A British Columbia community proves that responsible development can be beautiful too.

By James H. Schwartz
January 24, 2008
Dave Delinea

Less than two hours from Vancouver, the new community of Wakefield Beach redefinesdevelopment. Perhaps it's the pristine setting along 700 feet ofcoastline outside the town of Sechelt. Or it could be the design ofthe 31 homes here (15 more will be completed by August), each onetopped with a gently arching metal roof. Or maybe it's theremarkable swath of green space that developers established byplacing all houses well back from the water's edge. "We had achance to do something different on this magical site," saysdeveloper Lance Sparling. "That sense of responsibility drove allthe decisions we made."

Lance's first atypical choice was inviting Sechelt residents tohelp conceptualize the community. He convened an "envisioningsession," soliciting opinions from residents, planners, historians,and town officials. Many appreciated Lance's decision to buildfewer units than permitted by local regulations. One town plannertold him, "You're the first developer who ever came in here askingfor less!"

With the site plan complete, architects at Helliwell + SmithBlue Sky Architecture, along with collaborator Teryl Mullock, tookgreat care executing the designs. "We reduced the presence of toxicbuilding materials on site and reused excavated rock and soil toeliminate the need to haul away waste," designer Kim Smith says.The team specified local, natural materials such as Douglas fir forthe homes, and sourced materials from area mills to reduce energyexpended on transporting supplies over long distances. They alsoensured that 80 percent of the site is "soft," permitting waterfrom roofs (and common household chores) to drain slowly into thesoil, instead of coursing into the natural habitat and contributingto coastal erosion.

All of the one-, two-, and three-story residences at WakefieldBeach are "deep green," meaning they have minimal impact on theenvironment. Heated and cooled with geothermal power, the homes arelandscaped with natural, indigenous plants requiring little or noirrigation. They're also equipped with ultraefficient appliancesand brightened outside by solar-power street lighting.

Thanks to innovative master planning, the houses captureunobstructed ocean views. Triplexes stand highest on the hillside,looking over the roofs of duplexes arrayed in a gentle crescentbelow. Farther downhill and closest to the waterside green space,single-family homes enjoy easy access to the public beach. "Wetried to create a development where homeowners and visitors couldfeel special," Lance says. "The most rewarding piece of thisproject is the pride residents take in their community."

Wakefield Beach; 888/741-9899or wakefieldbeach.com