Buildings We Love

Chemainus home delivers on long list of must-haves

Image of Chemainus house entrance
Glynis and Karen moved into their Vancouver Island home in December and are now working with landscapers to add a low maintenance outdoor element that feature drought-resistant and deer-resistant plants instead of grass.

Endless pool and green cred fit long-term plans of transplanted Albertans

It was over a decade ago that an Alberta couple began plans for a shift to the B.C. coast for retirement, even as friends warned that they wouldn't like it because of the rain.

They would leave nothing to chance – and very little to waste – including that rain.

"We were looking for a home that we'd be able to age in place, and that would be green," says Karen, recalling the process that led to a move to Vancouver Island with partner Glynis. "We did a lot of research before we even came to B.C. about what it would be like to age in place. We had a good idea of the kinds of challenges people would face as they age, and we tried to mitigate most of that."

A trial move to Victoria's super-sustainable Dockside Green introduced them to everything from air exchange systems to wastewater re-use. They loved it, but needed more space to accommodate their "age in place" plan and regular visits from family, including grandchildren. But long before settling on Chemainus, they spent a couple years visiting the community, hanging out in local cafes and meeting potential neighbours to ensure it was a community they could feel a part of.

Mission accomplished. After teaming up with Ladysmith-based GNB Builders, Karen and Glynis moved into an ENERGY STAR® qualified new home last December, a four-bedroom home that features a 17-foot-long "endless pool", a huge, indoor, rainwater reservoir, and a design that suits their needs today and for decades to come.

Image of counter top in Chemainus house
Karen and Glynis made a great discovery while working with a Nanaimo granite supplier to select their bathroom counter tops. The supplier took them to the "bone-yard", where they sorted through an assortment of miscuts, reorders and leftover pieces to find a novel granite with a pattern resembling an ocean beach. They got the granite for free, and needed only to pay for polishing and installation to get something unique.

Built for life, with a few perks and a lot of efficiency

"It's great to have a kitchen island, but if you go to open your oven and you're in a wheelchair, you might not have enough room," says Karen. "So we knew how much room we needed if you have a walker or wheelchair. We want to be able to stay here as long as we possibly can."

If walkers or wheelchairs are in the future, there's additional room around toilets and beds, seats in the shower, handrails in the bathroom – and a roughed-in elevator shaft that (at least for now) is used for storage. Of course that endless pool, which features a whirlpool-like feature at one end, plus a generated current for swimming in place at the other, is the big hit today and should play a role in delaying any mobility issues.

The electrically heated pool features a modest amount of water and an airtight security cover that helps minimize the pool's impact on the home's energy bills. Thanks in part to the builder's work with BC Hydro, the pool's extra energy use is balanced off by:

  • A heating and cooling system that features a heat pump, smart thermostat technology (capability to connect via smartphone) and a HEPA air filtration system
  • Gas fireplaces with sealed combustion and electronic ignition
  • LED lighting combined with an abundance of natural light via transom windows
  • Roof lines that are oriented to advantage for the future installation of solar panels
  • ENERGY STAR rated appliances

"If you look at the Built Green® checklist, we don't do every one, but we do what we feel is the proper way and is also cost effective," says Greg Bianchini, president of GNB Builders. "You make smart choices that aren't going to just cost a bunch of money but make really good sense in the overall quality and way the home is built."

To ensure energy costs don't get out of control, Karen and Glynis have one more tool at their disposal: a home energy monitor. Learn more about what they've learned so far with that monitor.

Image of Chemainus house
From the ocean-side of the home, Glynis and Karen stand beside their "endless pool", which is small enough to be tucked into an alcove of the home and which features a tight, electrically-operated security cover that reduces the pool's heating costs.

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