Sunday, October 2, 2011

Laneway Housing Tour Redux


On October 1, Heritage Vancouver organized another Laneway Housing Tour to allow participants to see a new flock of laneway housing around Vancouver. Six houses were on display, however two 'beautifully crafted lane and coach houses' by Lanecraft were not finished. While this allowed visitors to examine how these little houses are built, they could not fully appreciate how the new houses will relate to the existing older house on the lot, or other houses and garages along the street.That being said, the other houses were most interesting and allowed visitors to appreciate what works, and what doesn't work when it comes to the city's laneway housing program.

As a general comment, I believe that laneway houses can be designed to fit into a neighbourhood, provided the narrower (33') lots have a minimum 120 foot depth. There is no doubt that it is easier to create a successful laneway unit on a corner lot, or lots that are 50 feet or wider.However, what the tour did not offer was a chance to see single level 'cottage-style' laneway houses, which is what I believe many potential homeowners want to build, and what many neighbours would be happier to have in their neighbourhood.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that this is the type of housing I would like to build, especially using pre-fabricated modular housing. Unfortunately, such units are likely to protrude further into the rear yard of 33' lots; however they could be built on lots 130' in depth or more.The following are some images of what I saw travelling around the city. In many instances, the exterior design of the new houses relates well to the existing homes. However, in many instances, the houses do seem to 'feel' too large, especially when the garage is integrated into the new house. This is generally done because the zoning regulations require that the second floor cannot be more than 60% of the ground floor including garage. This is what makes the units 'one and a half' rather than 'two storey' in height. However, from looking at these photos, I would say that most people would describe many of these houses as two storeys.A couple of other comments.

As I noted when I last wrote about laneway housing, it is obvious to me that many homes are being designed so that the garages can become living space in the future. Well this might seem clever, I fear that it could compromise the success of the program as residents are required to park on the street, rather than in a garage. (As many readers may recall, while I urged Vancouver City Council to require a second parking space for lots with laneway houses, this idea was rejected. As a result, some lots could have three units...a main house, a basement suite, and a laneway house, with no 'off-street parking'.

Secondly, I found that some of the interior plans are much more successful than others. As I discovered on the first tour, some of these 500 square foot units have gigantic refrigerators and stoves when smaller, more compact appliances are available and might be more appropriate. To my mind, the more successful units offer one large living/dining/kitchen areas, rather than two smaller areas.

Some of the houses on the tour had the living area at grade and the bedroom(s) above; others havebedroom(s) at grade, and the living areas on the upper floor with an outdoor space over the garage. Both seem to work for the younger renter; however, neither is really suitable for an 85 year old granny who might want to live in this type of unit on a property owned by a family member.I hope this is helpful to those of you who are interested in building a laneway house. I am pleased to announce that Laneway Cottages Inc., which I created two years ago to build laneway housing in Vancouver will soon start designing and building houses in the city, working with an established modular housing company, and Trasolini Chetner, an established westside builder, who is also building my Hollyburn Mews project in West Vancouver. One advantage of modular building is that it can be completed in weeks, rather than months.... Contact me for more details at geller@sfu.ca.

19 comments:

Julie Burtinshaw said...

I was very proud of our laneway house showed on last weekend's tour. As M has pointed out in this post, it is not quite finished but that in no way diminishes the fact that Lanecraft has done an extraordinary job on both the build and design of our house. As I mingled (without identifying myself) in the crowd, I could not help but to overhear again and again, the positive comments about our house!
Julie Burtinshaw

Anonymous said...

Although I read your blog with interest, I disagree with your comment: While this allowed visitors to examine how these little houses are built, they could not fully appreciate how the new houses will relate to the existing older house on the lot, or other houses and garages along the street. The exterior of my lanehouse is finished and if you were unable to see how well it fits in with the nearby "existing older homes," I would like to invite you to come and take a second look. 99 percent of the people who live near us in Dunbar have commented that this lanehouse compliments the lane and the whole block for that matter. Like other houses on the tour, the landscaping is not yet complete, but that will come.
Peter Moffat (lanehouse owner)

Thomas Frauenberger said...

Michael,
Thanks for writing about the very successful laneway house tour put on this past Saturday by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.
We at Lanecraft and our clients are proud to have been a part of it.
Both of the soon-to-be-completed laneway houses will be rental properties; in order to preserve privacy for both the existing houses and new laneway houses the 2 structures on each property will be separated from each other by fencing and landscaping.
Also, both houses will have functioning garages (with beautiful and space-saving roll-up doors) that will actually be used as garages by both of the owners.
We look forward to posting images of the completed product on our website:
www.lanecraft.com
Thanks again to everyone for a very successful tour and thanks to the City and its citizens for supporting the laneway house initiative.
Sincerely,
Thomas Frauenberger
Principal, Lanecraft
thomas@lanecraft.com
778.998.4094

Michael Lyons said...

Michael,

Why not have Smallworks build your laneway house projects as they arise? With half of the houses on the tour being Smallworks homes, you have had a chance to see the quality work we do in this unique and specific building format.

We're happy to build for architects, developers or homeowners, using your designs or ours... or come up with something new together.

We now even sell panelized home packages from our dock or can take it all the way to lock-up to be finished by whomever you choose. And we do have several models of single-level cottages available too.

Flexible, experienced, assured quality makes us a great option to consider.

Please contact me anytime,

Michael Lyons
Smalworks Studios/Laneway Housing
michael@smallworks.ca
mobile: 604-681-6484

Michael Geller said...

Thanks for the comments. In response to Peter Moffat, my comment related solely to the houses that weren't finished. As Thomas notes, fencing and landscaping needs to be added to his units, and this is something that is important.

As for working with Smallworks, I agree they are building very good homes and may be a good choice to undertake the siteworks. But I am still intrigued by the possibility of bringing in a completed modular unit, which could be finished in weeks, rather than months, reducing disturbance for the homeowner and neighbours.

I also like to believe that with repetition, the cost of modular units could be below that of stick built, or panelized construction.

John C Davies said...

Michael,
I think prefab is a no brainer for laneway housing for a coupla reasons. First off, As mentioned, is timing. The thing can go up in days instead of weeks. Second, and not often considered, for someone doing a project associated with an existing primary residence it's way cleaner. Your back yard is not transformed into a construction site / materials storage yard / trades lunchroom / porta potty staging area for as long. Sure you are going to have workers and trades on site, but going prefab will greatly limit the workboot to rose bed ratio.
Look forward to hearing about other upcoming projects.
-J

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