Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Passive House?
A Passive House is one which adheres to three very strict energy conservation requirements:
- A maximum amount of heating energy per square metre of floor space per year which is equivalent to about 85-90% less heat than a new code-built home,
- A stringent air-tightness rating for the home based on a test performed by a third-party energy analyst,
- A maximum total energy consumption per square metre of floor space per year, which includes all energy usage in the building, including space heating and cooling, domestic hot water supply, ventilation equipment, lighting, appliances and electrical loads.
To learn more one of Pheasant Hill Homes’ specialties, Passive Houses, visit our Passive House page.
I want to build or renovate, how do I get started?
Easy! Just visit out website’s CONTACT PAGE, and you’ll find all the info you need to get in touch with us. Or, just call our office at 250-618-6880. Our office staff will get some basic information from you, and then set up a consultation to discuss your project, determine what your needs are, and prepare a plan to realize your goals.
Pheasant Hill is a more expensive contractor, right?
Pheasant Hill does cost a bit more than the lowest bid contractor you may be able to find. But this doesn’t bother us, because we know we have more to offer than the lowest common denominator. We have a passion for building science and energy efficiency that let us help clients confidently build some of the highest-quality, most efficient buildings in the country. We have a team of project managers, site managers and office staff that highly value their professionalism and are dedicating to always learning how to build better homes. We have owners that value their employees well enough to provide them with health, dental, life and disability benefits, as well as ongoing education funds to help them excel in their work, and the care to acknowledge that providing time for people to enjoy their lives and families outside of work contributes to happier workers and better productivity on the job. And most importantly, we have a dedication to a high quality of work, a commitment to honesty in all interactions, and a belief that valuing people is the foundation of everything good that follows. All of these things do cost more than doing the bare minimum, but we know from client feedback and consistent repeat business that the value we provide for our slightly higher costs is exceptional.
Can a house be too air tight? Doesn’t a home need to breath?
This is a misunderstanding of how a properly designed building envelope actually functions, and a failure to acknowledge how building science has changed over the last two decades. Stating that a house “needs to breath” is actually saying two things. Let’s take a look at each:
- Firstly, it is saying: “Won’t a house without fresh air circulation be unhealthy for the occupants?” And yes- it most certainly will! The parts per million of CO2 in the air we breathe has a very direct impact on our mental acuity, our alertness, and even whether or not we suffer frequent headaches. Not to mention all of the other pollen, air pollutants and pathogens which can build up in a sealed system. However, relying on a bunch of random holes and leaks through the walls and ceiling of a house to supply your family with fresh air is both unreliable and irresponsible. This permits your fresh air supply to not only be at the whim of temperature differentials, wind speeds, air pressure changes and many other uncontrollable environment conditions, but also supplies that air to undetermined locations within your house through the insulation, dust and building materials that make up the building exterior. A key goal of an airtight house is that you seal as many of the leaks and holes in your building exterior as possible and instead use a dedicated ducted ventilation system to remove humid and undesirable air from certain areas of the house (kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, etc), and supply fresh, filtered air to exactly the rooms where the residents spend their time (bedrooms, living rooms, offices) in a controlled manner.
- Secondly, it is sometimes saying “Doesn’t the building envelope need air moving through it to dry out?” This, as building science has proved, is in fact the exact opposite of how assemblies dry. Air moving uncontrolled through leaks and holes in a building’s enclosure vastly increases the likelihood that moisture in the air will condense in undesirable locations within the structure, contributing to mold, rot and possible structural failures. The ideal arrangement is to have an airtight assembly that firstly does not allow bulk water vapour in moving air to be carried into (and condense in) the structure, secondly prevents high humidity from absorbing into the assembly by the use of an appropriately spec’d vapour retarder, thirdly is continuously and liberally insulated to keep the structural materials warm, and lastly, that freely allows any water vapour that is migrating through the assembly to easily pass through and out into the environment.
Having a designer and contractor that appreciates and applies these new understandings in how buildings function is critical to creating a home that will endure admirably through the generations, and that will provide a healthy interior environment for the residents.
How much do you charge per square foot?
This often asked question can be very challenging for a custom builder and renovator to answer, because the scope, variety and quality of projects varies so greatly from one to the next. For tract, or spec builders that repeatedly build simple plans or variations on a basic footprint, this is a question they are well-prepared to answer. If we completely renovate a large, 200 square foot kitchen with new cabinets, flooring, trim, paint, appliances and plumbing fixtures, the cost per square foot is far greater than if we were to totally renovate a medium-sized living room of 200 square feet that just required new flooring, paint and trim. Similarly, if we build two new houses one may be a modest two bedroom, one bath home on one level with a compact kitchen for a retired couple, while the other may be a large ocean-front home with top-end finishes and fixtures across four bedrooms and an office, three full bathrooms, a massive kitchen for entertaining with several duplicated appliances, a fully-integrated home theatre and extensive landscaping. Comparing the costs per square foot between these two projects represents such a huge variation that normalizing the construction costs in this way becomes completely meaningless. What we can say, is that no matter what size, complexity or type of project you have, Pheasant Hill Homes always applies the same quality of construction, integrity in interactions, and dedication to valuing the people involved. Often, those are real costs of construction that are neglected in a construction relationship, and which cannot be summed up in a simple cost-per-square foot figure.
Do I need to have plans drawn up by an architect or designer before I talk to you about my project?
No. Pheasant Hill Homes can provide you with everything you need, from complete design of new homes, to several options for renovating spaces of any size. If you would prefer to utilize the design services of another firm, we can help you find one that suits your project and budget. We do believe, however, that selecting a contractor at the same time as a designer (if they are not one and the same) can lead to real cost savings and efficiencies in the project down the road. Often contractors have very practical field experience about the implications of certain construction details that architects or designers may not be privy to. Pheasant Hill prides itself on their in-depth knowledge of sustainable and energy efficient building practices that often allows us to work with designers to create better quality homes that work better and save energy costs for their clients. Having an integrated design process between both the contractor, the architect (and any speciality sub-trades required) is regarded as being one of the wisest ways to ensure a high-quality build is realized for the lowest expense.
I want to purchase a lot and build a new custom home. Should I purchase the lot first and then contact a builder? How does that process work?
Either way is acceptable, but ensuring that you have the builder (or an architect/designer) involved before a parcel of land is purchased is a very prudent decision. Sometimes construction lots present unique challenges to design or actual construction that may not be readily apparent to a layperson. Involving someone with special construction knowledge before purchasing what could turn out to be a very challenging and expensive parcel of land to deal with could prevent many problems at a later date.
We’re not sure if we should stay where we are and renovate or move and build a new custom home. Can you help us with that decision?
Yes. Because we are accustomed to designing and building many different sizes and styles of new homes, as well as complete interior renovations and additions of all kinds, Pheasant Hill has a wealth of experience in assessing what does and does not work in different contexts. We work with everyone from new families, to retirees from across the country, and so have an intimate understanding of the practical ways in which design changes with an existing home can suit the evolving needs of our clients, or if their future financial interests would be better served building an entirely new home whose improved efficiency and lowered operating costs would offset the cost premium of starting from scratch. The best way to help make the right decision is to talk to someone who can ask you the right questions, and help reveal the information that you may not be able to discover on your own. Visit our CONTACT PAGE to see how we can help!
What is the premium for a "custom" home over a spec home?
A spec home can suit the needs of many types of clients. They are built to the basic structural and thermal requirements required by law, and their simple construction assemblies and limited design input from clients keeps their costs low.
A custom home is designed to suit exactly the lifestyle that you prefer. It will be perfectly sized for your family (and what you predict your family will be in the future), and the pattern of language that the spaces and their relationships to one another convey. A custom home will fit how you actually live your lives in the home, not what the spec builder assumes will be a one-size fits all approach that will appeal to the most people possible. Further, a custom home can incorporate many uncommon design aspects to improve the energy efficiency of the home that one simply doesn’t find on spec builds.
Pheasant Hill Homes has the knowledge and training to help you build your home to the highest energy efficiency standard in the world: The European Passive House standard (See More Info on Passive Homes Here). We also have the training to help you build a Net Zero energy house, which over the course of the year will produce all of it’s own energy for heating, hot water and all electrical usage, meaning that your energy bills will be zero! (See More Info on Net Zero Homes Here). On almost every single house we build, Pheasant Hill Homes applies at least some of our very specialized knowledge to help design and construct custom homes and renovations that are tailor-made for the unique lifestyles of their clients, that incorporate energy efficiency features to improve the comfort of the home and reduce their energy bills, and that are constructed with care and consideration to be durable against the elements so that they far outlast their code-built counterparts. Naturally such careful design, construction and detailing efforts require more time and often demand some higher quality materials. Each custom project will demand these things to differing degrees, meaning that the cost premium will be different for each project. But these upgrades are all customized to reflect your values, and so should therefore be a reflection of what you believe is worth more in your investment, and not simply greater expense with no verifiable return. It would be possible to build a custom home for little more than a spec build if one so chose to build to a very simple standard, but often during design and construction people choose to incorporate that which is important to them at a cost increase so that they have a product they will be happier with upon completion. This cost premium range is completely up to you!
How small of a renovation will Pheasant Hill Homes do?
This is an easy one: we will do any project, of any size! Some clients will get just as much joy out of a new ground-level deck as others will get out of a brand new kitchen with all the bells and whistles. We’re here to help everyone achieve their goals no matter the size or scope.
What are the different roles and responsibilities between a Project Manager (PM) and a Site Manager(SM)
A project manager (PM) guides a client from the signing of the contract to entrust Pheasant Hill Homes with their project, right through to completion. The PM will be by your side through the design phase, land procurement (if applicable), applying for permits, choosing product/appliance/finish specifications, gathering and evaluating quotes and contracts from sub-trades and suppliers, preparing and revising the budget, scheduling the project, all through construction with regular meetings to help with any decisions along the way, right through to the final occupancy, billing and project review. The PM will also track the actual on-site labour and material expenses against the projected budget and review this with the clients at regular meetings so that there is total transparency as the project progresses.
The site manager (SM), generally comes on board at the commencement of construction (or demolition), though they may have input in both some construction detailing during the design phase of more specialized projects, and in creating the project schedule. The SM’s role is to be on-site pretty much every day, ensuring that what was designed and specified during the planning phase is precisely what gets constructed on site. The SM may have a crew of carpenters working on site with them to perform the actual construction, and/or will organize and schedule the sub-trades and oversee their work to ensure that it adheres to the specifications. The SM takes care of many of the small issues and problems that present themselves daily, and they will have an ongoing dialogue with the clients regarding on-site decisions regarding attention that were not, or could not be anticipated in the design or specification phase. SM’s will procure all materials and arrange all labour for the work to be done, and if any major issues or problems arise, they will be addressed at a meeting with the PM, and any other parties that need to be involved.
In the simplest of terms, the PM ensures that the proper plan is put in place from the start and carefully monitors and adjusts it as the project unfolds. The SM’s job is to take that plan and do everything to actually “make it happen” on site.