HOMEFINDER: North Saanich home builder up for award

NZ Builders Ltd. recognized for their innovation in manufacturing efficient tilt-up, concrete homes.

NZ Builders’ Wain Road house in North Saanich. Their concrete tilt-up construction method has earned the local company a nomination in the Best Innovation category of the 14th annual Small Business BC awards.

NZ Builders’ Wain Road house in North Saanich. Their concrete tilt-up construction method has earned the local company a nomination in the Best Innovation category of the 14th annual Small Business BC awards.

A North Saanich company is putting a new tilt on home construction and they’re up for an award for their innovative methods.

NZ Builders Ltd. is this month reaping the benefits of a house they completed on Wain Road in 2013. In simple terms, it’s a multi-layered insulated concrete, prefabricated house whose walls are molded off site, brought to a construction area and tilted up and into place.

If it sounds simple, don’t be fooled.

There’s a heck of a lot of planning that goes into it, says NZ Builders’ General Manager Damon Gray. After all, how do the electrical outlets, window and door frames and lights fit into solid concrete walls?

In a nutshell, each wall poured into a mold (whose forms were built for NZ  Builders right here on the Saanich Peninsula) has each component — from windows and outlets to air exchange systems — framed in. Design work takes place well in advance of each pour, Gray said, to ensure customers get what they want.

This method of building, Gray said, dates back to the 1890s in America, where tilt-up concrete construction was first beginning. And for the most part, the method was applied to commercial or industrial buildings.

“We knew we could make it properly and bring it into the residential sector,” Gray said.

Each concrete wall has an outer and inner layer, with insulating Styrofoam between them. The thickness of the insulation varies, depending on environment and customer needs. Gray said the resulting walls — connected seamlessly to a concrete foundation to prevent heat from escaping — help retain heat longer, making the home very energy efficient.

Gray, whose family lives in the house they built on Wain Road, said they’ve been able to cut down their power bill by 80 per cent — with help from a bank of solar panels on a portion of the house’s wood-frame roof.

Additionally, Gray said they designed the roof itself to act as a collector of the sun’s energy. When the sun is higher in the sky during the summer months, its rays are kept off the windows by a large overhang — ensuring a cooler house. In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, Gray said that same overhang helps direct the sun’s heat through specially-designed windows. Those are made to allow heat to pass in, and make it harder for that energy to leave.

Combined with the concrete’s ability to retain heat in their construction design, Gray said it makes for a home that’s comfortable year-’round.

Within the home, smooth concrete walls are hidden behind wood finishing or paint — even a wood feature wall. Gray left one wall as bare concrete to be able to show people what it looks like unfinished — not at all like what one might expect from a concrete wall.

In addition to being energy efficient, the house is built to a very high seismic standard.

“To get a wood frame house to (that level), it would take a lot of nails,” he said.

The Wain Road house cost an estimated $1.18 million to build, or around $280 per square foot. While not cheap, its efficiency can help save customers money.

NZ Builders, in business for a decade, has branched out with a subsidiary company called Monolith Systems. From there, they are marketing their wall panel systems for use in the construction of other homes. NZ Builders, in the meantime, continues to build tilt-up concrete wall homes, as well as other kinds of residential  strikers, such as Passive Homes — extremely energy efficient dwellings.

Their work is now being recognized by Small Business BC, the province’s premier resource for entrepreneurs, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada. They are nominated for Best Innovation in the 14th annual Small Business BC awards. NZ Builders is currently in the top 10 semifinalists, which will be knocked down to the top five on Jan. 23, 2017.

Gray said the nomination and making it to the semi-finals is “amazing.”

The winners will be announced Feb. 23, 2017 in Vancouver.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read