Building Calgary’s inner city dream homes

By Emily Innes

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Sunset Homes, a Calgary-based inner city home builder, prides itself on providing clients with their dream homes through their fully customizable approach and their attention to detail.

“No two homes that we build are alike,” said Scott C. Silva, Sunset Homes’ Business Development manager. “Each home is completely different, meaning that every design is specifically trademarked and copyrighted to that homeowner.”

Pedro Ocana Muller, the company’s President and Owner, established Sunset Homes as a technical support company for new home construction in Fort McMurray, AB. In 2009, Sunset changed its focus to a “hands-on” company and relocated to Calgary. It became an infill builder and one of the city’s best builders for semi-detached, attached, and single family homes.

“Now, honestly, at that time as everyone is aware in 2009 there was a downturn in the economy . . . Having a different perspective as others, Pedro saw this as a great time to start a new emerging company as opposed to getting in at the high time of economic conditions,” said Silva. “So with great success he kept growing the company and expanding to what it is today – a custom design home builder.”

Sunset Homes: a full service builder

Silva said Sunset Homes is a full service builder and that they manage projects “from A to Z”.  “We work with clients at every single step showing them that the quality is not only in the home, but it is there right from the first steps in working with us.”

To start, if needed, Sunset can provide land and lot acquisition, architectural planning and design, permitting, and submitting of the permits to the city. The next step, with the help of an exclusive design team who works directly with the clients, is selecting all the custom items. “A question commonly asked is, how much does a custom inner city home cost?” said Silva. “Our costs vary for each project as each home is custom to that client. We have a three-step budgetary process where the final costs become more accurate as more of the custom details are selected, allowing clients to decide which details are more significant to them while working within their budgets.

“Once we have the budgets complete we move into the construction process, which is somewhat typical to other builders, however we are very, very detailed because of our web-based construction management tool, which . . . allows (our clients) to be fully involved and interactive in the build process itself,” said Silva.

Before the completion of each milestone — framing, drywall, flooring, cabinetry, finishing work — clients go on a walkthrough of the home with Sunset’s Project Manager, Racheal Clark, to ensure that the quality is to their standards and everything meets their specifications. The final stage is where the signoffs are completed and the client receives the keys. The whole process can take anywhere from eight to 16 months depending on the complexity of the project.

While tract or speculative (spec) home builders usually take about five months to build, Sunset Homes’ construction time is usually about eight months. Their construction time is a little longer because of the customization.  “Each home that we build is completely different, each foundation is completely different, every material that we select in each home varies from the last time,” said Silva. “(This means) that for our trades (who) are going in there for concrete, framing, electrical, and mechanical, it is not the same as the last house, so there is an extra level of expertise that is required. Also, there is an extra level of care that they provide for us because they know that every house is different than the last. They not only double, but they triple check everything.”

Interactive web-based construction management tool

The web-based construction management tool Silva referenced is software that sets Sunset Homes apart from its competitors and simplifies the process for their clients. On their website, customers can privately access a selection sheet with their required decisions, deadlines, and budget; a builder’s to-do list where they can include additional comments along the way; their expenses and approvals; a project schedule, and up-to-date photos and videos of their home.

“(The client) can be on site every day without having to physically be there,” said Silva. “We have great follow-up service if there are any issues. But typically we prefer to (utilize the online construction management tool to) ensure that the homeowner is completely satisfied and can move into the home the second that we give them the keys.”

The tool is also available as an app, so it can be accessed anywhere on a smartphone or tablet. “You can literally have clients, as we do, sitting on the beach in Mexico watching their home be built, and also be making selection and budgetary choices.”

Silva said Sunset Homes are also smart technological and green homes. Sunset is a member of Built Green Canada, a national, industry-driven organization committed to working with builders interested in responsible sustainability practices in the residential building sector.

Sunset uses insulated concrete forms (ICF) for their foundation system, which allows the projects to be completed in an expedited manner, according to Silva. ICF is environmentally friendly because fewer raw products are used and more recycled materials are incorporated into the foundation. Their homes are also equipped with matrix heating systems, which are changing the HVAC networks where forced air heating, in-floor heating and hot water on demand is required.  They reduce the amount of HVAC runs, bulkheads within the home and ultimately a home’s carbon footprint.

Future plans for Sunset Homes

In regards to expansion to other cities, Silva said while they are Calgary-based, they do already have clients across Alberta from Okotoks to High Prairie. However, they are interested in new types of projects and Sunset is currently in talks with another builder who is developing large spaces of land with master builds. They are discussing doing the custom requirements for some of those clients.

They are also starting to build multi-family projects in conjunction with other builders, such as their new 58-unit condo building, which is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2016. Silva said they are interested in building multi-family projects because Calgary has many homes valued at more than $1 million. “Whether (the clients) are fresh out of school or new families, it gives them a chance to get into the marketplace at a much lower cost point.”

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