By Phil Roberts…
The Vancouver-based firm Frits de Vries Architect Ltd.(FdVA) designs contemporary homes in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, that are as sustainable as they are elegant. Many of them are set in picturesque locations, in heavily forested areas, with beautiful ocean views visible through expansive windows. The firm works with willing and capable structural engineers who can design contemporary houses with innovative exposed steel or wood structures and an abundance of fenestration. FdVA currently has 12 homes under construction, mainly in West & North Vancouver, as well as in the West Side of Vancouver. They primarily design custom homes and custom homes for market. An example of a custom home design is a 3 storey concrete and steel house, on a triangular lot, at the corner of Tolmie Street and Belmont Avenue.
“Any type of spec house is carefully programmed,” notes Frits. The clientele in search of such homes tend to be wealthy, and are looking for a home to live in or to place on the market. Homes designed by FdVA on the market start at $2 million, and their homes sell at a 20% premium over comparable market homes. There is a huge demand for custom contemporary homes that are thoughtfully planned and well detailed. Depending on the complexity of the structural engineering required, the construction costs of these houses can be high, so it becomes imperative to select consultants based on value and capability. “A contemporary house is typically built for between $250 to $600 per square-foot, depending on where it is and who the client is. Construction costs can climb higher based on client expectations.”
Frits explains that when structural engineers work for mass home builders, they often charge a minimum fee, but for individual, distinctive, contemporary homes with exposed structures, large windows and wide skylights, they can charge considerably more. All of this is taken into account when advising clients. The firm’s website has information for prospective clients about hiring an architect, the design process and what to expect. Frits believes that this short tutorial helps instill confidence for the clients. “When people compare firms, we want clients to know that we can help them achieve their design goals, whether it be a custom home or a custom home for market.”
FdVA also offers their services for reconstruction projects for buildings that were victims of flood and fire damage. In contrast to general renovation projects, which are not influenced by a traumatic episode in a building, flood and fire damage projects require an investigation of the root causes of the failure, and a design that will reduce the likelihood of such an incident occurring again. They do not undertake many of these projects, but are willing to take them on when they arise.
Although their niche may be custom contemporary homes, FdVA has also worked on various resort designs, including the Sooke Harbour House and the Mayne Island Inn, as well as commercial projects that include both retail stores and office spaces.
Ultimately, Frits is humble about the projects they design, and says that he hopes his clients love their homes. “It’s their house, not ours.”
The Dutch-born Frits graduated with a degree in architecture from the Technological University in Delft, Netherlands. During his studies, he met his Canadian wife to be, Mary Ann Buis, who was studying at another institution. After graduating in 1978, he decided to emigrate to Canada with Mary Ann, who finished her degree in gold and silversmithing. They now live and work in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
Phil Roberts is the creative director of sixty7 Architecture Road.