Last month, a local company got a big boost.
Northern Homecraft, based in Vanderhoof, attended the Canadian Home Builders Association’s Northern B.C. awards dinner for housing excellence, an event that took place in Prince George Oct. 13. The company had submitted entries in two categories, both for homes built in Fort St. James.
To their delight, Northern Homecraft won for both builds, coming home with two shiny awards to place in their office on Blackwater Road, outside the city.
The company, which has been in operation for around seven years, is owned by two husband-and-wife teams, Shay and Christina Bulmer and Beau and Karen Jackson. The team won awards for Best Custom Home Over $1 Million, and Best Certified Home.
“Both properties are located in Fort St. James,” says Karen Jackson, Northern Homecraft’s resource manager. The build that won the Best Certified Home award is certified as a “net zero ready” home, and is the first of its kind in the province.
“A net zero house is a home that produces as much energy over the course of a year as it consumes,” explains Karen. “So a ‘net zero ready’ home has everything designed and set up … but maybe it’s not necessarily all installed.”
Karen says reasons for this are sometimes expense, or just a matter of timing. The home is all set up to use solar energy, once the owners are ready to install a system.
“For a lot of people, ‘net zero ready’ is the first step, because it’s quite expensive. So they have a system designed, and they just haven’t purchased and implemented the system yet.”
Karen says because they knew this certified home was unique in the province, they were hopeful and somewhat confident they may be top of the pile in the Best Certified Home category at the awards. And they were right.
“Building certified home in a colder climate comes with more challenges, so there aren’t as many further north,” she says.
But Karen admits the team was surprised and overjoyed to win in the Custom Home category.
“When we won the Custom Home Over $1 Million category, we were very excited. We were up against some very competitive houses. We were surprised we won that one, and very happy. Reflecting back on it, it is a very beautiful house,” says Karen.
The custom home, also located in Fort St. James, was a labour of love for the owners. Karen says Northern Homecraft worked closely with the homeowners and their designer for more than two years to create the home exactly as they wanted it.
“It was a long process. And then the house took just over a year to build.”
Across two floors, the custom home is just under 4,000 square feet, with a 1,300 square foot garage. Karen says it encompasses many different building techniques, including timber frame construction, structural steel and traditional stick frame construction.
“It had a bunch of different elements all brought together into this one house,” she says.
Karen explains that not only is the home special in its design, but its also unique for the overall market, as there’s generally not a lot of opportunities to build these kinds of high-value homes in the region.
“In Vanderhoof and Fort St. James and surrounding areas … the market doesn’t really support resale of houses of that value. So a lot of people don’t want to put that amount of money into a home, because it may not be recovered.”
With two awards now taking pride of place on the company’s shelves, Northern Homecraft looks to continue to blaze a trail in the certified sustainable homes sector, as B.C.’s building code evolves to promote environmentally compatible houses.
Business partner Shay Bulmer has been participating in the Local Energy Efficiency Partnerships (LEEP) training program, which is offered through Natural Resources Canada.
LEEP is a program which helps builders build energy-efficient homes better, faster, and to a higher degree of affordability. Builders in the program work together, meeting at workshops and determining the most energy-efficient technologies and practices to utilize moving forward. They also host a technology forum, bringing in experts requested by the builders themselves, and builders share the successes and pitfalls of their own work building energy-efficient homes or buildings in the field.
“[Shay is] working towards an Energy Star certification, and other certifications,” says Karen.
With the first net zero ready home in B.C. already on their list, this local company is ahead of the curve.