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Local couple to put the test to Vancouver's first laneway house

Meet Ura Jones and Mike Higgins: human guinea pigs for West House, Vancouver’s first laneway house.  

The house, both designed and built in Vancouver, aims to incorporate environmentally friendly initiatives into everyday life. 

Jones and Higgins don’t seem to be concerned about adjusting to living in a tiny 610 square foot house. 

“We actually have lived in an apartment that was as small,” Jones said. “And I think that just the design of the home just makes it so welcoming and makes it feel bigger. And there’s a lot of light and energy flow, so I think it’s going to be a really nice experience to live in it.”

The idea behind the house was conceived by Lyn Bartram and Robert Woodbury, both Simon Fraser University professors, and David Ramslie, the Sustainable Development Program Manager of the City of Vancouver. 

SFU students were involved in the production process, contributing to help develop the homes in-home information system. 

This system is designed to help homeowners be more environmentally friendly by allowing them to track their energy usage.  

“We were kind of taken aback by the amount of interest that this project has generated. But all of us are trying to do our part to live a more energy efficient lifestyle and the way that this system is integrated into the house, I think will be an amazing experience to understand and learn how something that is built right into your home can help you to conserve energy,” Jones said.

Smallworks, a company who specializes in building homes with small ecological footprints, was the builder of the project. 

The house was previewed next to Vancouver House at the LiveCity in Yaletown during the Olympics, and had more than 66,000 people tour through it. 

West House is now at its permanent location at 2009 Stainsbury Avenue in Vancouver. 

Laneway houses make Vancouver one step closer to achieving the city's goal of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.

 “We have many, many people to thank for where we stand today as a very green city with a real shot at being the greenest in the world in nine years," Mayor Gregor Robertson said.

"That’s taken generations of commitment at City Hall, with city staff, with previous elected leaders, and the businesses and the community, the neighborhoods around Vancouver. And this house is a great example of what happens when all of these partners in the community come together to be leading-edge. To prove a new model of sustainability.”

The average price for a laneway home is $280,000 to $310,000. 

There is also the relatively new idea of laneway cottages. 

These cottages would be designed for a single occupant and would be roughly half the price of a laneway house. 

“I think that the best part about this is the whole idea to make this an integrated part of your lifestyle, so we are here to give honest feedback,” Jones said.

“We’re going to be blogging and making sure that [Lyn Bartram] is aware of how things are when we experience them. I think that we are hoping to make a conscious energy efficient effort. That’s the whole point.”

There are currently 200 laneway houses that have been built or are in the process of being built in the city. 

The public can come and tour West House on March 20 and March 27 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.


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