Infill homes and laneways in the spotlight at annual HAVAN Awards

Energy-saving measures also recognized at 14th event honouring homebuilders

On April 22, the Homebuilders Association of Vancouver handed out another round of awards to some of Metro Vancouver’s finest builders and designers. But this year’s awards came at an auspicious time, just days before Step 3 under the B.C. Energy Step Code becomes mandated across the province.

“It is no longer an optional issue on the part of either municipalities or the builders,” HAVAN CEO Ron Rapp said.

To reflect the new guidelines, the HAVANs now include special achievement awards, eight of which “are related to energy and performance, as well as products and technology.”

Now in their 14th year, the HAVAN Awards take place annually. Guests at the 2023 ceremony at the JW Marriott Parq Hotel included Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, and B.C. Housing’s acting CEO, Vincent Tong.

All told, 49 builders and designers took home 54 awards. With five wins out of six nominations, Designs by KS emerged as one of the evening’s stars.

Other honourees include Smithwood Builders, Custom Home Builder of the Year; My House Design/Build Team, Renovator of the Year; and Miracon Development Inc. with two Grand HAVANs — Best Residential Community: Multi-Family (Foundry) and Multi-Family Home Builder of the Year.

Increased energy efficiency, new trends in housing were also in the spotlight. An award for Best Infill Development (10 units or less) “responds to some of the missing middle initiatives that are going forward,” said Rapp.

“We also have the BC Housing Award for Excellence in Housing Solutions, which encourages creative and innovative solutions to the challenges that we’re facing in the housing sector.”

Some of those challenges may be alleviated by Premier David Eby’s plan to overhaul municipal zoning rules to allow for more “missing-middle” housing. These include secondary suites, townhouses, stratified duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes on parcels that are currently zoned for single-family, detached homes.

“That will potentially allow infill densification in single-family neighbourhoods,” Rapp said.

The City of Vancouver also plans to open up zoning.

“We will see a larger profile given to multiplexes of various sorts, either within existing homes or as purpose-built on single-family lots and in single-family neighbourhoods, as well as the inclusion of laneway homes and other accessory dwelling units.”

Trends in housing helped propel Designs by KS into the spotlight.

Its founders and owners, Silvie Pantsios and Katerina Vastardis, have a background in millwork supply and cabinetry. Their firm has become focused on storage solutions as space in the city becomes more and more of a premium.

“I feel like our niche is understanding space planning and making it feel all airy by increasing the storage,” Vastardis said.

At this year’s HAVAN Awards, KS shared awards with Geography Contracting for Best Renovation ($1 million to under $1.5 million) and Best Energy Labelled Home (whole home renovation)  for their work on Grandma’s House, a Kitsilano duplex.

“We tried to maximize storage anywhere we could, for example utilizing underneath the stairs on one side of the duplex,” Vastardis said.

“That’s typically dead space. We built in cabinets and an entry closet. And on the other side, it’s all storage and closet space.”

Its Best Kitchen Renovation (under $100,000) award was for a kitchen in a condo. “We opened it up into a little bit of a sunroom. It’s now the size of one in a townhouse or a duplex.”

And for replacing a bedroom with a bathroom and turning the former bathroom into a walk-in closet, Designs by KS received a HAVAN for Best Bathroom Renovation (under $50,000 and over).

Custom Homebuilder of the Year, Smithwood Builders, submitted four homes for consideration, including two standard-size houses and two laneway homes.

For one of the laneway homes that Smithwood submitted for consideration, the adult children of the original homeowners wanted a dwelling on the same lot as their parents.

“I think the multi-generational aspect, with kids and grandkids living on the same land, is going to make the homes more in-demand.”

Although the awards are over for another year, the projects that will compete in 2024 are already underway, if not complete.

HAVAN CEO Rapp says that he expects to see “some very interesting technologies related to mass timber, as well as a lot of different technologies, materials and techniques being brought to bear on higher energy performance levels.”

The Lower Mainland’s builders and designers will face new challenges and opportunities as all levels of government address the need for more homes.

“I’m very much looking forward to seeing some of these infill and laneway home solutions that will be coming forward from our members,” Rapp said.

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