07.11.2019 - Chris Stevenson - 2203 30 A

Frequently asked questions

Why is this house house higher priced than comparables?

“Comparables” meaning a similar location, lot size, square feet and number of stories.

It's like comparing Apples and Oranges. MardaView was an expensive house to build, and much of the money spent on construction cannot be seen except for a few items like the European windows, the 18” thick walls, concrete retaining walls and quality fixtures.

There was a huge amount of time and effort spent before digging a hole as the house was specifically designed to integrate with the perfectly positioned south-facing lot. Plus, this house was not built to flip. It was built by the owner to live in. There is a huge difference.

If your realtor is still waving comparables in your face, please ask the following. Would any of the comparables to MardaView:

  • Survive an adjacent house fire?
  • Survive a tornado?
  • Survive another flood?
  • Compare in security planning?
  • Be hypoallergenic?
  • Compare in a walkability score?
  • Compare in the distance to the city core or other major destinations such as hospitals (2) and Mount Royal University?
  • Have views of canola fields and the Rocky Mountains?
  • Allow viewing of both sunrises and sunsets?
  • Have a backyard like this?
  • Compare in outdoor living space?
  • Have the comfort of all in-floor heat (including garage)?
  • Stay at 15 C. if electricity or gas was down for 3 weeks in January?
  • Compare in running costs?
  • Compare in efficiency?
  • Compare in longevity?
  • Compare in floor plan flexibility?

Why would I buy this house when I can get a bigger house in Mount Royal or Springbank for the same price?

Yes you can.

MardaView is brief on bling but big on substance and not everybody's cup of tea. If you are looking for the biggest square footage or pure bling, MardaView is not your home. However, if you are looking for a house that is stylish, comfortable, flexible, amazing to live in, will protect your family in a natural disaster, cheap to run, and won't fall apart in ten years, take a closer look. Buying a big ticket home is a value match puzzle and the closer the value-match between home and buyer, the better.

So, what do you value?

Why is this house only Net-Zero Ready? Why isn’t it Net-Zero?

Net-Zero describes a building that generates as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. MardaView would have no problem attaining Net-Zero status, but a portion of the Penthouse-floor south deck would have to be given up to mount the total number of PV solar panels required. The current owners did not wish to do so.

What is “Passive Solar”?

Passive solar design is a long-lost, simple way to heat a home. It’s similar to an exceptionally insulated greenhouse with concrete floors and only glass on the south wall. The sun comes in through the glass and slowly heats the high-mass floor during daylight. At night the high mass floor radiates this stored heat into the interior keeping it toasty.

What is the “100-mile Diet” when it comes to building a house like MardaView?

The 100 Mile Diet is a Canadian book about one couple’s quest to only eat food grown within 100 miles of their home. MardaView has no edible building materials, but the owners followed the same methodology to reduce transportation of products and to support the local economy. There were limits though. If a desired material or product was not available locally, it was searched for provincially. If not available provincially, it was searched for nationally. North America was the limit, but some off-shore product was unavoidable, as it was simply not made on this continent.

Why a zero-scape front yard?

The owners have no desire to own a lawnmower and do not spend a lot of time in the front yard, so more effort was spent on the back yard and garden. The front yard is zero-scape meaning there is no watering or mowing but requires 2-3 rakings per year.

Does the house require a lot of maintenance?

NO! The owners are averse to maintenance and would rather spend money on quality long-lived materials rather than replacing decks or windows every ten years. An example of this was choosing to have the 3 decks and 1 patio made from concrete rather than wood.

Why is MardaView built from concrete?

  1. Concrete was the perfect material for this build, as it provides thermal mass to keep house temperature consistent, has tremendous structural integrity, amazing fire resistance and exceptional sound deadening. Plus, it does not harbour insects, mould, mice, dry-rot, wet-rot, etc.
  2. Concrete was an environmental compromise, as it takes a lot of energy to manufacture (embodied energy), and it is expensive. But it is long-lasting, and we also chose concrete with a benign post-industrial waste (fly-ash) content to offset the high embodied energy manufacturing load.

Is the concrete construction noticeable? What is it like living in a concrete home?

Absolutely noticeable! The sound deadening is amazing. It is like living inside a giant marshmallow. It is also very stable. No creaks, no pops and no shudders, even during nasty Calgary wind storms.

What is “Thermal Comfort”?

Thermal Comfort is a little-known science that explores how humans react to different building conditions and what conditions are most comfortable. Think of the heat given off by a wood-burning stove vs. the heat given off by a forced-air heat duct 12 ft away from you. Both heat sources give off the same amount of heat energy, but the radiant heat from the stove just feels better. If you want to learn more, we have a Thermal Comfort expert here in Cowtown.

You claim this house is cheap to run. Can you prove this?

The 2019 average monthly Enmax bill (including gas, electricity, water, sewer, bin pick up, all admin fees, etc) was $259.98. The lowest bill was $201.85, highest was $352.64. Not bad for servicing over 4000 sqf. By the way, the owners have a hairless cat, so the main floor temperature is set at 23 C for the winter! Buyers will have full access to past utility bills.

Why did the owners choose not to use a builder?

In one word? Risk. Building a house to these tolerances is challenging and painstaking. Quality control is much more effective when the product recipient is on-site building and overseeing the project. All of the people who worked on MardaView were talented and passionate about their craft. Ironically, most of them disliked the construction industry because of the lack of talent and accountability in the industry.

How did you find your tradespeople?

There was no competitive bidding process for any of the work done on MardaView. Every tradesperson was already known to the owners or were recommended by trusted colleges.

What do you mean by flexible floor plans?

There are no interior load-bearing walls, so layout configurations on every floor are limitless. If you wanted to take out all the interior walls and live in four big rectangles you could.

What is a “Lipstick Queen”?

A “built-to-code” house constructed as economically as possible by tender-winning contractors (usually lowest bidders), with the majority of effort spent on glamorous finishing and staging.

What does “built to code” mean? or What is The Building Code?

“Building codes are comprised of minimum requirements that represent a balance of many competing interests, not the least of which are affordability and safety. The building code merely establishes a minimum level of risk that is considered to be socially acceptable on national and local or regional scales. It is always possible to build a home that exceeds the minimum building code requirements and, therefore, further reduce certain risks below the accepted norms. However, it must be understood that any and all risks cannot be “zeroed” or eliminated.” – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research

What would you ask a builder if you were buying one of their homes?

How did the house perform on the Blower Door Test?

This question accomplishes a couple of things. If they do not know what a Blower Door Test is, they have no clue how to build an efficient home.If they do know what a Blower Door Test is, but do not perform tests on their product, it means they do not care about efficiency.
(It is the owner/ builder’s humble opinion that a Blower Door Test is an effective method of judging the overall quality of a house. The ACH measurement of a house tells him how much care was taken by a number of trades and services. For example, if a house has a good ACH figure it means the windows, doors and vapour barrier were installed with care. It also indicates other trades such as electricians, plumbers and accessory installers did not breach the effective work of the window, door and vapour barrier installers.) Do you incorporate a (separate) numbered company for each house you build? Some builders take this approach to reduce their risk. This is a perfectly legal practice that makes it easier for a builder to skip out on legal responsibilities once the house is sold.

What is a “Blower Door Test”?

A Blower Door Test is a method of measuring how “air tight” a building is. The test centres on a big fan mounted to the front door of the house that tries to suck all the air out of the building. The fan is adjusted to create a 50 Pascal condition (a constant state of reduced pressure) in the house so outside air is entering every crack, hole and gap in the house. The air leaving the house through the fan is measured and produces an Air Change Per Hour (ACH) measurement. Think about that; a blower door test measures how many times the total house volume of air enters and exits your house every hour. The 50 Pascals is kinda sorta the equivalent of your house in a 40 kph wind. For more information regarding Blower Door Tests refer to Energy Saver, a department of the U.S. Department of Energy. For information regarding MardaView’s Blower Door Test results, review the EnerGuide Report. MardaView achieved a 0.17ACH, the best Blower Door stat the Inspector had ever seen. Typical Blower Door Test Results

What is an “EnerGuide Report”?

An EnerGuide Report contains the findings of a certified, independent inspector that assesses the efficiency of a home after a thorough home inspection. For more information regarding EnerGuide Reports refer to the Government of Canada’s EnerGuide energy efficiency home evaluation.

What are “Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)”?

ICFs are used to construct insulated concrete walls. Think of them as giant hollow lego blocks that get filled with concrete once they are assembled in the desired pattern. More information refer to Logix Advantage for Homeowners.

Why is there an electrical panel on every floor?

Not on every floor, but yes, there are panels in the garage, basement, main and second floor. This was intentional for two reasons:

  • It keeps the panel simple, so it is easy to identify breakers.
  • It keeps critical breakers near. If a breaker blows at night, do you want to be stumbling up or down a flight of stairs in the dark to find a blown breaker? The owners chose not to.

What is the best part of living in MardaView?

Two answers: Walking out on the Penthouse-floor south-facing rooftop deck and having such an amazing, unobstructed view of the world. The house just works! The owners had the good fortune of living in the cottage-like house on this lot for a couple of years before they decided to break ground. This was a strategic advantage as they knew the pros & cons of the lot and were able to mitigate the cons and emphasize the pros into the house design. Here is the design “must haves” list they incorporated into the design of MardaView.

  • All the luxuries of a quality home
  • Great view(s)
  • Open and well-lit spaces, both natural and installed
  • Commodious closets and storage
  • Simple and economical to operate
  • Be in a vibrant walkable community
  • Last centuries (as opposed to decades)
  • Durable and effective high-end appliances and fixtures
  • Environmentally responsible (preferably Net-Zero)
  • Keep the occupants safe from a natural disaster, including fire
  • Pleasing to the eye
  • Built to allow future changes or upgrades
  • Easy and economical to service
  • NOT be built with time-stamped features such as glassed-in front rooms or waterfall countertops
  • Large enough for a growing family
  • Able to incorporate a “Nanny Suite”
  • Suited for entertaining large groups of people
  • Effortless to conduct business from home
  • Electric car support
  • Secure to be able to effortlessly thwart nuisance crimes
  • NOT contain cutting-edge systems, parts or tech that quickly obsolesce
  • Liveable if essential services fail
  • Fun to live in
  • Best thermal comfort possible
  • Foster an oasis-type feeling
  • Low maintenance

What was the biggest surprise of building MardaView?

Two big surprises. The owners knew it would be good, but the view from the third floor rocked their little brains. ; ) Though the owners were not thrilled about paying $10,000 for the remote-control awning on the main deck, it was some of the best money they spent. The main deck can get blisteringly hot in the midday sun, and the awning makes the deck way more usable and inviting. Plus this house is super bright during the winter with all the south-facing glass, so the awning can tone down the brightness if need be.

Is there a “safe room” in the house?

Yes and no. The owners designed the master bedroom as a safe room but chose not to completely convert as they did not see the need. The room is still convertible.

Why is the house being sold?

The owners are growing weary of Alberta winters and are moving to a warmer climate.