Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | April 7, 2011

Making it Work

Once again trends are being set first across the water in the City of Vancouver. Read on:

When they move into their new homes in eastside Vancouver later this year, the four Georgia Green households will reside in an architectural standout. The homes will be the most energy-efficient, ecologically sensitive homes in the city, says Nick Sully, the Georgia Green architect and a future Georgia Green resident.

In fact, the homes’ water and energy efficiencies, their construction with renewable materials and a sympathetic site treatment qualified them for a platinum certification from Built Green Canada. Sully says the project is also on track for a LEED platinum certification.

The radiant-heat floors are warmed by the solar panels on the roof. Toilets are flushed with rainwater. Windows are triple-glazed, concrete floors reflect light, and the arrangement of the homes on the property allows for each home to share the natural light emanating from a skywell.

“We understand the challenge of building super high-performance green design. It’s not easy. If it was, everyone would say they’re LEED platinum, and most people can’t say that,” says Sully, an architect with Vancouver’s Shape Architecture.

Allisa Arnold, who is developing the building with husband Damian Stathonikos and Sully, describes the property as being “a case of many shades of green.” For Arnold and Stathonikos, Georgia Green fulfils an expectation they first voiced when they decided to return to Vancouver from Helsinki.

“We didn’t want to move back to B.C. and buy the biggest house we could afford in a suburb and drive our SUVs into the city every day,” Arnold says. “We wanted to find a vibrant neighbourhood where we could walk everywhere. That’s the motivation for a smaller footprint.”

The Arnold-Stathonikos family will, indeed, be able to walk everywhere. A small park, Woodland, lies half a block away to the west. Bustling Commercial Drive is steps away, and piece of local history stands next door: the former Raj cinema is slated to become a Vancouver East Cultural Centre venue.

Designing the intricately meshed collection of homes took some work. Ceilings and party walls are fortified for sound and fire safety. The homes are a component of a structure that would move in an earthquake and not the structures that would move.

“We don’t want to hear our neighbours, we want to be fine in a fire, but we’re also safer than any other house in Vancouver in case of a seismic event,” says Sully, who will move into his new home with wife Mariana Brussoni. “It put our engineers to the test.”

The original home on the property housed one family. Georgia Green will house four families, and still have front and back areas landscaped with drought-resistant and indigenous plants.

The two families’ August move-in date has been a long time coming. Their next task: selling the other homes. Not a problem, says Arnold. “We’ve seen Nick’s work before and we had confidence in it. We put together our dream and Nick’s capabilities and we made it happen.”

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