McHardy Net Zero

Taking an icon to the next level; McHardy is the first Vancouver Special to be renovated to the CHBA's Net Zero Renovation standards.
  • Location

    Vancouver, BC

  • Completion


  • Sustainability

    CHBA Net Zero Renovation
    Built Green Canada – Platinum

The Vancouver Special was conceived to address the city's housing shortage spurred by a wave of immigration during the 1960s - 1980s. Its simple design, clever exploitation of a City loophole, and flexibility created homes for thousands. Fast forward a few decades, and these nondescript buildings are once again punching above their weight, providing a new generation with opportunities to densify their neighbourhood, minimize their environmental impact, and make Vancouver home.

Vancouver Specials were popular between the 1960s – 1980s because they offered substantial floor space at an affordable price. The mass-produced design was a clever response to the City’s limitations on square footage; by pouring the concrete slab a mere 18 inches below the ground, the home’s first floor was categorized as a “basement”—and didn’t count towards its total square footage. Homeowners maximized their square footage without having to build a costly, traditional basement. Sneaky.

But the Specials’ relatively cheap construction has its drawbacks, namely energy efficiency—especially by today’s standards.

To cut operational emissions, we removed the fireplaces and introduced induction cooktops, a solar PV system, triple-glazed windows, and high performance heat pumps for heating and cooling. We also made the home far more airtight, helping the client save on those hydro bills.

The Vancouver Special is the only house style that developed in Greater Vancouver, found nowhere else. —- Vancouver Heritage Foundation

Much like their original purpose—to house large, often multigenerational families in one space—the renovation made the home suitable for intergenerational living once again. The owner’s have welcomed a parent into the lower floor suite, while maintaining privacy in their own living area. Grandma is close at hand for family get togethers and impromptu childminding, while the family has peace of mind that Grandma is safe and comfortable.


  • 2024HAVAN AwardsBest Environmental Initiative
  • 2024HAVAN AwardsBest Energy Labelled Home: Whole Home Renovation