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Monthly Archives: September 2012

What is it about Vancouver that makes it a great place to live?

Well, it could be the proximity to the Pacific.  It might be the dynamic nature of the city.  Or, it might be, that coming home on the bus one evening in September, you look out the window and see this.


Credit where credit is due.  Sunset courtesy of our nearest star.  Photograph courtesy of Kyle Rurak.

How low can you go?

In square footage, that is.  While we ponder the adventure that will be 2 people living in about 500 square feet, San Franciscans ponder suites of 220 square feet.

Now THAT’s incentive to simplify!


What’s up?

Up, as in “above”.

When we first started looking into the different styles of laneway houses, I thought I wanted a pitched roof. The reasoning was that the style would fit in better with the main house, which has a cottage roof.  Plus I thought we would get more storage, as anything under 4 feet in height is not included in the overall square footage.

But then I started looking at what the top floor of a pitched roof laneway house looks like, and it seemed a little … cramped.  Not so bad if all you want upstairs is a bed and bath combo, but we want our kitchen and sitting room up there.  Because we are so strictly limited as to the height of the finished building, the pitch really cuts into the living space. The ceiling seems to press down on the rooms. And we definitely lost wall space for shelves, so the storage problem/solution was all swings-and-roundabouts.

So, a flat roof was looking more suitable.  But not literally looking better.  A flat roof with traditional shingles or tar-and-gravel will look like some kind of elevated asphalt slab when you see it from the deck of the main house.  Great if you’re installing a heli-pad, but we are building in someone’s garden.

The answer, of course, is a living roof.

We discussed it with the builder, and it turns out that they are affiliated with the Live Roof system.  Laurel explained that they use sedum plants, a very hardy succulent. They look great all year round.  A living roof will improve the livability of the home by increasing the insulation of the roof (cooler in summer, warmer in winter) and not absorbing heat all day.  They help mitigate the Urban Heat Island problem so many cities have.  And they can last twice as long as traditional roofs.

And voila!

We are starting from scratch, so any structural changes to support a heavier roof will be accommodated from the beginning.

We are really looking forward to this!


And the winner is!

We have chosen our builder/designer.  The company is called Novell.  How did we choose these fine people over all the other fine people?  Luckily Dear Daughter did most of the heavy lifting.

As you know, DD and DSIL want some changes to their basement, like a new bedroom, family room, bath, laundry room, and luxurious though eensy legal suite.  We want a laneway house.  Ergo, which always means I’m going to use logic to explain this, we needed someone who wanted to build a laneway house but also was comfortable making renovations to an existing structure.  Novell fit the bill.

DD interviewed dozens of contractors, some of whom had done both renovations AND lane homes.  And after a lengthy elimination process, chose Novell as their candidate.

I interviewed three laneway builders, and after a short process, chose our (unnamed) candidate.

We all gathered to met both candidates (separate appointments, of course, we are not cool enough to handle both at once). Novell showed up on time, OC (our candidate) was 20 minutes late (bad GPS). Novell has experience primarily in renovations, but was super keen to try their (qualified) hands at building a laneway home.  OC told us straight to our face that, though they had experience doing both, they were “trying to get out of the renovation business” because they didn’t like to do it.  Novell explained that, if any expenses were incurred due to their comparative inexperience, they would absorb them because they think it’s an exciting idea, and would love to have laneway design/build in their (extensive) experience.  OC said that their initial quote had been low.  Why?  They had discovered they were not leaving themselves an adequate profit margin, and had to raise their prices.  (note:  don’t tell us you WERE bad businessmen and now you know better.  LIE TO US so we don’t feel like we missed the last ride on the merry-go=round). Oh, and that adorable laneway house I had seen in our neighbourhood that we thought was, you know, adorable — the one that convinced me that OC would be Our Candidate?  OC don’t like it.  They are embarassed about it.  One must ask, “WTF? Why did you build it? And what will be wrong in the one you build us?”

So we made our decision.  One deciding factor, that is not quantifiable, is that we just liked the people. We felt comfortable talking with them.  We didn’t have any qualms handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars to them.  You know when you meet someone?  And you just know you can work with them?  We felt it.

We’ve met with Novell again to discuss the broad stokes of the project.  Once again totally comfortable with them.  They are raring to go — and so are we.

My Pain, My Life, My Struggles, My Fight

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Artist and Desert Dweller with Big City Style.

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