Updated Vancouver Specials get heritage tour treatment

A contractor and architect have transformed a gloomy stucco and brick Vancouver Special into an airy and sustainable abode.

The residence near Southeast Marine Drive and Fraser Street boasts reused materials, sustainable systems and “Ikea hacks.”

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Shaun St. Amour, chief executive officer of Footprint Sustainable Housing, wants to build a prototype sustainable prefabricated laneway home. But the condo-dweller needed to buy a house first so St. Amour bought a once reviled design, and with the help of Erick Villagomez, the architect behind Metis Design Build, transformed it into a desirable home.

St. Amour’s home is one of five on Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Vancouver Special tour, Sept. 21. He and Villagomez will be on hand to answer questions.
Bluish-grey, long-lasting HardieBoard siding and cedar now cover its exterior. The main entry door includes glass panels to provide a sense of flow. For extra storage, they installed drawers in the stairs with Ikea products. “My wife loves shoes,” St. Amour said.

Wall, doorways and window placements were moved to create a living area that capitalizes on natural light, heat and ventilation.

“Anyone can do this,” Villagomez said. “If you’re replacing a window, all you have to do is [ask] OK, what way should I open it, how big should it be, where should I maximize fixed windows… and that type of mentality permeates the entire project. We wanted it to be a very popular approach to renos and construction with the price point to match.”

St. Amour bought the 2,400-square-foot home for $890,000 in June 2012. Renovations cost $225,000, or $90 a square foot, which he and Villagomez say is less than half the standard cost of renovations, at $250 a square foot. St. Amour’s relatives occupy the ground floor suite.

St. Amour spent much of his budget on systems, fixtures and materials that make the home more energy efficient, including heat recovery ventilation, dual flush toilets, fibreglass-framed windows and a metal roof.
They insulated the entire home with more expensive but more energy efficient spray foam.

Before the reno, the house rated 47 out of 100, with 100 being the most efficient, on the federal EnerGuide Rating System. St. Amour said it now rates 74. The house is currently valued at $1.2 million, according to St. Amour. He anticipates a laneway home would boost his property value to $1.3 million.

St. Amour acquired many of the appliances and fixtures for free. “You’d be surprised what you can get on Craigslist,” Villagomez said.


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