Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Holmes' Sweet Homes

This vintage article from Lifestyler, dating all the way back to the year 2008, discusses Mike, his persona, and his currently-in-the-process building project, Wind Walk. “I’m not looking to build a sci-fi home — I’m trying to build a home that’s sensible and logical. On top of that, we make it fundamentally beautiful,” said Mike, when describing the homes he one day hopes to build in Alberta, Canada. He describes the project as more than just a project, but a community, on in which he hopes that people will do more than just lock themselves up inside of thier houses, but interact with one another.

Holmes’ Sweet Homes

Canada’s star contractor plans to “make it right” with his own development

By Scott Gardner | September 18, 2008

Most media figures who morph into brands — single-name phenoms like Oprah and Martha — do it by deliberately creating a persona. For example, does anyone really believe Ms. Stewart is that courtly in real life? Mike Holmes, however, is different.
Despite his hit TV show (which also airs in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa), best-selling books and celebrity status, after two decades of fixing other people’s sloppy, lazy construction work, his knowledge, professionalism and plainspoken honesty give him a credibility most TV hosts can only dream of. And on the phone from New Orleans, where he’s building four houses for Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Project, Holmes is, well, very “Mike.”
“Like anywhere else, I’m dealing with engineers and architects and it’s up to the contractor to make sure everyone’s on the same page,” he says. “But it’s all working out because I do know what I’m doing.”
Still, working in the Big Easy held a few surprises for the brawny, crewcut star of HGTV’s Holmes on Homes. “The hardest thing,” he says, “is the hot, hot, hot weather and the thunderstorms that come in the afternoon like a mini-hurricane and affect our schedule. And we’ve got to take turns getting out of the sun — it’s a lot harder than I thought.”
The New Orleans houses will be completed by autumn, and Canadian viewers will be able to follow the project via a two-hour TV special and several hour-long episodes. Then “Canada’s most trusted contractor” will be able to focus more attention on what may be his most ambitious undertaking yet: Holmes Homes, an entire housing development in Okotoks, Alta., just outside Calgary. “I’ve been working on this for years now,” Holmes says. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right the first time.”
While Holmes is known as the scourge of careless and crooked renovators, he also sees plenty of shoddy initial construction. How much? “Let’s put it this way,” he says, “I could film nothing but brand new homes.” One subject that particularly gets Holmes’ famous righteous ire flowing is the way new homes are almost always designed to meet just the minimum building code requirements. “It’s the cheapest way to build and sell a house, and that’s a scary point. If you think about it, would we buy a vehicle like that? Would we buy a fridge?” he says, frustration creeping into his voice. “I keep saying this isn’t working and nobody wants to change it, so I’m going to do it...We (will) step it up with a house that will not burn down, that will not fall down, that will not blow down or mold.”
Developed by The Holmes Group in partnership with Oko Properties Ltd. and award-winning architectural firm Baird Sampson Neuert, if all goes well, the first houses will be ready in the spring of 2009.
Additionally, all Holmes Homes are sustainable in design, offering substantial “green” features, including a high-performance building envelope, living roofs, grey-water recapture systems, solar assist domestic hot water pre-heat and radiant floor heating.
“If I show people they can have a better home to live in, I truly think this will be the stepping stone to change”
Holmes says green features like these will “most definitely” be standard in new houses, and sooner rather than later. “The majority of people are starting to get that we’re hurting our environment,” he says. Holmes is even planning to call his next book What Shade of Green Is It? “I don’t like the marketing approach of ‘light green,’” — his term for features that are more about sales than making a difference. “We need a dark shade of green [where] everything we do makes sense for the environment.”
It starts with location. “Nature, over millions of years, has created its own drainage system, so why would we, as developers, go in and wipe all that out, take down the trees, grade the whole property, then create a sewer system directing water to another area?” Instead, he says, “We can take advantage of [the land], tap into the water in the aquifer, use that water to supply the community, then put it right back in again, so it isn’t directed to another area. To me that’s logical.”
The proposed house designs are also a little unconventional — modestly sized, open-concept bungalows with flat roofs, built with simple (but still high-tech) cinder blocks and slab floors and ceilings. “I’m not looking to build a sci-fi home — I’m trying to build a home that’s sensible and logical. On top of that, we make it fundamentally beautiful,” Holmes says. “I keep looking at houses and saying, ‘Why do we have peaked roofs when we can have a flat roof, collect the rainwater and have a livable area. If your house is 1,000 sq. ft. or 2,000 sq. ft....your roof is one hell of an area to have barbecues or parties, and we can create something special.”
The sometimes gruff contractor then shows his earnest side, imagining a place where “everyday people will no longer have a six-foot fence separating them. I don’t know why we do that,” he says. “I wouldn’t just call [the project] Holmes Homes — I’d rather call it the ‘Holmes Community,’because it’s the area as well. We have to start thinking about getting back to a community idea (where) we can walk through neighbourhoods or ride a bike rather than taking our car.”
Holmes also sees his planned community as a way to evolve the development industry. “I knew I couldn’t change minimum code, but if I show people they can have a better area and home to live in, I truly think this will be the stepping stone to change,” he says. “The industry is either going to hate me or they’re going to say ‘Can we do this together?’ and I think that’s what will happen.”•

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