PUBLISHED | North Shore News
The Northshore News published a lovely article on the Cliffhanger House today.
Applying for the Building Permit
So, Kevin finished the plans and we had a meeting scheduled with the District to submit the plans on January 25th! This meeting takes some time to get through as a plan checker needs to make sure everything is in place. We needed to a Schedule E (Owner’s Undertaking) as well as a Letter of Authorization allowing Kevin to submit the plans on our behalf and to deal with any issues that might...
Interviewing Contractors and Making a Choice
There were two ways to schedule the interviews: one way was to contact each company (we had four to interview) individually and make an appointment; the second was to send out a joint invitation which went to everyone (thus each company would know who they were competing with. We decided to be transparent about the process and have a level playing field. Thus everyone was copied on the email...
Choosing a Contractor
Well, how does one go about choosing a contractor? There were a number of key considerations for us and we started to work on developing a set of questions and Kevin started to look around for contractors that he felt would be suitable for our project. All had done a number of projects that were of excellent quality and all were well known in the profession and not fly-by-nighters. Kevin also felt...
Well, we were too optimistic – the drawings were finished on time, but the structural engineering review was taking its time and it also needed to get the energy rating review as well. We used the time in November to review and comment on Kevin’s detailed drawings. It was also important for us to understand what was and was not included as part of these drawings and what could be done once a...
Kevin started working on the detailed drawings at the beginning of October and we also needed to choose a structural engineer. We obtained several quotes and there was a vast difference between quotes – all from excellent companies. One company was suggesting that we go with a new technique that had recently been approved for Canada. They felt that using CLTs would greatly reduce construction time...
Building the Underground Bunker
So, we couldn’t build up or out so what was left was to build down! Anything below grade did not count as floor space, so here was our opportunity. I came up with an idea and floated it by Kevin. Why not add in a “bunker” or sub-basement. At first Kevin was a bit hesitant but then thought why not? He actually showed an entire floor (the size of the bedroom floor) but the District was totally...
One opportunity for creating space was to look for ways to become a “greener” house. The District allows for additional square footage (40 sq. feet) for every two points more than a basic energy rating of 80. If we could achieve a rating of 86 that would mean an additional 120 sq. feet! This would allow us to put in a small bathroom next to the multi-purpose/guest room upstairs. Kevin had drawn in...
Reality sets in
Now that we had the permit, Kevin was ready to finalize the plans to submit for the actual building permit. As he started to work with the plans and put in the interior walls, etc. and send us the draft plans, we started to print out the plans and to check out how our furniture would fit. More important to me was how the kitchen would work out. I currently have a large kitchen with lots of space,...
Getting the Road Easements
We thought at first that only two neighbours would be involved in negotiating the road easements, but then it quickly appeared that three neighbours would be involved. We thought we would make a cash offer based on the previous arrangements agreed to a decade ago, then get some sort of counter-offer, make a deal and then get the lawyer to draw up the papers. It was not helped by the fact that we...
The Development Variance Permit Application...
Dressed suitably to make a good impression, we met Kevin early at the District Municipal Hall. The staff had already met on camera with the Council members to review our application. Posted up on the wall of the Council Chambers were all of the plans and pictures of what the house would look like in the neighbourhood (in 3D) that Kevin had been required to produce. It took up a large part of one...
An unwelcome twist
We went through everything: looked at all the issues, had our rationale for our requests documented; we thought we were well prepared. Then on July 4, 2011, mid-afternoon we got a call from the District. A last minute review of the plans brought up an additional concern we hadn’t planned on having to address at this time. Given the configuration of our neighbourhood, and agreements with the...
Waiting for the Development Variance Permit...
The rest of the month of April 2011 flew by and so did May; by then it became clear that any thoughts we had of starting construction over the summer were completely unrealistic! We were getting anxious as June seemed to whiz by. We were leaving for a conference on July 8th and the District Council takes a summer break as of July 11th (which would have added to the delay). While Kevin could have...
Meeting with the Neighbours
We planned to host a meeting with all of the neighbours coming at the same time rather than to meet with them one-on-one. Our reasons for doing so were that first of all everyone would be talking to everyone else anyway and thus if there were any concerns we might as well have them aired publicly and have a chance to respond to everyone at the same time. Second, it would save time to just have one...
Applying for Variance
As Kevin stated, the building of our new home did not comply with all of the building regulations. For one, the house could only be 22 feet high at any given point. We had wanted the house built partly down the cliff side so that it wouldn’t impede on our neighbours’ views wherever possible. But because the house would jut over the cliff a small part of the house would be over 22 feet since the...
Getting a Geo-Technical Report
The property was solid rock – no soil, no trees, no plants other than a few blackberries growing around the gravel around the septic system. But I was horrified to find out that if the geo-technical report was not favorable we might not be able to build on the property! This was going to be an important document! All kinds of things could impede construction – e.g., perhaps the rock wasn’t as...
The First Look
By the end of February 2011, Kevin had some conceptual and preliminary drawings for us. I was scared to take a look – what if we didn’t like them? What do you say to an architect who has been working away on your behalf if you don’t like the drawings? – Start all over again? We had no idea what we would say if we didn’t like them. Fortunately, when we first saw the drawings we really liked the...
Surprise: Your New Home will be in a Development...
As Kevin was busily working away, the staff of the District of North Vancouver was also busily working away on a revised Official Community Plan. This is a good thing in that Community Plans need to reflect the changing populations, values and dynamics of the community. Both Larry and I are involved in the disaster management profession – helping individuals, organizations and communities plan and...
The Preliminary Drawings
Since hiring our Architect, Kevin Vallely, in late January 2011, he was busily working away, trying to come up with a preliminary design that would work for us. Fortunately for us, we didn’t witness his frustrations at trying to come up with a great design! We started the process by responding to his request: I’d like you to start writing down all your wishes and wants in a list if you...