design process

Since 1993, Fluidspace has been listening carefully to clients and tailoring designs to match their needs while providing a symmetry of creative design and function. Our extensive work experience in the lower mainland can ensure you that we are proficient when dealing with the challenges that are unique to your area. From navigating through the local permit processes, to land use and zoning issues, changes to the building code, to creating designs that blend into your neighborhood’s characteristics, you can be confident that we’ll get the project complete for you in a timely and efficient manner.

Design Process:

1). Information gathering & documentation. The client’s goals, needs and requirements are discussed early on to determine the scope of the project. The designer will research the site conditions & collect  information from the local planning dept. regarding specific land use & building code requirements as well as any pre-permit procedures.  A work plan will be discussed to outline timelines to move forward with the project. A surveyor is typically contacted at this stage and scheduled to produce a land survey which will be incorporated into the architectural drawings.

2). Site analysis and feasibility review. The zoning by-law and other regulations determine how much floor space can be developed for your site, building’s height, location of your building in relation to the property lines, garage size . . .  I will interpret the by-laws and other regulations for you and explain options for your project. Your project may require some of the following items such as a land survey, structural and geotechnical engineering plans, arborist report and an energy consultant’s report.

3). Preliminary drawings, refining the design. Share your ideas, notes, sketches, photos . . . anything that illustrates what you like. Part of this process involves reviewing considerations such as rooms with potential views or sun exposure, tree retention, steep grades, drainage issues, soil conditions, hidden hazards . . .  these are some items to consider which can impact construction costs. Once we have established a preliminary interior and exterior design layout for your project we move forward to develop the plans in greater detail. The following items such as floor plans, exterior elevation plans, site plan, landscape plan, heating system are developed in greater detail during this stage.

4). Permit/Construction Drawings. After you have had a chance to review the preliminary design drawings, we will prepare the final drawings for application to the city/municipality and for your general contractor. As part of this process, we will co-ordinate the drawings with other consultants such as the structural engineer, the landscape architect, energy consultant and anyone else as required. If required, we can assist you in submitting building applications and obtaining all related permits for your project.

5). Hiring a general contractor. 

a). Get Recommendations & check G.C. referrals. Ask friends and family if they can recommend a G.C. they have had a positive experience with. Call up former clients to find how their project went and ask to see the finished product, visit a current job site and see for yourself how the G.C. works. Is the job site being maintained in a clean & safe manner, are workers on-site courteous and careful with the homeowner’s property?

b). Ask questions. Select three or four contractors to meet for estimates. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily & in a manner that puts you at ease. How many other projects would they be working on at the same time? Ask who will be performing the work? Ask if the G.C. will be conducting some of the work himself or will it be sub-contracted out? How long have they worked with their sub-contractors? The answers to these questions will reveal the company’s availability, reliability, how much attention they’ll be able to give your project and how smoothly the work will go.

c). Provide Plans & Get Bids. Compare apples with apples. To compare bids, ask everyone the same questions such as break down the cost of materials, labour, profit margins and other expenses. Generally, materials account for 40% of the total project cost & typical G.C. profit margin is approx. 15% to 20%.

d). Don’t Let Price Be Your final choice. The lowest bid is not always the best choice. The G.C. may be cutting corners or worse desperate for work, hardly an encouraging sign in a healthy economy. Make sure to have a contract in place that you understand & are comfortable with. Make sure all contractors working on-site are licensed, bonded & insured.  Choose a contractor that you communicate & work well with.

Alternatively, you may prefer to act as the G.C. yourself and hire all the sub-trades/contractors individually on your own. If you act as the G.C. you are now required to take the Owner Builder Exam on home-building basics as part of your application for an Owner Builder Authorization in B.C. See website for more details.

Things to Consider:

Many clients are now asking how to achieve more efficient, healthier, high performance & environmentally friendly homes that integrate sustainable technologies like solar power, water collection & the use of recycled, reclaimed & local building materials. The best way to achieve this goal is to incorporate this early in the design process.

Today there is a shift toward reducing mechanical equipment to heat and cool homes by essentially building thicker exterior walls/roofs, the use of high performance windows & doors & creating air-tight envelopes that are more efficient. This is primarily achieved by specifying high levels of insulation to the thermal envelope with airtightness and the use of whole house mechanical ventilation systems. On average, these homes cost between 5% to 15% more but when you consider reduced energy costs, payback on the additional investment over a 10 year period you will see overall net savings. The final product will be far more durable, have greater resale value and be more environmentally responsible.

Introduction of the BC Energy Step Code:

The BC Energy Step Code is an optional compliance path added to the 2018 BC Building Code that local governments are beginning to implement to create more energy efficiency in new building construction. Builders may voluntarily use the BC Energy Step Code as a new compliance path for meeting the energy-efficiency requirements of the BC Building Code. The BC Energy Step Code sets performance requirements for new construction and groups them into “5 steps.” All authorities having jurisdiction over the BC Building Code including local governments, can choose to require or incentivize builders to meet one or more steps of the BC Energy Step Code as an alternative to the code’s prescriptive requirements.

The Province of British Columbia first introduced energy efficiency as a BC Building Code objective in 2008. Ever since, designers and builders have had the option to use either “prescriptive” or “performance” approaches to comply with the code’s efficiency requirements.

To date, the vast majority of builders in British Columbia have pursued the prescriptive approach. Following this approach, buildings must meet specific requirements for insulation, windows, furnaces, water heaters, lighting and other equipment and systems. It focuses on individual elements, rather than ensuring the building functions well as a system. The result can be a building that does not perform as well as intended.

Builders have a second option to comply with the energy-efficiency requirements of the BC Building Code: the performance approach. The BC Energy Step Code offers a specific form of this approach.

The performance approach establishes a desired outcome, and leaves it to the design and building team to decide how to achieve it.

To comply with the BC Energy Step Code, building designers must incorporate energy software modelling at the design stage. Builders are required to do on-site testing during construction to demonstrate that both the building design and the constructed building meet the requirements of the standard. They may use any materials or construction methods to do so.

This approach echoes that taken by many green-building certification programs, including Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Star for New Homes™ and R-2000™ programs, and Passive House Institute (in Darmstadt) certification, as well as the Canadian Home Building Association’s Net Zero Home™ and Net Zero Ready Home™ programs.

A High-Performance Staircase:

As shown below, the regulation sets performance targets for new construction and groups them into “steps” that apply across various building types and regions of the province. The Lower Steps are relatively straightforward to meet; the Upper Steps are more ambitious.

All authorities having jurisdiction over the BC Building Codeincluding local governments—can choose to require or incentivize builders to meet one or more steps of the BC Energy Step Code as an alternative to the code’s prescriptive requirements.

For governments, the BC Energy Step Code offers assurance that new buildings are performing as billed. Meanwhile, on the other side of the counter, builders have a more flexible option to comply with the energy-efficiency provisions of the provincial legislation. The new standard empowers builders to pursue innovative, creative, cost-effective solutions—and allows them to incorporate leading-edge technologies as they come available.

Local governments can choose to require or incentivize a given step of the BC Energy Step Code in new construction. In addition, beyond the regulatory context, builders and developers can adopt a given step to use across all of their projects, if they wish.

The diagram below shows what the performance improvements look like for Part 9 residential buildings. The diagram outlines five steps from the current BC Building Code requirements to net-zero energy ready Part 9 residential buildings. Click on image below.

The BC Energy Step Code will reduce the amount of energy required by new buildings. It will also offer a range of side benefits to occupants, the environment, and the economy. However, such benefits  come with a number of trade-offs.

This is particularly true when it comes to meeting the more rigorous performance requirements of the Upper Steps. Briefly, trade-offs of projects built to the Upper Steps include:

  • Increased construction costs (for more on this, review our FAQ).
  • Local government staff and builders will need to be trained on new practices.
  • While it is possible to build beautiful homes and high-rise buildings to meet the Upper Steps, designers must pay special attention to the amount and location of window glazing and the design of balconies, to mitigate heat loss as much as possible. The added costs associated with implementing these changes may, in practice, result in fewer balconies or less glazing in some buildings.
  • Cost and training impacts will be more pronounced outside British Columbia’s Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island regions.

Of course, these trade-offs come with benefits. They include:

Occupant Benefits

Buildings built to higher energy-efficiency standards provide multiple benefits to those who live, work, and learn within them. Occupants often prefer these buildings as they:

  • Improve comfort, by better managing temperature
  • Improve health, by better managing fresh air throughout the building
  • Reduce noise, through better insulation and airtightness
  • Require less energy, helping occupants lower their energy bills
  • Are more durable

Environmental Benefits

The BC Energy Step Code helps communities chart a course to a future in which all of British Columbia’s new buildings will be net-zero ready by 2032. Such high performance buildings will play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping reach our climate targets.

Information provided from the Building and Safety Standards Branch of the Government of British Columbia.

Basic requirements for homes to achieve a high efficiency construction standard.

1). Thick walls (can range from 6″ to 12″) with insulation (R20 to R60) & the reduction of thermal bridging

2). High performance windows (triple glazed) and doors with several layers of weatherstripping

3). Air tight envelope, resistance to inward or outward air leakage & heat loss

4). HRV System (heat recovery ventilation) moves heat & stagnant air from inside your home and transfers it to incoming fresh air from outside

If you plan to build a healthy, high performance home, the best investment you can make is taking the time to do your research. This is a growth industry, so products and technologies change rapidly. Due to market demand, green building products are continually becoming easier to find, and quickly dropping in price.

Energy Efficiency Options for your Home.

Your existing or new home can be more energy efficient. Fluidspace incorporates energy efficient design concepts in combination with up to date energy efficiency construction detailing. Two example are noted below.

1). ENERGY STAR for new homes or incorporating certified products into your existing home such as lighting, appliances or air conditioners can save you money by using less electricity.

  • improve air quality & comfort in your indoor environment
  • save energy
  • save money
  • help the planet
  • better resale value

2). R-2000 homes include high levels of insulation, HRV system and other features noted below:

  • high insulation levels in walls, ceilings and basements
  • high-efficiency windows & doors
  • high-efficiency heating & cooling systems
  • whole-house mechanical ventilation concept
  • minimal air leaking from the house (airtight air sealing)
  • water-conserving fixtures such as faucets, shower heads & toilets

For more information click here to see the Natural Resources Canada website.

  • potential views from the site, light angles and landscaping.
  • are there any pre-existing site conditions such as soil conditions, slope of site, large tree’s, right of ways, easements, creeks. . . .
  • house size, garage size, laneway house size and how much floor space is available for the site.
  • interior and exterior finishing materials, do you want to consider/integrate sustainable technologies & materials.
  • land Survey fees
  • house design fees
  • structural and geotechnical engineering fees
  • permit fees