Whistler’s Go-To for Custom Construction and Renovations
When Bob Deeks completed his studies at the University of Western Ontario in economics and accounting, could he have predicted that one day he would be the owner of an award-winning general contracting company on the other side of the country? Many people lose job security during a recession, but for Deeks, it initiated his solo plunge into entrepreneurship.
After switching to a career in carpentry in the late 1980s, Deeks fell into the snares of the economic slowdown of the early 1990s. In fact, his employer simply stopped responding to clients and there were very few opportunities to work for someone else. Somehow a hotel chain that Deeks had previously worked for had gotten a hold of his number and contacted him, desperate for maintenance work. That started a relationship that would occupy Deeks for two years to come. “After that there was no looking back,” he said, and 1993, he founded the Whistler-based RDC Fine Homes, a high-end custom construction and renovations company.
Since its inception, the company has evolved drastically in terms of services, practices and philosophy. In the beginning, services centred mostly on renovation work, but eventually, its focus shifted to renovation in the new housing market.
“As we started to transition into the late 1990s, we began to get interested in environmentally sensitive construction practices,” Deeks said. “We became much more expert around the science of building new homes and we started to have a better understanding of how the house works together as a system.”
In 2006, RDC built its first green project and it was an incredible success, achieving a high EnerGuide number of 85. After this, the company started certifying every house that it built and that kind of commitment did not go unnoticed. In 2013, RDC was approached by the Mike Holmes Group to join the Holmes Approved Homes program. Now every new home built is not only certified as a Mike Holmes approved house, it comes with energy certification.
“We typically would build houses that are anywhere between 50 to 75 per cent more energy efficient than the current building code,” Deeks said.
RDC has been featured in Houzz and has an extensive portfolio of prestigious awards, including eight CHBA BC Georgie Awards for recognized builders in B.C. Last year, RDC received its first national award, the National Housing Award for Building Excellence. Deeks himself has been recognized as Business Person of the Year (2015) by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, and named 20 Most Influential People in Residential Construction by BC Homes Magazine.
The RDC Philosophy
Since its first green house, RDC has been strictly implementing not only best practices tailored to the environment, but features to enhance the human experience. It turns out that both go hand-in-hand.
One of the focuses of RDC is indoor air quality. “Our strategy around indoor air quality is to build an airtight house so that we can control the climate in the house and then we compliment that with proper whole house mechanical ventilation,” explained Deeks. Having airtight houses controls moisture or vapour that may enter the home. This ensures that there is no repeat of the leaky condo crisis that hit the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island regions in the late 1980s and 1990s.
The heat recovery ventilator, which is installed in every RDC home, takes all the stale and damp air from places like bathrooms and kitchens and exchanges it for fresh air from outside. During the exchange process, the ventilator transfers the tempered energy across a coil so that the incoming fresh air is reheated with the exhaust energy going out of the building. The benefits of such a system are two-fold: it is a really good energy savings device that provides excellent ventilation for the entire house.
The company’s second focus is thermal comfort. “We want all of our houses to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. More importantly than that, we want the temperature in the house to meet the expectation set for every individual room,” Deeks explained. If, for example, the homeowner wanted a cooler bedroom and a warmer living room, RDC can provide that control. “We do this by making sure that all of our heating, ventilation and cooling systems are properly engineered to the standards that are referenced in the building codes and then we work with mechanical contractors who understand that and have a commitment to that high level of quality,” Deeks added.
The good news is that there is an increased awareness and desire for sustainable green building practices. In fact, buyers are even starting to highlight energy efficiency as a must-have feature when looking for a new house, a trend that Deeks has noticed amongst clients for the past five years. But not all the trends he has observed are on a positive note.
The reduction of the Canadian dollar has taken a toll, but in Whistler, where foreign buyers are plentiful, the lower dollar is making the Whistler-Squamish-Pemberton market more attractive. It has also resulted in an increase in material costs.
“Interestingly, it is not just the costs that are coming to us from offshore,” Deeks explained. “As a result of a low Canadian dollar, there has been a lot more demand for Canadian forest products. The higher demand has been jacking up the price of two-by-fours that have been ironically milled in our own backyard.”
Fortunately, RDC’s home base has a fairly robust housing market. The company has grown substantially, having doubled its revenue in the last four years, and further growth is eagerly anticipated. Deeks admits that its current area of operation has a relatively small market, which is why RDC will be expanding into West and North Vancouver. “To satisfy our long-term growth goals, we really see the West Vancouver and North Vancouver areas as a key market for us,” Deeks said.
The new year has already started off well, foreshadowing growth and innovation. RDC will be building its first NetZero energy-ready labeled house that could produce, through solar panels, for example, as much energy as it uses. According to Deeks, the trick is to build a home with reduced energy needs. That way the available roof area can satisfy energy demand for the whole year. In late April 2017, RDC will be teaming up with Mike Holmes and Holmes Approved Homes for an open house in Squamish.
“It is a good opportunity for people to see what a net-zero house looks like behind the walls and talk to some of the product suppliers who support that initiative,” Deeks said.