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Beyond the blueprints

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



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"We believe that this is the next generation of how we should be building houses in North America," says Dürfeld.

The Rainbow Passive House is the first residential building in Canada to be certified by the Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany, it was announced on Jan. 29.

And while North America doesn't have the same kinds of pressures that pushed Europe into passive building such as no secured oil supply, huge energy subsidies, among other things, Dürfeld believes the construction speaks for itself.

"The main reason (to build passive homes here) has to be: they're simply healthier, more comfortable houses to live in."

This year he hopes to begin construction on a plant in Pemberton at the industrial park that will build passive house components.

Does he see it supplying homes across Canada?

"Oh, we hardly have those kinds of ambitions. We'll stick within our own skin... We see ourselves working throughout B.C."

And so his evolution continues.

Dürfeld is nervous. He's excited. This is the biggest investment the company has ever made.

"We're recognizing that we can't just wait for one big house after another to fall in our lap."

The tradition of Andy Munster

Perched atop Andy Munster's large wooden desk in his home office at Tapley's Farm is a small, framed photograph with neat cursive pencil underneath saying "Andy's First House."

It dates back to when he was a boy, growing up in Quebec's Eastern Townships, a mini rudimentary A-frame of sorts, two sides leaning together in a peak, tall enough for a child to scramble through.

You can almost hear the childhood secrets whispered under those two leaning walls, the adventures plotted, plans hatched. A place to escape the world, find respite from the summer sun.

Large trees surround the fort, sunlight glances off a lake in the background.

"My mother sent it to me," says Munster with a slow smile, memories flitting across his face.

On the other side of his desk a golden Georgie award glints in the winter sun pouring through the office window, an enduring reminder of another house Andy built, one who's name — Akasha — came to symbolize just how far the building industry in Whistler had come at the time.

Perhaps it's fair to say that Andy was always going to be a builder; he just didn't know it when he moved to Whistler in 1971 to ski.

To keep skiing, however, he needed to work. And it didn't get any better than a job with the winters off.

"I started right from the bottom, packing lumber, wheel-barrowing cement around — there was no pump trucks at that time — so basically starting right at the very bottom and gradually working up to carpenter's helper, carpenters' supervisor and then project manager."