Signing our Lives Away

Friday was a big day.

I submitted three copies of our Heritage Revitalization Agreement to the City of Maple Ridge with Leanne’s and my signature on them. Adrian Kopystinski, heritage planner, met me on his lunch break and then had to run. His sweetheart was taking him out for Valentine’s.

Adrian, Leanne and I have all been working hard on this for a long time.
Adrian, Leanne and I have all been working hard on this for a long time.

This puts us on track for our HRA, re-zoning and tax exemption bylaw to be read for the third and final time by City Council on February 24th, 2015.

Assuming all is well, from that date forward we will be designated.


A bunch of things will happen, including:

We will renegotiate our home insurance. Many underwriters simply do not cover heritage properties. It’s going to cost more, of course.

The clock will start ticking. We have one year to commence our renovation and five years to finish.

We will become exempt from the municipal portion of our property taxes for five years. In my last post about The Now House Project, I originally wrote a figure of $4000 for our 2014 Municipal taxes. That was our total property tax. The Municipal portion is half that or $2068.81. At that rate, a five-year exemption would save us $10344.05.

This last item sounds pretty sweet, but as I went into when I first wrote about appearing before city council, the savings in taxes is not free money. It helps, but does not balance the costs to obtaining the Heritage Agreement.

Among the costs have been an architect, lawyer, structural engineer, plumber, excavator, electric company and city engineering crew. Not all of these would be incurred by a simpler HRA, and some of them are the result of wanting to do it right–short-term cost for long-term payoff.

imageThe freshest unavoidable cost is the $16248 I paid on Friday after Adrian left for his lunch date (but I’m not bitter.)

That’s right: $16K

Engineering requires us to connect to the storm sewer so that excess water, especially in extreme weather events (and we can expect more of those), has a place to go. If you look at our plans you will see that we are deepening the basement into a more useable space. We will certainly be updating the perimiter drain that collects water around the base of the foundation. There is nothing for it; we have to agree to a storm sewer.

imageThe money I paid on Friday is a security against the work. It is a condition in the HRA so we had to pay it before we could go forward with our final date with council. We are waiting for a more precise estimate for the work which may be higher yet.

It is incredible to Leanne and I that it costs $16K to dig a trench in a road and lay a pipe. We had a theory that some of that money must go to general engineering work. However, I have been assured that is simply how much the work costs. It includes things like traffic management, re-paving, an inspection chamber, etc.

What it doesn’t include is anything on our property. The perimiter drain around the house and pipe to the property line  where our $16K connection is waiting for us is a future cost we can look forward to.

So you can understand when I say that Friday was one of mixed emotions. It was momentous to sign a final document but it was painful to watch $16 248 disappear to pay for something we didn’t ask for. I would love to see a simplified process whereby single-family heritage homes can protect their homes without going through the same process a developer does when subdividing a large heritage lot. Anyone?

Nichole’s Literature

The BCIT Building Science department studied Hammond Forever House!

I decided, with her permission, to share Nichole Wapple’s entire report with you, piece by piece. If it is too dry for you, you are free to skip it. I think it is very cool to have this kind of information specific to our house. What am I talking about? Check out my previous post where she introduces her project.

First, she gives some background. I have added links to the literature she references where I can.

I was interested in how CO2 is used as an indicator of air quality. This is very different from the concern we have about the way CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. I have been concerned that, since we sealed the house as best we could in 2008, the contaminants that exist have gotten worse because they can’t escape so easily through leaky walls.

Take it away, Nichole!


Recent research on the effects of indoor environmental quality has shown that IEQ has a close relationship with the health, comfort, and performance of building occupants. Further, effective ventilation is fundamental to reduce air pollutants and provide a thermally comfortable environment. In older homes, contaminant sources can include deteriorating materials, emissions from cleaning products, mould growth, poorly vented combustion appliances, and occupant-related contaminants.

CO2 is widely used as an indicator of indoor air quality. Its levels in the exterior environment are generally around 400ppm, and it is produced by respiration and other sources. The ASHRAE paper, Is CO2 Indoor Pollutant?, shows that increased CO2 levels (600ppm versus 1,000ppm and 2,500ppm) provide statistically significant decrements in many decision-making performance scales. However, CO2 is not a comprehensive indicator of indoor air quality, as many contaminant sources are not associated with occupancy and thus will not be associated with CO2 levels.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal has published a paper on the Quality of Indoor Residential Air and Health, and discusses the risks of biological and chemical contaminants. Endotoxins in particular are associated with lower ventilation rates, presence of cats and dogs, and increased amounts of settled dust. Nitrogen dioxide is an irritant resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as in an oil-burning furnace.

Ah yes, thanks for reminding us about that oil-burning furnace, Nichole! There’s another reason I’m happy we are not using it right now.

Of course, if everything is working the way it should, the gasses released by the furnace should go out the chimney. This is one of the reasons you should have your furnace and chimney checked regularly, I suppose.

The chimney on the left is for the fireplace. The one in the centre was once used by the sawdust furnace, the kitchen stove, and another heating stove in the dining room. Now it is only used by the furnace.
The chimney on the left is for the fireplace. The one in the centre was once used by the sawdust furnace, the kitchen stove, and another heating stove in the dining room. Now it is only used by the furnace.