to take on because we already knew all the costs that were fixed. So proper planning with your team at the front. Carry straight through to the end, if you’ve executed it properly. So I think that’s again, the most, the biggest thing you can do is get the architect, get the interior designer, get a good contractor that understands what you want. You don’t, maybe not the cheapest guy, but a guy that you think is going to be able to work through problems with you and understand your goals, and then that should be able to be followed through straight to the end.
[00:36:36] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. And one thing that we didn’t talk about yet is I’ve heard this through many builders, especially here in Vancouver and even in Westminster, but oil tank. Do you want to talk a little bit about the oil tank,
[00:36:46] Todd: the dreaded oil tank ambush? Yeah. Yeah, they had a clearance letter that said there was no oil tank on their property. Of course you pull the house down and first shovel in bang, there’s the oil tank. There are some. The rules that we have to follow. So of course we had to open the tank. We did have some leeching. So we had to take care of that first and then dispose of the tank legally. That was not expected. There was a bit of a skirmish with the realtor and the previous owner, cause we did have a letter signed off on but we didn’t have to face a fight. They actually did come forward and say, yes, we will pay for those costs. We just handled it very calmly and it slowed us down for a few weeks, but we were able to deal with it, get it off the property. We did talk to both neighbors on both sides. There are chemical compounds that you can add, so it actually shows where it’s leached into, because you are responsible for, it’s not just your property, you’re responsible for your neighbor’s properties as well. So we wanted to make sure we did all the research, had it all signed off on, and then we were able to proceed fairly
[00:37:47] Jennifer-Lee: Just for people that might not know, because it’s still a common occurrence, especially in the older parts of Vancouver, Lower Mainland, what is an oil tank? Like, why do we have them?
[00:37:57] Todd: Oh our old furnaces used to be run on kerosene oil tank. And so these tanks a lot of times are buried And we’re never emptied back in when I first started, you used to be able to, the fire department would come out, they’d cut open the top of a tank, pump the fuel out, and then you’d haul it out, or you just fill it with sand and you could leave it, but you can’t anymore, because people realize is these tanks leach, so they pull the tanks out, then they want to, then they want to explore the ground to make sure you have things like the old piping used to be wrapped in asbestos. And so you have all these other elements now that you’re looking for to make sure that we’re safe. So it can be tricky. So don’t take it lightly and don’t just rip it out of the ground and throw it in the way on a, Saturday truck, Saturday afternoon, the back of your truck, because if your neighbor finds some kerosene in their yard, then you could be held liable. So definitely take that seriously and do it right. Do the research upfront before you buy the property. Absolutely.
[00:38:49] Mike: I think we could probably keep talking about this project all day. It’s been in a remarkably interesting conversation with. So much ground to cover and, some great learning and some of the lessons that I think are really pertinent for today’s learning is first of all, working with the right team. So your design and build team to maximize the available space on your lot and also maximize the impact on what can be a constrained budget, right? We don’t have an unlimited pot of money. And once again, you have made sure to underscore the importance of if you are a homeowner, if you are contemplating a project like this, bring your team together as early as possible and have them working together because the end results are going to speak for themselves. The fact that you could take this project in budget, and by the way, for people who are listening and watching this in Winnipeg and the rest of Canada, 1. 2 is cheap for Vancouver market. Yeah. Not so much for Winnipeg and the rest of Canada, but to have it come in at such a low price point is quite remarkable. So it speaks highly to both of you, your many years of experience, and what’s really neat is here you guys are working on your first respective projects together all those years ago, and you’re still working together and pumping out awesome projects right now. Yeah.
[00:40:01] Todd: Thank you.
[00:40:03] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. And before we go, I know you guys have told me so many. Just give us one more little piece of wisdom. It doesn’t have to be anything to do with this house, but if somebody was coming to you, Ian, and looking to find an architect, what kind of tip would you give them? Todd, something to do with somebody coming to build a home. Do you wanna go first or you want, unless you have alot of tips that we don’t know about.
[00:40:30] Ian: I wish I’d thought about it earlier. I guess one thing that comes to mind, perhaps not the most important, but it is important nonetheless to have an architect that understands the intricacies of working in the city of Vancouver. It’s, oh yeah. it’s got its own unique challenges and zoning permit process and it’s, It can make things either extraordinarily more difficult, or it can make things fairly smooth if you’ve got a designer or architect who is familiar with the processes. That’s it.
[00:41:05] Todd: My tip, I think it’s the same tip I do I give all the time, is take the time to interview the builders. Don’t worry so much about the budget. Don’t even bring the budget up because anyone will tell you anything you want to hear to get the job sometimes. But I want to say, take the time to understand the builder’s process, who he is, how dispute resolutions work, a little bit about himself, how long has he been in business, because you need to be comfortable with this person. This person is going to be a big part of your life, through the planning process, permit stage, and you want to be able to think, When I’m panicking, I want to be able to call this guy and have him settle it down. I want him to have a way he’s going to solve all this and his team should be able to come together. You’re spending your life savings. If your team doesn’t care for you, move on and find a team that does. So you need to pick that person that you do think is actually going to care for you and your family the same way they care for their own.
[00:41:57] Jennifer-Lee: Great answer. And I think the most important question to ask you guys before we go is where did you put your HAVAN Awards? Do you have a room? Because you have a lot of them.
[00:42:08] Mike: wall of his office with all the other ones he’s won over the last 20 years, probably.
[00:42:12] Todd: Yeah, they’re in my office, just, I put them up on the shelf and right above all my other sort of plaques and stuff, but the HAVAN Awards for me has always been fun. I think I’ve done it since, and more so even though, the Georgies or anything else, it’s just because the HAVAN is a room of all my friends. And all my peers, and I think it’s, it’s not every day you get to walk up on the stage. I think my wife, hugged Ron, and I was hugging Don as I went by, and high fiving Mike. But to see all your friends there cheering you on, there’s no egos, no animosity. It’s just, well done, I’m going to buy you a drink afterwards. And so I think that’s what makes… That’s what makes the awards really fun. And I know this is, I think these are your first ones, right? They
[00:42:52] Ian: first HAVAN ones. I had, I have one with Shakespeare Holmes two years ago.
[00:42:56] Todd: I can’t see that name. I’m just kidding.
[00:43:02] Ian: Sorry, Mark. No, that was a great, that was a great project too. And it was a good experience. Mine are in my office behind my computer, so if I’m having a meeting they’re visible behind me. Your daughter loves them. My daughter loves them. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:43:18] Mike: They’re beautiful. Yeah, Todd, you were talking about winning a HAVAN Award and being with all your friends, and that’s really one of the greatest parts for those of us who are part of this organization, is we’re surrounded by our friends and family, and today we indeed had a conversation with two friends about some really great information.
[00:43:35] Mike: Privileged to be able to talk to both of you today. I always learn so much when we have people like you on because you have such a different approach to doing everything and we really genuinely appreciate you guys coming in and making time to talk to us. Now, before we go… I have to talk about barbecues for a second, not actually, no, not barbecues specifically a barbecue and that is a barbecue that someone can win. So our wonderful friends at FortisBC have once again brought to the table Napoleon Prestige P500 stainless steel natural gas barbecue. It’s worth over $1,500. And yeah, thank you FortisBC for that. And we’re going to give it away to one of our lucky viewers or listeners. All you have to do, havan.ca/measuretwicecutonce, tell your family, tell your friends, enter lots, and hopefully we’ll have someone getting a new barbecue very soon.
[00:44:34] Todd: Fantastic.
[00:44:35] Jennifer-Lee: Awesome. Thank you guys so much. I love having you on and for notes and links and everything mentioned on today’s episodes, including of course, the beautiful photos of Triadic all you need to do is go to havan.ca/measuretwicecountonce. Thank you so much. Thank you.
[00:44:51] Ian: Thank you. Thank you.
[00:44:52] Ian: Thank you both.