Saanich construction company nails down award

Horizon Contracting wins award for best single home over 4,500 square foot at Canadian Home Builders’ Associationawards ceremony

A Saanich construction company has won a major home-building award.

Horizon Pacific Contracting claimed first prize in the category of Best Single Family Over 4,500 Square Foot at the Vancouver Island Building Excellence Awards held in Nanaimo for the home it built at 3390 Beach Dr. in Oak Bay near its border with Saanich.

The company also received nominations in three other categories. Canadian Home Builders’ Association Vancouver Island organized the awards.

“There was some very stiff competition out there and some other very good architects and builders were participating in it,” said Tim Agar, managing partner. “Whenever you are competing against the best of the best out there and you come out on top, it is very gratifying. I like to think that the other builders and other designers out here help keep you sharp. It helps set the bar and work towards that threshold.”

By that standard, 3390 Beach Dr. might have just raised the bar several notches.

Its location across from the Victoria Yacht Club gives the building instant-landmark character. “It’s not buried in the suburbs somewhere where people are not going to see it,” said Agar. “What sort of architectural moment happens will be there for a long time to see.”

Built in West Coast style, the home belongs to a couple with two daughters who have come to the area from Alberta. They had purchased the home that used to stand at that location with the hope that a renovation would eventually meet their needs.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t and the house was removed and this house was created,” said Agar. “This is a very a common problem today in Victoria’s real estate market due to the high cost of inventory, the age of that inventory and the upgrades required for it. It can be a very daunting task.”

The home – whose construction took about 14 months and received national attention by appearing on the popular television show Holmes on Homes – also received Platinum certification from Built Green, a third-party certifier that recognizes “green” building practices.

“So it is not just about the esthetics and the architecture, it is about the health of the home and how the occupants are going to live and thrive in the home going forward as well,” said Agar

He said the home is example of effectively combining size with environmental sustainability.

“A lot of people look at a home of this scale and the size and they kind of think of it as a 1974 Cadillac, a big gas guzzler with lots of bling on it, for lack of a better term,” he said. “This is an example of how to build on a larger scale and do it in an environmentally sustainable way. This house is no more expensive to heat and cool than a 4,500 square-foot home that is less than half the size of it.”

The house, said Agar, will also help his company refine its planning process, examining each step along the way to find additional efficiencies and improvements. “So I look at all of these houses that we built as a journey towards improving the process at each opportunity,” he said.

Horizon Pacific Contracting, which has a staff of 40, marked its 25th anniversary last year.

The company qualifies as a mid-sized contractor that values cohesiveness and institutional knowledge, while eschewing sub-contractors.

“We have developed a lot of teams, people that are specialists in foundation, framing, finishing and all the different pieces, so we have the ability to repeat the process each time, to take the lessons learnt and move them forward into each [building] process,” said Agar. By keeping virtually every aspect of a construction project in-house, Horizon Construction does not have to teach sub-contractors, he said.

“The biggest problem in the construction industry that is out there and the biggest problem for most contracting companies is the repeatability of quality delivery of product, because each time you have a different composition of people involved in the process,” he said. “By bringing things in house, we are able to control our own quality, control our own scheduling and have that built-in muscle memory of lessons learnt from projects past.”

The Beach Drive house also helped Horizon Pacific Contracting refine its building techniques using natural wood.

“Among the unique features of this one is the amount of natural wood that was used within the overall construction,” he said.

Building with natural wood, however, creates some unique challenges, he said.

“One of the major problems with a home that has a lot of natural wood in it is that it shrinks, it cracks, spits sap, and does all sorts of things,” he said.

Working with a local woodworking company, Horizon Pacific Contracting was able to advance its understanding of working with natural wood to ensure its stability and uniform appearance

“While we obviously had a good understanding of that, we involved some new technology that will bring dividends going forward,” he said.

And how do the homeowners feel about living in an award-winning home.

“They are very proud of their project and the results it has been able to achieve,” said Agar.

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