The first time Whistler’s RDC Fine Homes was nominated for a Georgie Award in 2006, company president Bob Deeks was surprised to be recognized among the best and brightest building firms B.C. had to offer.
The custom homebuilder has won a slew of awards and been nominated at the Georgies every single eligible year since, and that feeling still has yet to wear off for Deeks. (In 2009, Deeks served as head of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of BC, which produces the awards, and was therefore ineligible.)
“We were super excited to become finalists and to win 16 years ago, and 16 years ago I understood how hard it was to get an entry not only across the finish line and into the finals but to win,” Deeks said. “Today, we’re up against three times the number of entries. I think for anyone who makes it into the finals, your project absolutely has to stand out … so it’s even more satisfying today.”
RDC is up for three awards this year: custom home valued between $2 million and $3 million and best single-family kitchen up to $200,000, both for a home dubbed the Cypress Place Retreat in Nicklaus North, as well as for best kitchen renovation under $150,000 for a Cheakamus Way home in Cheakamus Crossing.
Of the Cypress Place project, Deeks said the offshore client was “really looking for that sanctuary feeling when they come to Whistler” and, working with a Vancouver interior design firm, RDC came up with an aesthetic that fit the bill.
“That helps enormously when you have really good design and clients with nice taste,” Deeks said. “Of course we’re really just the conduit for great design and good clients. Our job is to do a good job of executing and fill in the blanks. Every design always has some interpretation to it and a really good builder will fill in those invisible blanks in the design so that the designer and the client’s vision is truly realized in the final product.”
RDC’s projects weren’t the only from Whistler to be recognized; Vancouver firm ReCanvas Development earned a nod in the custom home under $1 million category for a project dubbed “Alpine Ambience,” while locally based Alair Homes was nominated in the best condo renovation under $250,000 category for a unit at the Deer Lodge in the village.
“It was a full gut renovation. The client was really interested in turning it from a kind of dark and drab space and really wanted to add a lot of light to it and make it very modern and chic with a bit of a Las Vegas style,” said Jason Zavitz, partner with Alair Homes, who added that, along with the focus on lighting, the reno also came with a new fireplace, minor adjustments to make the kitchen more functional, and a completely redone custom shower. (A request for comment from ReCanvas Development was not returned by deadline.)
Both Zavitz and Deeks noted the flood of renos that have come across their desks of late, fuelled by people spending more time at home in the pandemic, as well as Whistler’s climbing property costs.
“The volume of inquiries we’re getting on renovations is exploding. There’s that older stock from the ’70s and ’80s and there are some good houses that need to be updated,” Deeks said. “Of course the cost of construction has gone up to a place where people who 10 years ago might have considered tearing a house down are a lot more invested in trying to fix their existing house.”
The short-term rental market is driving much of the renovation demand, in Zavitz’s experience, as many older local units come due for a spruce-up.
“Everyone has got that same old ’90s look that needs updating. We get calls non-stop about it,” he said.
COVID-19 is also leading to home updates in other ways, with more of an emphasis on proper air ventilation, Deeks said.
“Indoor air quality is a larger concern for people. I think in part COVID is driving that,” he explained.
The effects of climate change are another major influencer, with “thermal comfort” a growing priority for clients both in the winter and summer months, said Deeks.
“When it comes to thermal comfort, it’s not just insulation values and the outside building envelope, it’s also a greater awareness of the fact that the heating system they have doesn’t do a good job of heating the whole house properly,” he said. “Of course there is also more and more interest in air conditioning. Our summers here in Whistler absolutely are getting hotter and those hotter periods are lasting a lot longer, so in the ’90s and 2000s you might have a week or so when it was uncomfortably hot, and now we’re seeing a month to six weeks.”
For 30 years, the Georgies have celebrated excellence in home building and renovation in B.C.’s residential construction industry. Winners are selected from a panel of out-of-province industry professionals. The in-person awards gala originally set for March 12 at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver has been rescheduled to June 4.
To view the full list of nominees, visit georgieawards.ca.