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Developing Story: Mount Pleasant's Vanglo house attracts attention

Odd-shaped lot gives birth to ‘conscientious design’

Martin Warren is a reluctant seller.

Warren, owner of Vanglo Sustainable Construction Group, worked with architect Oliver Lang of Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture (LWPAC), to build the eye-catching new home at 135 East 17th Ave. just west of Main Street.

The 2,230-square-foot three-bedroom Mount Pleasant house, which includes a garage and a one-bedroom garden suite, went on the market Monday for $2,228,000.

Warren told the Courier he’s proud of company, of the crew and of the workmanship that went into it.

“The whole philosophy for me was to build a house in a neighbourhood I would love to live in and to build a house I would love to live in. Now I’ve finished the product and I know all my neighbours. I know their kids and they’ve all been in the house,” he said. “We did a good job of picking the right spot, but I’m letting it go reluctantly — I love the house. It’s great and I obviously built it like I would like.”

While others might describe the Vanglo house’s style as modern, Martin calls it “conscientious design.”

The structure replaces a dilapidated home situated on a unique 66-by-44 foot lot whose frontage is wider than average, while its depth is less than average.

The derelict home was deconstructed — 95 per cent of the waste material was taken to a facility that turns waste wood into bioethanol, and low-maintenance materials were used in the new Vanglo house, such as a metal roof and exterior siding made from “cementitious” board, known as Engineered Fibre Cement Board.

The white siding only needs to be pressure-washed every two to five years depending on the weather.

“We’ve gone to a great degree to make sure it’s an Energy Star-certified home. It’s over-insulated in terms of a regular house. And, the finishing touches are all high end,” Warren added.

It’s one of only three houses in Vancouver that’s Energy Star certified.

The main part of the open-plan house features a kitchen and living area, as well as a 300-square-foot private deck, while the garden suite, which Warren estimates would rent for about $1,800 a month, includes a 275-square-foot sunken patio.

Room at the back is available to grow vegetables.

Warren described reaction to the house as strong and about 95 per cent positive — to his surprise.

“People are absolutely in love with it. There are a few people that disagree with it, but probably less that I actually thought there would be. I presumed it would be more 50-50, but people have really come around to it. Maybe it’s a progression with Vancouver in design coming through. But I’m happy with it.”

Lang, who’s worked with Vanglo before, said unusual sites offer an opportunity to do more creative projects that contribute to the urban landscape.

“It’s not just an unusual look. To understand it right, it’s not at all about trying to be gestural or doing something that is a standout in the urban environment. [We need] to have architecture in the urban environment that’s part of the present, not just always mired in the past,” he said. “I would say it’s trying to strike a good mix between elegance and playfulness and trying to engage people in our current culture.”

Lang added that the design aimed to “reduce the amount of expressions and to simplify the expression.”

“The first step was to reduce the appearance of the building and then use the few elements that we had left — the idea of the porch, the stairs, the windows, the roof, the shape, and so forth, to make it a really simple, but also engaging urban object that people have a response to,” he said.

“We walk through the urban landscape and one house looks like the other. We don’t know if they’re 90 years old or five years old. We can’t tell anymore, they’re all the same. It’s all about blending in and trying not to offend. But, in a way, I think we’re offending our current culture with it because we have no manifestations in the urban environment that actually show that as a society, as a culture, we actually evolve.”

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