Archive for January, 2010

595 East Georgia Street address belonged to a schoolhouse

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Five-townhome complex built to highest ‘green’ standard


Trillium Project Management and developer Take Root Properties converted an old schoolhouse in East Vancouver into five residences. — HANDOUT PHOTO

Schoolhouse project: Part of the conversion called for natural bamboo flooring and the use of as many recycled materials from the old school as possible. — HANDOUT

Vapour barrier paint is labour-intensive process but has an overall benefit of providing an airtight drywall block to control moisture flow and improve air quality in the home.

The bright, modern take on one of the bathrooms of the townhouse that was developed in a converted schoolhouse. — HANDOUT PHOTOS

Creating flexible rooms makes these town homes easily adaptable for current and subsequent homeowners and common spaces allow residents to congregate comfortably.

A little planning at the start of this schoolhouse-turned-residential dwelling allowed the developer and architect to put a green spin at every stage of the project.

At one time, the 595 East Georgia Street address belonged to a schoolhouse.

No longer. It now speaks, not to reading or to writing, but to residency.

The old schoolhouse in Strathcona, the one-time home of Saint Francis Xavier School, is now a five-townhome complex. Two of the homes have been sold — one to the developer, and one to a family member of the developer — but the remaining three will go to market sometime this spring.

Trillium Project Management took on the conversion of the building with a new developer of multi-family projects called Take Root Properties. And it was no average assignment.

“It’s been a learning curve, but a really interesting one,” said Trillium Project Management Ltd. owner David Hamilton. “The goal was to be the highest standard platinum built-green multi-family project.”

Some of the “green” features for the new building include geothermal heat, solar panels, airtight drywall, spray insulation, hardwired energy-saving lighting, rainwater collection and natural bamboo flooring.

As well, the project incorporated as many recycled materials from the old school as possible. For the exterior stairs, the construction crew reused the fir from the original floors by cutting the wood down to size, then sanding and staining it.

Hamilton said the conditions for the conversion were far from typical, given the age of the schoolhouse — built in 1940 — and a city requirement to retain the original building’s frame.

Adding to the atypical nature of the project was the fact that the schoolhouse sits on a 50-by-122-foot lot in the middle of a quiet, residential neighbourhood. The tight space meant the huge steel beams necessary to support the construction needed to be placed into the structure by hand, instead of by cranes.

The entire house was raised 11 feet to put in a new basement level. There is also a rooftop deck that all the homeowners can access.

Another noteworthy feature is the vapour barrier paint that assists in providing an airtight drywall barrier. “It’s a labour-intensive process, but it’s far superior,” said Hamilton.

“With a little planning at the beginning stage you can come up with economical ideas to allow you to build green. We spent a lot of time with the architect and owner to make sure the ideas fit the budget and still had the element of good design,” said Hamilton.

The lead architect on the project was Bruce Haden of HBBH Architects.

Developer Mark Sheih, who purchased one of the townhouses, said that one of the most important design features was the incorporation of flex spaces. This means the homes can easily be changed according to the needs of the occupants.

“It’s taking the idea to the residential multi-family scale, with the schoolhouse project, and asking the question ‘how can we build homes that are built for change?'” said Sheih. “We believe real estate can be a positive catalyst for change in a neighbourhood.”

He said that to help further that idea, the team ensured there were common spaces where the homeowners can interact. These include the common rooftop deck and artist studio spaces, which can be incorporated into all of the homes.

The five residences have an average of 1,500 square feet, with the main living spaces on the upper two floors. The flex spaces in the basement will allow the owners to put in a home studio or office.

Although the housing is zoned residential, the front unit has been designed to convert as future commercial space. The main features here are the large accordion-style wood doors, which fold to each side, and the polished concrete floors.

The room looks out to a large outdoor patio, which has 18-by-18-inch concrete pavers that will eventually have thyme growing between them to help create a natural drainage system.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Strata saves $600,000 on roofs

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Tony Gioventu

Our strata is a series of apartment buildings in Burnaby built in 1972. In 2008, we hired an engineering firm to perform building envelope inspection.

Overall, our buildings are in good shape; however, our roofs were in need of replacement on our pool building and one other. With the help of our site manager and consultant, we managed to replace the roofing systems on all three of our buildings for the cost of what originally projected to be two buildings. Overall, we saved over $600,000.

Robina Gaskell, Lougheed Estates

Dear Robina: It is always more cost-effective and beneficial for the owners to plan in the long term for

financial needs and routine maintenance and renewals. Buyers considering a strata-titled property should always take a look at the maintenance schedules and long-term planning. If the buildings are well maintained and the strata is planning for the financial needs of future repairs, it indicates a mature and competent community.

Lougheed Estates is a mature, model community. The owners support and respect each other, the strata maintains and repairs the property, and the value of each unit is well protected. Congratulations on such a successful project.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association. Send questions to him at [email protected]

© Copyright (c) The Province

Larkin House East at Windsor Gate, 113 Pipeline Road, Coquitlam

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Coquitlam apartments a demonstration of architectural legend’s championship of the ‘democratic experience’


In the Larkin House kitchens, Polygon has specified laminate floors; polished granite countertops; ceramic backsplashes; Frigidaire appliances; frameless cabinet doors; and contemporary halogen track lighting. Stainless cladding on the appliances and stacking washers and dryers are options.

Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired detailng on two Larkin house buildings include brick arches, balcony projections, low-pitched roofs and precast concrete accents. Larkin House residents can relax in the Nakoma Club, a 15,000-square-foot community gathering place.

Project: Larkin House East at Windsor Gate

Project Location: 113 Pipeline Road, Coquitlam

Project size: 70 apartments Residence size: 1 bed +den, 2 bed, 2 bed +den, 872 sq. ft. — 1,025 sq. ft. Prices: From $249,900 Developer: Polygon

Architect: Halkier & Associates Interiors: Polygon

Sales centre: 113 Pipeline Road Hours: noon -5 p.m., daily Telephone: (604) 552-1113 E-mail: [email protected] Web: Occupancy: September 2010

By Steven Threndyle

The American architectural legend, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 -1959), is perhaps best known for his commissions from wealthy families, the Robie residence in Chicago, for example, or Fallingwater in rural Pennsylvania, and, of course, his own residences, Taliesin in rural Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz. Light-years ahead of their time, they are classic pointers to Modernist architecture’s attachments, to buildings that grow, as it were, from their geographies and, further, that are constructed from indigenous materials.

For all that his clients were wealthy and his behaviour was, at times, aristocratic, Wright was not an elitist. “Wright revered the American experience and believed that democracy was the best form of government,” the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation says. “Throughout his life he strived to create a new architecture that reflected the American democratic experience, an architecture based not on failing European and foreign models …, but rather an architecture based solely on America’s democratic values and human dignity. He often referred to the United States as Usonia.”

He would have appreciated Larkin House at Windsor Gate as a manifestation of his values.

Polygon Homes, the province’s largest supplier of residential housing,

has taken its architectural cues from Wright’s famed “Prairie Home style” and adapted it to two four-storey buildings in the Windsor Gate community -Larkin House East and Larkin House West. Wright-inspired touches can be found throughout. Brick arches, balcony projections, low-pitched roofs, custom exterior light fixtures and precast concrete accents are pleasing to the eye and will add value to the property.

Polygon’s Ralph Archibald says Polygon is transforming a one-time site of a large mobile home park into an architecturally pleasing mix of styles, punctuated by ample green space and proximity to public transportation and major thoroughfares.

“We’re anticipating that the majority of purchasers for Larkin House East will be first-home purchasers, similar to the homeowners who bought into the earlier building,” the company vice-president says. “We will be bringing some good incentives to reward those who are patient enough to wait in line to buy these homes.”

Over the next five years, Polygon will build more than 1,400 homes at the Windsor Gate: right now, it is a neighbourhood that is still in its formative stages. Fifty-five Larking House West apartments sold in three months last summer, providing an excellent snapshot of how the real estate market rebounded over the summer months.

“The majority of homeowners will likely come from the northeast sector/ Tri-Cities area, but I’m sure we’ll see some interest from people from Burnaby and surrounding area,” Archibald says. “They’ll be impressed by how much more you get if you move a bit farther eastward.”

He adds that Polygon has been a major player in the modernization of Coquitlam, responsible for the addition of more than 1,400 households there in the past decade. Pre-sales will likely be brisk for Larkin House East, partially because the building is now being framed. As well, prospects can see the completed Larkin House West homes adjacent to the new offering.

Polygon will bring resort-style amenities to the Larkin House/Windsor Gate community by constructing the Nakoma Club, a 15,000-square-foot communal gathering place, which will pay homage to Wright’s open-plan design principals.

An outdoor pool, garden and covered gazebo with gas barbecue will keep residents entertained in the summer months. Inside the clubhouse, there’s a fully equipped fitness studio, big-screen theatre room, indoor basketball court, billiards room, and great room perfect for family and group functions. An on-site concierge will provide a wide array of services for Windsor Gate residents. Construction is due to begin later this year.

“A strong sense of architecture will carry throughout the community, including a dramatic waterfall feature that will be lighted at night on the corner of Pipeline Road and Lincoln Avenue,” says Archibald.

There are five floor plans at Larkin House East; a small number are one-bedroom apartments, while the majority are two-bedroom and two-bedroom-and-den configurations.

Homeowners can look forward to rich laminate kitchen floors, polished granite countertops, designer ceramic backsplash, a full line of Frigidaire appliances, superb flat-panel cabinetry, and contemporary halogen track lighting.

Storage lockers, a stainless steel fridge upgrade and stacking washer and dryer are optional. Ceilings on the ground floor are nine feet high, and eight feet on the upper floors. Archibald points out that the wraparound landscaping and patios on the ground-floor suites add considerable square footage.

Larkin House East, and indeed all of the Windsor Gate community, validates Coquitlam’s progression from a bedroom community to a vibrant community.

“You’re very close to all of the services you could possible want -indeed, Coquitlam Town Centre is the largest shopping mall in the Lower Mainland,” Archibald says. “There are several schools within easy walking distance, yet the park-like character has been retained.

“Larkin House East’s location and its classic Frank Lloyd Wright architecture provide a winning combination for value-seeking homeowners.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

California developer introduces ‘One Planet’ ethic to this coast

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

‘True sustainability’ is the goal of 1,700-residence initiative north of San Francisco, not ‘just a reduction in emissions’

Kim Davis

Sonoma Mountain Village provided this artist’s rendering of the eventual residential possibilities there.

If any organization has a truly global vision of sustainability, it’s Bioregional.

The United Kingdom-based company has created an initiative called One Planet Communities. Those communities, now in place in several countries, are committed to reducing the ecological footprint of their residents to a truly sustainable level by 2020.

“The point of the One Planet program is to try to achieve true sustainability instead of just a reduction in emissions relative to something abstract like building codes or 1990 levels,” says Greg Searle, executive director of BioRegional’s North America office.

“The only real absolute that we know is that we have one planet and that there are nearly seven billion of us on a limited amount of bio-productive land. It’s a kind of global speed limit that we’re exceeding unsafely.”

The One Planet initiative was inspired by BedZED, an urban eco-village Bioregional helped create in 2002 in the U.K. BedZED ended up being a living laboratory for ecological living, inspiring a new generation of design and public policy, Searle says.

“The One Planet program grew out of the observation that if we could create that much change in one country, just by building a small demonstration project, that we ought to challenge conventional ideas about sustainability with larger, more ambitious demonstration projects around the world.”

Searle, a Canadian and an Ottawa resident, is One Planet’s North American manager and a member of the organization’s international steering committee.

There are now One Planet communities in Portugal, China, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and most recently in the U.S.: the Sonoma Mountain Village, or SOMO, in Rohnert Park, Calif., just north of San Francisco.

The SOMO project has all-encompassing sustainability as its goal. Sonoma Mountain Village is a 200-acre, mixed-use, solar-powered zero-waste community, of almost 1,700 homes that aims to have every resident no more than a five-minute walk to groceries, restaurants, day-care and other amenities offering local and sustainable products and services.

Good intentions

When asked how the initiative differs from green-building programs such as LEED, and in particular LEED for Neighbourhood Development, Searle says One Planet is goal-driven rather than point-driven, but also works to inject sustainability into every aspect of the project. For example, one development in the U.K. not only ran a sustainable canteen for construction workers, it also encouraged them to bike to work.

“Just going to the highest level of a green-building rating system like LEED doesn’t get you out of trouble [with carbon emissions] in the building category, and does very little to help the waste and transportation contributions that are often very significant,” he says. At last year’s Living Futures Conference, Bioregional and SOMO developer Codding Enterprises presented a study on the total carbon footprint of households in various green-building scenarios.

To live truly sustainably, the report said, U.S. households would have to achieve a 75-percent reduction in their total carbon footprint.

The study found that even households in an LEED for Neighbourhood Development platinum project — the highest ranking possible — achieved only an 18-per-cent reduction. Green buildings and smart-growth planning are important steps, says Searle, noting that while LEED works nicely with the One Planet program, green buildings alone are not nearly enough.

Rising to the challenge

Already frustrated by the process and results he was seeing in his own LEED projects, Geof Syphers of Codding Enterprises welcomed the challenge One Planet Communities offered when developing the Sonoma Mountain Village.

“Even in the very best-case scenario, under an LEED Platinum project, we were only reducing CO2 emissions by 15 to 20 per cent relative to the status quo,” says Syphers. “Even if we were beating stringent codes by 40 per cent, and we’re supplying half of the power with renewable energy, we’re still providing the other half with fossil fuels and causing a net detriment to the planet.”

Syphers says the One Planet framework was attractive, in part, because it lays out exactly what is needed to achieve sustainability. “It makes no claim that you’ll succeed,” he says, “but if you fall short, you’ll know exactly what the gap is and why, and then they publish that widely.

“Instead of patting ourselves on the back for reducing waste by 89 per cent, we say we made good progress, but still have a long way to go, and if you can help us, that would be great. It allows real science to happen.”

Progressive Reporting

An important tool in the One Planet program is a publicly available annual audit. Searle

describes this aspect as particularly timely in light of recent negative press over green buildings found to be underperforming. “Monitoring is generally a huge gap and it’s rare to find a real estate developer that’s willing to take risk over a 10-year period to have their progress reviewed. I think it makes a much better product for the consumer and raises the integrity and credibility of a project enormously.”

Searle argues that we need to go into sustainable projects with the spirit that they are pioneering opportunities for us to learn what works, and perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t.

Priceless Future

Both Searle and Syphers acknowledge that they cannot control the environmental impact residents have when the developer leaves the SOMO development, but when they consider the BedZED experience and others, they estimate that the design, planning and services of the development with help residents reduce their total direct carbon emissions by 83 per cent.

Perhaps even more impressive than this, or the development’s enviable bells and whistles, are the great strides being made in changing policy and bylaw barriers.

“My main motivation is to first legalize this and enable it,” says Syphers. From variances needed to narrow streets, to the three bills now pending to expand solar applications, Sonoma Mountain Village’s greatest impact, like BedZed’s, could well be in forging the way for others.

For more information on the SOMO’s impressive attributes, visit,,or

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Woodward’s residents embracing the traditional neighbourhood

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

The middle class has begun moving into the troubled area. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on whom you ask

Lori Culbert

The courtyard at the new Woodward’s condominium complex: While new residents find the neighbourhood to their liking, others have sounded a warning. Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG, Vancouver Sun

Pam Williams and friend Jesse Lawrie each have their own places at Woodward’s. ‘It’s becoming one of the best places to live, because everything is right downstairs,’ Williams says.

Mike Meyer returns to his apartment in the Woodward’s complex after a shopping trip. ‘We live in a four-block radius. We do everything here.’

Mike Meyer is hauling two breakfast bagels and some grapefruit juice in a Nesters Market bag along West Cordova, heading to his home in the new Woodward’s development.

Meyer and his girlfriend, both twentysomethings from Calgary, moved into the building — an eclectic mix of the old refurbished department store, new gleaming towers, and mainstream businesses — in October, and were suddenly immersed in an unofficial social experiment in the Downtown Eastside.

Are the Woodward’s residents embracing the traditional neighbourhood, as the shoppers in the iconic department store once did?

Are they supporting local businesses and stopping to chat with low-income neighbours, or do they walk briskly past on the way to Robson Street?

And is the injection of the middle class — right into the heart of the Downtown Eastside — a lifeline or a death-knell for the troubled neighbourhood?

Like any emotionally and politically charged debate, it depends on whom you ask.

Meyer, 26, and his 23-year-old girlfriend moved from Yaletown to Woodward’s because it was closer to her job, and the rent for their condo was reasonable. Since they both came from Calgary, neither had a romanticized past with Woodward’s — it was really just another condo project.

They were cautious at first about moving into a neighbourhood that is home to many of Vancouver’s homeless, most of whom struggle with addiction and/or mental illness.

But, Meyer said, that worry quickly dissipated. The people on the street, he said, inspired sympathy, but not fear. At first he gave them spare change, but now he buys them sandwiches or passes around leftovers from a restaurant meal.

Meyer, who has worked in construction and snowboard sales but is taking time off right now, said most days he and his girlfriend never leave the ‘hood.

“We live in a four-block radius. We do everything here,” he said.

They frequently have a pint at the Irish Heather. They go out for Mexican food at La Casita across the street. They had just bought breakfast at Nesters, and often shop in London Drugs and bank at the TD, which are all in the Woodward’s development.

A development project like this can be beneficial, says David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, because it contains about 200 units of social housing, allowing people of different economic backgrounds to live in the same building — an experiment that has been successful in some U.S. cities.

However, protections have to be put in place to ensure such developments don’t drive up rents in the neighbourhood, and that an equal number of low-income buildings are also constructed.

“There are great facilities in it and hundreds of social housing units, which are positive. People who are homeless are excited to be moving into the Woodward’s building. But the issue is whether the city will act to dispel the Woodward’s effect so people aren’t displaced,” Eby said.

Wendy Pedersen, of the Carnegie Community Action Project, said there are condo and business owners who support the low-income community, but she fears that as more computer-savvy, well-spoken, middle-class property owners move into the neighbourhood it will tip the balance away from the rights of the poor.

“That is the big problem with Woodward’s — because there isn’t a plan to control ‘change’ in the neighbourhood,” Pedersen said, adding what the community desperately needs is more housing specifically for low-income people.

“That’s the underlying story that people don’t realize: We can’t just rely on Woodward’s projects to build the number of units that we need.”

As long as middle-class neighbourhoods reject having social housing in their backyards, argued Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre project coordinator Harsha Walia, this community should not accept expensive buildings on its streets.

“The Downtown Eastside is a last safe haven for people who are non-judgmental, for people who understand the barriers that others face,” Walia said.

While she said she doesn’t want to generalize about every person living in Woodward’s, she has witnessed some low-income residents being poorly treated by shoppers in the new mainstream stores or by pedestrians on the sidewalks.

Vancouver city hall spokeswoman Theresa Beer said city staff thought it was premature to speak to The Vancouver Sun about the interaction between new and traditional residents in the area as people and businesses are still moving into the long-anticipated project.

She was not aware of any recent bylaw complaints involving homeless people near Woodward’s, and said Vancouver police told her they do not track crime complaints by such specific locations.

Houtan Rafii, project manager with developer Westbank, acknowledged there will always be anti-Woodward’s people in the Downtown Eastside, but said the response from people in the building’s 533 market units has been “overwhelmingly positive” so far.

There have been few, if any complaints for Westbank to handle between new and existing Downtown Eastside residents, he said.

He said the building remains popular, noting few original buyers are now trying to flip their units.

Woodward’s has a storied history in Vancouver. It was a place that many longtime residents fondly recall visiting for shopping trips. But the iconic department store closed in 1993 after falling on hard times, and its redevelopment has been many years in the making.

Pam Williams, 23, has lived in Woodward’s since October after finding her former hometown of Whistler too expensive. She loves the local stores, she said, and feels safe living in the neighbourhood.

“It’s becoming one of the bes places to live, because everything is right downstairs,” Williams said during an interview outside the JJ Bean coffee shop in the Woodward’s development.

Her friend Jesse Lawrie, who also lives in the building, said he likes the mix of old and new in the Downtown Eastside, when it comes to residents and businesses.

Added the 26-year-old mechanic: “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Price gains to crimp B.C. real estate growth in 2010, 2011

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Derrick Penner

The mortgage-rate fuelled bounce back of British Columbia real estate in 2009 has probably used up most of the market’s growth for 2010 and 2011, according to a new estimate from the B.C. Real Estate Association.

Association chief economist Cameron Muir is forecasting province-wide sales in 2010 to increase only three per cent above the hot 2009 results to 90,100 sales in 2010, then slip back three per cent to 87,500 units in 2011.

The provincial average price, Muir is forecasting, will advance five per cent to $490,900 in 2010 then eke out just one-per-cent growth to $494,800 in 2011.

Muir characterized his forecast as 2009 ending with a “gold medal finish, [which] will give way to a silver medal performance in 2010.”

“Affordability is the biggest factor over the longer term,” Muir added in an interview, “because home prices in markets such as Victoria and Vancouver are trending on record levels, and mortgage rates are likely to edge higher at the end of this year and through 2011.

“That’s going to increase the carrying cost of housing, and by extension, overall housing demand.”

Home carrying costs, the monthly mortgage payment, taxes and other fees, saw a dramatic trim during the downturn that lasted through the last half of 2008 and first part of 2009, but Muir noted that that advantage is rapidly disappearing.

In his forecast, Muir estimates that the markets that roared back the most in 2009 — Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Victoria — will be among those with the most muted results in 2010 and 2011.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Lead, asbestos and formaldehyde are trouble you don’t want to live with …

Friday, January 29th, 2010


When and how to prune without doing harm

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Steve Whysall

Gerry Gibbens, senior gardener at VanDusen Botanical Garden, uses a lopper to prune a long-established Japanese flowering dogwood (Cornus kousa). Photograph by: Bill Keay, PNG, Vancouver Sun

It’s easy to get carried away when you get out in the garden with a pair of loppers and start slicing chunks off your trees and shrubs.

This is the time of year gardeners get back into the garden in earnest and start cleaning all the decaying remnants of last season out of borders and beds and begin to snip away with pruners.

The danger, however, is that we can get addicted to the power of snipping and slicing and end up doing more harm than good.

The key is to always keep in mind why you are out there doing this in the first place. The goal in pruning is always to make a plant healthier, shapelier, more attractive, more productive.

What you are there primarily to do is remove ugly, dead branches or ones broken by heavy snow over winter.

You’re also there to rejuvenate by clipping in a way that promotes healthy new growth or restores the plant to a beautiful, shapely, manageable specimen, without damaging its natural form.

This sounds straightforward enough, but you’d be surprised how many people, mostly inexpert gardeners, get carried away and somehow zone out in a crazed clipping frenzy. When they come out of it and step back, often all that is left is a horrible, misshapen, hobbled tree or shrub.

There is a rule in pruning that you first need to wander (walk around the tree or shrub and look carefully), then ponder (think about what you might do, and if necessary, get someone to pull a branch to one side to give you a better idea of what the plant will look like afterwards) and then prune (cut, but do it the right way, cutting close, but not into the collar without leaving awful stumpy bits that poke out and tell everyone an amateur did this).

In many ways, pruning is all about controlling and redirecting the flow of sap and opening the way for growth in the way you want it to go.

It’s a bit like being nature’s traffic cop — stopping sap from flowing one way, waving it on here, slowing it down there.

Remember, if you remove all the lower branches of a tree, you are giving sap permission to race unimpeded to the top of the tree, where it will fuel masses of new growth.

If you cut to a bud pointing out on the left, you are asking nature to produce growth in that direction. Cut to a bud on the right, and you are forcing growth that way.

So it’s important to think about where the growth will happen once you have made cuts.

Unless you have significantly reduced the root system, the tree or shrub will always seek to produce growth above ground equal to its structure below ground.

Not everything requires the same attention.

Buddleia, for instance, always needs to be cut down to size because it is such a rigorous grower and will rebound from a hard clipping, even if it is cut close to the ground.

C-type summer-flowering clematis, which you will find is already showing new growth, can also be dramatically clipped back to within a few feet of the ground, if needed.

Roses are best left until you see the yellow flowers of forsythia in bloom, when you will easily see new buds swelling and where the dead and diseased stems are.

The basic rule of when to prune something is to know when it flowers. Then you can decide whether you want to sacrifice a few blooms and prune before it flowers or wait to prune it until after it has finished flowering.

Generally, it is recommended that spring-flowering shrubs be pruned after they have flowered, but some experts think this is not always practical because it is harder to see the branch structure of a shrub once it has leafed out.

Deciduous trees are pruned while they are dormant, usually in January and February, before the sap starts to flow and when the frame structure is easily visible. This is the time to open up the canopy to allow in more light and better air circulation. It is also the time to consider strategically removing a branch here or there to allow more light in to flower beds or lawn areas that will do better with more sunshine.

Sometimes pruning is not the answer at all. For instance, if a large rhododendron has been planted below a window, it will forever be wanting to grow and block the view. Why fight nature? Better to lift the plant and relocate it to a spot where it can thrive and fulfil its genetic coding.

Here’s a guide to how to prune some popular plants.

– Clematis: Most summer-flowering clematis can be pruned back to within a few feet of the ground. Exceptions are B-types such as Nelly Moser. (For a complete list of B-type clematis, go to flowering varieties should be pruned after flowering.

– Wisteria: Lateral and side shoots can be nipped back to two or three buds. After it flowers in July or August, snip them back again to four or five buds close to the main branch.

– Buddleia: Prune hard down to the main frame or lower in February.

– Fruit trees: Prune out dead, diseased and damaged branches and open up the canopy to allow in more light before buds begin to swell in March.

Mophead and lacecap hydrangeas: Cut stems back to a pair of fat healthy buds in early March. Take out weak, spindly stems to improve the shrub’s basic framework.

– Roses: Prune hybrid teas and floribundas when you see the yellow blooms of forsythia in March-April. Reduce the size of bushes by a third to a half, cutting back to a healthy outward-facing bud. Prune climbers, cutting laterals back to main canes. Trim shrub roses back by a third.

– Rhododendrons: It is better to move a large rhodo to a roomier spot. But if pruning is the only option, do it over three years, cutting a little each year after it flowers.

– Cane fruits (raspberry, blackberry, loganberry): Remove old unproductive canes to make way for new ones. Cut autumn-fruiting raspberries to the ground, remove only old canes of summer-flowering ones.

– Bush fruits (gooseberry, blueberry: Prune in March when buds can be seen. Cut for shape and to promote vigour. Keep the centre of the bush open to allow good air circulation. Prune again in summer to restrict growth and maintain shape and structure.

– Grape: Prune shoots in February back to one or two strong swollen buds. Routine pruning in summer involves shortening excessively long shoots.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Hotel Georgia renovation – will open early 2011

Friday, January 29th, 2010

$120-million renovation won’t be done in time for Olympics: Rushing things ‘wasn’t the right way to go’

Bruce Constantineau

The venerable Hotel Georgia shut down for a massive renovation two years ago and was supposed to reopen in time for the 2010 Olympics.

But plans changed and owners now expect to open a new-look Hotel Georgia early next year, part of a $350-million hotel/office/condo project scheduled for completion by early 2012.

Delta Land Development president Bruce Langereis said the company will spend about $120 million transforming the iconic 83-year-old property from a 313-room hotel into a 154-room boutique hotel with bigger rooms and updated amenities.

The meticulous task of upgrading the historic hotel, staying true to its original look and meeting modern building standards has clearly taken time. About $20 million will be spent on seismic upgrades alone.

“We looked at trying to do an Olympic opening but we would have been doing it by the seat of our pants and rushing things along wasn’t the right way to go,” Langereis said.

But it hasn’t totally missed out on the Olympic hoopla as the 12-storey building at Georgia and Howe has been wrapped in one of the largest Canadian flags ever made — 32 metres by 64 metres — and operators hope Games visitors will remember the unique corner when they return to Vancouver in the future.

The building needed the protection of an outside covering and Langereis said it made sense to spend $150,000 on a flag that will command a lot of attention during the Olympics.

He promised the hotel that once hosted celebrity guests like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole will regain its former glory.

“We have really delivered what the hotel needed,” Langereis said. “It was a leading hotel when it was first built but got drained of its energy over 80 years and now it’s getting a complete overhaul that will last for another 80 years.”

The hotel will retain some of its original dark wood finishing and builders have made moulds of some finishing that had to be destroyed so the same look can be replicated.

New amenities will include a spa, fitness centre, a nightclub and a restaurant to be operated by renowned Vancouver chef David Hawksworth.

Dallas-based Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will manage the Hotel Georgia, which will be its first Canadian

hotel property. Rosewood also manages King Pacific Lodge on Princess Royal Island in B.C.

The 48-storey tower being built next to the hotel will contain 12 floors of office space and 156 condominiums. Eighty-seven have been sold and one overseas buyer paid $18 million for an 8,000-square-foot penthouse suite.

Langereis has been frustrated by rumours about the tower project being cancelled but insists that was never close to happening, despite a global recession that forced some real estate projects to shut down. He said people thought the project was dead when, in fact, workers were busy constructing an eight-storey underground parkade. “During that difficult time, people chose to have a negative outlook,” Langereis said. “We just persevered and we’re going to finish this.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Website survival: If you’re not a publisher of content, start now

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Mitch Joel

When brands sit down to evaluate what they’re doing online and in the mobile channels, the first realization they have is that what they’re doing is usually not up to snuff with the massive amount of online usage that their consumers are engaged with. And more often than not, they also grapple with what their peers and competitors are doing in these spaces as well.

It’s all fine and dandy, as brands continue to try to out-design their competitors, but the digital landscape continues to evolve. And there’s a bigger, scarier realization that comes with just a little bit of scratching beneath the surface: Your website is not important any more.

Becoming a publisher of content online is what the digital channels are really all about.

Brands still get caught up in the functionality and minutia of what their website is (or what it can be). All of those shiny bells and whistles won’t amount to anything if you’re not constantly and consistently publishing content (which can be done in text, images, audio, video or any combination of those formats) that adds value to consumers’ lives. It’s not something brands like to hear, and the number-one retort when you explain to a brand that online works not based on what you’re showing people, but rather on the type of content that you’re publishing, is: “But we sell Product X. We’re not in the publishing or content-creation business.”

News flash: Yes, you are a publisher. And, if you’re not, you better start … soon.

The age of creating basic websites that shill your brands, products and services with mumbo jumbo and corporate rhetoric is over. The age of brochureware websites is just that — “an age” … it can’t (and wasn’t meant) to last forever.

The new types of employees that are going to fill the marketing, communications and sales departments of the most successful companies in the future are going to have job titles like “Community Manager,” “Editor In Chief,” “Blogger,” “Podcaster,” “Videographer” and “Social Media Director.” Don’t be surprised if words like “ROI” and “CPM” suddenly become replaced with words like “Engagement” and “Customer Reviews.”

Look no further than Amazon. What was originally an online e-commerce website for selling books has pushed well beyond that. The sheer retailing power of Amazon is staggering. Beyond the selection of products that they have expanded into (not to mention the development and sale of multiple technologies and the acquisition of other companies along the way), they are a juggernaut of content creation. Around each and every product you will find Amazon’s description sidled up against major industry news outlets’ reviews and customer comments and much, much more. Authors of books are invited to add their own blog feed, there are forums for discussions and even video demos. It’s no longer about the cheapest price or free shipping at Amazon, it’s about publishing enough information and product clarity that the consumer feels confident in their purchasing decision. Amazon is able to sell massive amounts of products because they are able to create an online atmosphere of confidence through the publishing of original content, the republishing of mass media content and the platform for any individual to publish their own perspective on what the product is like in the real world.

Is Amazon an online merchant? Is Amazon a great website? Or is Amazon really one of the leading publishers of content, reviews and insights about products and merchandise? Others have created websites that sell the same products for cheaper. Competitors have designed websites that are way more engaging and pleasing to the eye. Amazon has been winning the retail war by becoming a trusted provider of content that surrounds the products they sell. This is paramount to understanding what success looks like in the online channel.

This concept of “brand as publisher” extends well beyond your garden walls as well. When you create a page on Facebook, it’s not about a “build it and they will come” model. It’s an iterative process (like publishing) where you continually pulse out valuable content that people select, save, star and share with their own peers.

A brand on Twitter is really just publishing thoughts of value in 140 characters at a time, at a consistent-enough pace that builds interest in who you are, what you’re about and how you connect back to your consumers. Communities are created around this content, and those communities are expecting an engaging back-and-forth type of conversation. That can’t happen with a static website. That can only happen when brands shift their mindset from being a “marketer” to a “publisher.”

Some of the greatest brand stories of the past decade have done just that. From Dell and Starbucks to Zappos and Doritos. These brands are no longer just pushing out marketing messages, they are becoming publishers of text, images, audio and video. They’re not just publishing in their own spaces, they’re publishing on the platforms where their consumers are congregating, and they’re even pushing out further by publishing on their consumers’ spaces (with their permission) and enabling their consumers to publish content about them as well.

Is your business ready to become a publisher?

Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image and the author of Six Pixels of Separation.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun