Heritage Home Demolition and City Bylaw Proposition

Vancouver Heritage Homes Have Value

When looking for a new home, a lot of buyers want just that, a new house. The city of Vancouver, however, is trying to get buyers and builders alike to look twice at the many valuable heritage homes here in the city. Earlier this month, a proposal was put before Vancouver City Council that could see the implementation of a new bylaw that will require minimum reuse and recycling of 75% of demolition waste of any homes built before 1940. The added costs could make a big difference to the contractors and buyers.

The goal of these possible changes to the bylaws is to make people think twice about just tearing down an older home. Many of these homes are extremely well-built and have stood the test of time. The additional 10 to 15% in costs this new law would add to an overall demolition and new build may make the difference between saving a solid older home and seeing it go to the land fill. Trying to save space in the land fill is another factor in considering the benefits of recycling and re-purposing the materials in a heritage house. There will always be a healthy market in the refurbishing business, where carpenters and designers are on the hunt for vintage additions to newer builds.

During the last year alone, over 70 homes per month came down to make room for new builds. Forty per cent of those demos over the past 40 years were of homes built pre-1940. 

Recently, the Globe and Mail printed a story about a rescued heritage Craftsman home here in Vancouver. A Vancouver woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, stepped in to save a High Arts and Crafts home in West End from the wrecking ball. The house was built in 1912 by an architect of note in that particular style who lived in Canada for 10 years before going off to WWI. She is paying $100,000 to have the house moved to a storage spot and that will also cover the cost of moving to a new plot, once she finds it. Considering there is no cost for a house that has been slated for demolition, the cost is quite attractive to anyone looking for a unique and solid home.

Jeremy Nickel, of Nickel Brothers House Moving, says that this is the sort of thing that should happen more often.

“Society has a hunger for new,” he adds. “They are exchanging true quality and craftsmanship for plastic.”

An average of 50 tonnes of material goes to the landfill for every 1,200 square foot house that comes down. Because a house that size was built from about 60 old-growth trees, Mr. Nickel calls the demolitions “inner city clear-cutting.”

Now, these are not my Uncle Charlies old house, that post-war bungalow he had. These are highly crafted, sturdy homes, built to last.

New doesn’t always necessarily mean better. Plumbing and electrical upgrades will likely be necessary, and an updated kitchen, but these homes are solid and full of character that you just can’t get in a new build. We’ll have to wait and see what decision City Council will ultimately make. Any step forward in trying to keep demolition and new builds environmentally friendly is a good thing. 


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Gerry Gramek

Gerry Gramek

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