Niagara Market & Apartments

The Niagara Market building in Victoria, BC has been amazingly transformed!

When Seamus McKeating & Jennifer Gunter bought the building a little over a year ago it needed an overhaul. We tossed around ideas on how to refresh the building within the existing spaces, while keeping the community spirit that this market has been bringing to the James Bay area in Victoria for over a century.  

One of the challenges included making an access to the apartments upstairs that didn’t infringe on the store space. A deck on the 2nd floor with access through the private yard was created. This then created a fantastic space for a patio on the side of the building, which is quickly becoming a social hub for the neighbourhood. 

This heritage project has been taken to a new level with the talented new owners, which you can read about in this nice piece the Times Colonist printed recently.  Read it here.

Check out Niagara Market’s Instagram Feed for more photo’s of this happening place.

Below is a photo timeline of the Niagara Market project:

Niagara Store building before renovation.

Entry to apartment #2, before.

Entry to apartment #1, before.

The store was a community gathering place.

The exterior after renovations (and a fresh coat of paint).

The outdoor patio is a nice place to hang out and meet your neighbours.

Pop-up market on the patio.

Patio furniture from up-cycled pallets.

This old typewriter was found in the building and lives a second life passing on secret messages.

The new stairs up, from the private yard onto the deck.

Interior of Apartment #2 with 2 sliding door to the new sun deck.

The new deck , with sliding doors of apartment #2.

The new deck , with entry doors to apartment #1 at the end and #2 in the middle.

Entry of apartment #1.

‘Door world’ is where all the salvaged doors find a (temporary) home, if not repurposed into the apartments or the new market.

One of the repurposed doors – into a sliding door.

Interior of the new Market in the making.

The new counter in the making.

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House in Nelson, BC

Here’s a project I’ve been working on lately; a small, efficient house in Nelson, BC, designed for a young family with an active outdoor lifestyle.Nelson001

The 30′ narrow lot poses some challenges, but it’s going to be an efficient unit.

The house features a 1722 SF 3 bedroom unit and a basement suite.Watt0004

The layout of the open concept living-dining-kitchen on the main features a fireplace and a kitchen in the centre bay, accommodating a view from the living room of  Kootenay Lake’s west arm towards the north, while maximizing southern exposure and solar gain through the patio doors off the dining room.

A large mudroom combined with laundry, a deck with pergola large enough for a dining set and barbeque, dedicated bike storage below the deck, a hot tub in the back yard, and low maintenance sustainable materials will make make this house a haven of easy living for an young family with an active outdoor lifestyle.Watt000

The 2 bedroom basement suite has it’s own dedicated outdoor space in the form of a sunken patio.

Due to the small lot size and the large program the lot is being rezoned so we can have a slightly larger lot coverage, smaller setback on one side and a few extra feet in height.




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Multi-functional Building

These just in!

24×32′ multi-functional building nestled in the trees on the slopes of Kootenay Lake. One open space under a timber roof, with a porch, garage doors and a view of Kootenay Lake.

Job well done by Shawn Handley & Chris Petersen!IMG_2812
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Building Passive House with Natural Materials

Recently I had the pleasure to see Bjørn Kierulf of Createrra Architects in Slovakia, give a presentation at BUILDEX Vancouver, about Passive Houses built with natural materials.

Natural Passive House
Driven by the desire to build Passive Houses as natural as possible, Bjørn Kierulf  is building certified Passive Houses with straw panels, wood, cellulose insulation and clay plaster.


The main reason for wanting to use as many natural materials as possible, is because these would be non-toxic, and in todays building world toxicity is rampant.

Bjørn pointed out that in 1900 only 50 building materials were available on the market, while today there are more than 50,000 building materials, of which only 43% are tested for toxicity(!).


Clay Plaster
As well, he reasoned that clay plaster is a superior finishing product as it:
1. requires no chemical bonding,
2. controls humidity by its ability to absorb @>50% and desorb @<50%
3. and it’s creative!

Innovation Through Collaboration
Driven by the need for more economic, innovative components, Bjørn also collaborated with local product manufacturers to develop high performance windows, high efficiency HRV units and structural straw panels.


[Images used with permission from Createrra Architects]

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Certified Passive House Designer

It is my pleasure to announce that I received certification as Passive House Designer today!

To receive this Certification I had to pass a stringent test set out by the International Passive House Institute in Germany, covering all aspects of Passive House Design and Construction, including mechanical installations and financing.

Read more about Passive House Designer certification here.

Certified Passive House Designer


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Power Generating Gym

Recently I designed this Gym for a couple of professional athletes that had moved from Calgary, where they lived around the corner of one the biggest work-out centres in North America, to Kaslo (pop. 1000) with only one small fitness centre – and it’s ladies only!
Every 2 years they compete in polynesian rowing races for which he needs to upkeep their strength and stamina, so it is important to them to have access to exercise equipment on a daily basis.

How would you like to work out in this gym?
The PV panels generate electricity while you get buff!







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Kaslo Passive House Construction II

Kaslo Passive House construction has reached lock-up – the house in enclosed. The walls are up, the roof is on and the doors and windows are installed. The house is weather tight – Let winter come!

Kaslo Passive House south viewSouth facade with lots of windows.Kaslo Passive House south-west view

South-west view with the covered entrance to the basement on the left.
Kaslo Passive House entry
South-east view. The air-lock entry, on the right, is outside the heated envelope.Kaslo Passive House north-east
North-east view. Note the angle between the main house and the entry. The main house is facing due south, while the entries and trellis align with the street grid.Kaslo Passive House north
North facade. Note the few small windows.Kaslo Passive House wrapped south-east
Kaslo Passive House wrapped up.

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Horse Shed #2

This fall I built a new shed for my horse at the house we are renting in the Cowichan Valley.
It only took me 4 days and about $700… Stickframe construction is definitely fast and economical!
Not as pretty as a timber frame structure, but the horse doesn’t seem to care 😉
– I’ll post some picture of the timberframe shed I built in Kaslo soon.-
After all, this is a temporary building, as I’m renting at the moment.
The shed is designed and build so that you can relatively easily take it apart and move it.
Actually, the neighbour across the road has already offered to buy it when we have to move again 😀

IMG_06621Our dog Shagga keeps me company.

IMG_067223 wall panels ready to go.

IMG_06753 My neighbour came along and helped me raise the walls.

IMG_0678Rafters installed…


IMG_06845And the roof is on!

IMG_0715– just in time for the rain 🙂

IMG_07046Being frugal I bought only 3 sheets of 3/8″ plywood, which covered most of the 2 walls. I used some plywood (white and red) that was laying around to fill the gaps – and add some colour interest at the same time.

My horse Strootje is happy to try it out.

IMG_07238I didn’t plan on adding a 3rd wall, but I figured it would help cutting out the wind, so I salvaged some boards from the burn pile and build a 1/2 wall on the right side.

IMG_07249I covered up the gaps below the wall with some more salvaged boards.IMG_072910Et voilà: c’est fini! (finished)IMG_1212-1IMG_1254


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One million certified Passive House square metres!

Good news for the energy conservation movement: the Number of certified Passive House square metres has reached one million!
Read more in this news release form the International Passive House Institute.

Interestingly, this certified Passive House is a retrofitted 1922 arts and crafts style home in California, proving that it is possible to upgrade the existing building stock in North America to Passive House energy efficiency standard, preserving the embodied energy that is in these building and preserving our cultural heritage.

The people at Midori house didn’t stop after implementing Passive House energy conservation measurements. They also installed a solar hot water system and implemented water conservation measurements.

Read more about the Midori house at Greenspiration and at their own Midori Haus Blog.

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The Ridge featured with Innotech W&D

Innotech Windows and Doors featured the Ridge on their blog, including a great photo gallery created by Raven Eye Photography. Check it out here!

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