Monday, May 31, 2010

Mini version of the mini home

Brendon and I have decided on a contemporary west coast style for our mini home. Today while at a meeting with Smallworks, Brendon snapped a few photos of our inspiration - a two foot wide maquette of a mini home. While there will be some variations on our design, the look and feel of the house is captured really well in the model version.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dreams floating away

The other day I was reading an article in the magazine Money Sense. Using criteria, like affordability, safety and health care, it ranked 179 Canadian cities and generated a list of the country's best places to live. Vancouver, which is often seen as a leader when it comes to livability, ranked 29th. The reason for its poor performance was pretty clear - Vancouver is the least affordable city in the country.

The average price of a home here is $762,000 and if you look at single, detached homes, some surveys say prices have hit $1,000,000. Now contrast this with the average household income of $80,000 and you can begin to see how difficult it is for folks like Brendon and I to get into the housing market.

While it's pretty obvious that financial barriers are keeping many Vancouverites from owning homes, over the last number of years I have seen a number of creative solutions to affordability. For Brendon and I the laneway housing policy is one such innovation. Co-ownership and secondary suites are other examples. I have to admit though, Gerald (one of my work colleagues) takes the cake when it comes to creative solutions.

Last week Gerald bought a home for $1, picked it up (literally) and moved it over to Vancouver Island.

A small business has emerged that purchases homes slated for demolition and moves them to a location in the region. Gerald bought a beautiful 1940s home in North Vancouver and moved it to Fanny Bay on the island. He moved it to his partner's parents land.

For G-man and his family this solution addressed some of the financial barriers to living on the west coast. It also saved a beautiful home that would have otherwise been slated for demolition.

For more information about a company that saves houses slated for demolition by moving them by land and sea, check out Nickel Bros.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What do you do with a doomed cherry tree?

We have a decision looming. In less than two months we will need to say goodbye to our beloved Prunus Avium. We have exhausted all of the options and sadly it will be impossible to save the cherry tree. We've thought of moving it but because of its size the tree would not be able to withstand the transplant. We considered designing our home around it but we would have ended up with hallways for rooms rather than the open space we were hoping for. So sadly, the end of a fruitful era is in sight and we will be laying to rest a giant.

To appease our guilt and honour a tree that has given delicious berries for several years, we are putting the call out to friends and family for ideas on what to do with the cherry tree.

Share your idea by June 20th and you'll have a chance to win an autographed photo of Brendon's foot in the tree. Oh yah, we know it's what you've always wanted! Only the best suggestions have a chance of winning so send in your plans and shape the future for this special cherry tree.

The sketches are in!

A couple of weeks ago Brendon and I wrote about our experience working with Kate from Smallworks. She had spent almost three hours at our dinning room table, helping us define the kind of space we wanted for our home. Armed with a list of requirements and insider information on the kind of people we were, Kate went away to sketch and draft. She came back to us on Thursday with a number of doodles - the exciting first drafts of our home. Once we give her feedback these drawings will help the architect create blueprints of the building that will become our mini home.

When we opened up the drawings we knew immediately that we liked what we saw. We were especially excited by the special touches like the bed that can be hidden away into the wall and the three folding doors that open out onto the patio. We're still trying to think through a few changes like adding balcony, moving the stairs and making the kitchen into an L shape. All in all though we like where this is going.

When Kate sent us the sketches, she also sent along a document that listed the all of our project specs. We couldn't help giggling when on page 12 we came across a list of the intented occupants and their details (a.k.a US). Not only had Smallworks poked fun at my 'perceived' height, they went as far as to include the details of our baby - Cat Steven Purdy the first.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Planned vs. Adhoc

Being from the Schatz breed, I have a natural propensity for planning. That said, this mini home project has thrown me into a realm of planning that even I couldn't anticipate. The laneway house bylaw is a document approximate 100 pages long. It details not only who is eligible to undertake this kind of project, but how it should be done. From the native species that should be planted in the two foot setback to the 500 square foot of living space eligible for a 33 foot lot - there doesn't appear to be any stone unturned. The pre-construction phase is no less scripted. There is a list of about ten different things we need to of do in order to get to the permit stage. These include:

1. Completing two site surveys
2. Booking a pre-application meeting with one of three planners at the City of Vancouver
3. Ensuring that our home is served by an open laneway, i.e. serviced by garbage
4. Confirming that the site has a minimum of 2.95’ required for fire access from the front of the house
5. Verifying that the lot is 33’ or longer
6. Contacting Engineering Services to discuss provisions for a new water supply and sewer systems
7. Locating overhead wires and transformers for electrical supply
8. Situating gas lines
9. Photographing the site and the laneway context
10. Conducting a preliminary zoning analysis

All of those 10 things need to happen before we can even consider applying for a permit. It is easy to feel burdened by the level of scripting and details required by this process. That's why it's especially exciting when something unplanned and spontaneous happens to advance our work.

Enter Gavin - Brendon's ADHOC-AHOLIC cousin.

At about 5:45pm yesterday evening Gavin called Brendon to say that he had a truck, a chainsaw and a small window of time to come by our house and take down some of the bushes in the backyard. Before we could even discuss the idea, Gavin had pulled into the laneway and was unloading his gear. We jumped on the opportunity and gave the green light, excitedly watching as Gavin trimmed back our hedge. Twenty minutes later we had a brief glimpse into our future home as piece of the fence had been cleared and the first tangible change had been introduced to the property. Thank you Gavin!