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Beyond the blueprints

Whistler's rich history of home building grows beam by beam



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The windowed corner of the master bedroom looks out over massive treetops, giving the illusion that you too are in a glass cocoon, living above the forest.

There is an over-riding sense of peace from simply looking outside. It belies the level of activity going on throughout the house as the crews work to get it finished.

This project takes contemporary lines to the extreme, where architectural elements throughout the house either line up, radiate or converge on several planes and in numerous materials.

"It's a whole new generation of what building can be," says Dürfeld simply.

It's designed by American architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, of Bill Gates and Apple store fame among its many accolades.

"Whether that's even my favourite is not even the answer. It's more... has it been the most challenging?"

Without a doubt. But he's up to it. Or rather, he adds modestly, he has a crew that has embraced the challenge.

Dürfeld has always been in construction it seems. It was, he says, his ticket through university where he studied psychology and general arts and, he liked it more than working in the sawmills of Williams Lake, where he grew up.

He ended up in Whistler in 1978, not to ski, but for a job.

"I got into log building fairly soon on," he recalls from his home office out of his garage in Whistler Cay. "There was a resurgence of log building in the early 70s/mid-70s in B.C."

Everyone wanted to have a log cabin, it seemed.

And so the story goes that one job literally led to another. His small crew became the log building experts — their work showcased around the valley from the Crystal Hut on Blackcomb Mountain to the Four Seasons.

Dürfeld knew that to keep his crew busy he needed to diversify. Log building soon morphed into general contracting where they would oversee a project from start to completion.

He never ventured into the design aspect. Where other guys in Whistler billed themselves as 'design/build' Dürfeld stuck to focusing on the build part, leaving the design to the architects and designers.

"At best we would be then really good at interpreting what they want," he says, with the philosophy of "measuring well and building well."

But his boldest diversification, biggest leap of faith, is just on the horizon.

Three years ago Dürfeld oversaw the construction of the Austria Passive House in Whistler for the 2010 Olympic Games. It was to showcase passive house construction from Europe.

It opened his eyes to the future.

He tested out his theory on a duplex lot in Rainbow and it convinced him that the technology worked, that it could be affordable, that his company could do it, and perhaps most importantly of all, that this was truly the way of the future.