Committed to Environmental Sustainability

Polycorp Group

“We were looking for a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, and we also wanted to do that in a manner that demonstrated our commitment to environmental sustainability,” says Polycorp Vice President, Louis Lemoine. Polycorp creates projects which are green, with reduced utility usage and costs and less of a carbon footprint than traditional building techniques. The company’s unique position in the marketplace is centred on its use of Insulating Concrete Forms.

Commonly known in the industry as ICFs, Insulating Concrete Forms provide many features which are superior to commonplace building materials. Their innovative design creates homes and condominiums which are strong and able to withstand internal vibrations. Along with being cost-effective and environmentally friendly, construction using ICF creates residences with a higher R-value (greater thermal resistance).

ICF construction also enables Polycorp to build homes which are much quieter because the mass of concrete is very good at minimizing noise between interior spaces and the outside world.

“We end up creating homes which are very quiet, very strong, and very energy efficient,” comments Mr. Lemoine of ICF, which has been used in Polycorp properties for the past decade. ICF technology along with many other thermal building products and technologies such as in-floor radiant heating, makes award-winning Polycorp residences energy efficient and considerably cheaper to maintain.

As many Canadians know, energy is precious, and to encourage Nova Scotians to make better use of electricity, the province has a Time of Day (TOD) initiative, an optional rate available to the province’s eligible residential customers through Nova Scotia Power. Depending on the season and time of day, Nova Scotia Power must generate and distribute sufficient electricity to meet peak demand; in off-peak hours, however, there is ample electricity available, and Polycorp properties are able to draw electricity during these times when rates are considerably cheaper, and make better use of radiant heat through thermal storage. Since Polycorp homes have Electric Thermal Storage capacity, they are eligible for the TOD energy program under Nova Scotia Power, and residents enjoy savings of up to half of the costs of peak electricity usage.

“When the Polycorp home draws the power to heat itself at off-peak times, when energy costs are low, and because the ICF has such a high insulating value, the home retains most of that heat through to the next period, when it again begins to draw energy to turn the boilers back on,” explains Terry Brookbank, Polycorp’s Manager of Sales and Marketing. “People love the solid feeling of the ICFs, but they also love the fact that they can be comfortable and warm in a home that’s over 4,000 square feet, and that all their heat and power costs could be under $2,500 a year if they are diligent. They really like that.”

Mont Blanc and Spice

Polycorp’s vision of creating unique, inviting neighbourhoods and marrying innovative home designs to energy efficient technologies has helped the company grow since it was founded by Peter Polley in 1995. From an early focus on purchasing and renovating rooming houses and small apartment buildings, the company soon grew to become one of the most respected home builders in Halifax. It was in 2002 – when Polycorp launched its new construction division with the highly successful Mont Blanc Villas and Residences development – that the company rapidly earned acclaim from buyers and industry peers alike.

The company’s first foray into multi-residential development, Mont Blanc comprises 41 town homes and two 64-unit rental buildings. Situated on the scenic Halifax peninsula on the shores of Halifax Harbour and Bedford Basin, the project was named Best Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) Development in North America in 2005, and received an honourable mention from the Urban Development Institute of Nova Scotia. Completed in 2007, Mont Blanc Villas and Residences presented the company with a number of challenges, not least being that the site was an old Petro-Canada oil tank field, which brought with it attendant contamination issues which had to be remediated.

In the years to come, Polycorp would garner acclaim for its other unique, well-built and carefully planned communities and projects, such as Spice. An upscale, 85-unit loft-style condominium project in downtown Halifax, Spice incorporated ICF for the perimeter walls, and continues to receive praise from residents for its reduced heating bills and exceptionally quiet units. In 2011, Spice won first prize for best Multi-Family Development at the 2011 ICF Awards.

Ravenscraig

“To date, we have targeted projects to every demographic,” says Mr. Lemoine of Polycorp’s many successful new home projects. These projects cater to a variety of lifestyles – from first-time home buyers to families and empty nesters – and include Mont Blanc, Spice, Ravenscraig, Q Lofts, Woodman’s Grove, Woodman’s Residences and Daybreak .

“Our Spice condominium project was definitely targeted primarily to first-time buyers who were in their late 20s to early 30s, while our Mont Blanc project was primarily targeted more to the empty nester crowd, most of them in their 50s or 60s,” states Mr. Lemoine. One of the company’s latest projects, Ravenscraig, has been attracting a wide variety of buyers, ranging from younger families to mature couples.

Located in Williams Lake, just off the Halifax peninsula, Ravenscraig is currently in its final stages of completion, and is a 76 home single-family master-planned community. Using energy-efficient ICF construction, homes feature in-floor radiant heat throughout. Like many of the company’s projects, Ravenscraig has attracted a following, with many customers learning of the development through word of mouth from happy Polycorp customers.

With Ravenscraig just two homes away from being sold out, Ms. Brookbank says that many purchasers are impressed not only by the energy efficiency of the homes, but by the aesthetics both inside and out. The development boasts such features as underground wires, abundant trees and landscaping, and a high quality of finishes. “They walk in and say, ‘This is so much nicer than everything else I’ve seen.’”

Like the Mont Blanc Villas and Residences development, the Ravenscraig site presented the company with a number of challenges. The topography of the 25 acre location was difficult, and included a peat bog, a stream running through the middle of the site, and an old contaminated provincial works yard.

“It was a site that had been overlooked by the development community for a number of reasons,” says Mr. Lemoine, “but we looked at it and said, ‘There is an opportunity here, and we’re willing to work with the community to redevelop this property.’” In addition to creating 76 spectacular new homes, Polycorp also worked with the city to develop a soccer field, a playground, a parking lot, a field house, and a trail system. “So we took what other developers felt was an insurmountable challenge, turned it into opportunities, and created a highly successful single family community.”

In keeping with Polycorp’s commitment to environmental sustainability, green initiatives were undertaken at the site from the project’s inception. Blasting needed to be done, but instead of hauling bedrock away, it was crushed and used to create bases for houses, the soccer field, and other uses. “Most of the rock that we took out of the site we were able to reuse in one form or another in the construction of road and backfill material,” explains Mr. Lemoine. “That’s a big part of the sustainability model.”

Offering many different designs ranging initially from $359,000 to $459,000, values have already increased for the properties. Some of the largest homes situated on the park have recently sold for $799,000. Like other homes developed by the company, Ravenscraig residences have all workmanship and materials warranted by Polycorp for the first year of ownership. Additionally, Polycorp homes are covered by either the LUX Residential Warranty Program, or the Atlantic Home Warranty Program, which cover major structural defects as defined by the carriers’ websites for at least seven years, offering peace of mind.

Future Projects

Always staying ahead of the competition, Polycorp Group is known not only for the quality and sustainability of the residences it produces, but for its stellar customer service, which strives to make the home-buying experience positive and enjoyable. In addition to warranties, the company stands behinds all its products and regularly checks back with homeowners in the first year to make sure all is well. “Homebuilding is a complex process, and I think we pride ourselves on being there for people and responding, and really making an effort to stand behind the home that we’ve given them,” says Ms. Brookbank. “We have a lot of people who are satisfied with our houses and our response to their needs.”

All Polycorp customers receive a homeowner manual which tells them how to care for their new investment, and what to expect. “A large part of what we do is educational, and we try to make it fun,” adds Mr. Lemoine.

With a staff of about 25 individuals, Polycorp continues to focus on the three components of its business: multi-residential development, the growing rental portfolio, and the property management side of that rental portfolio. There are two new projects on the drawing board, including Daybreak, a multi-generational active lifestyle community, Herring Cove, and Q Lofts, a 72-unit loft condominium project on the peninsula, which will aim at LEED Platinum certification for energy efficiency and sustainability by incorporating heat recovery from greywater, solar hot air heating, rainwater capture and recycling, and other green initiatives. Like its other projects, Polycorp will continue its use of durable and energy efficient ICF construction for both of these new projects, and looks forward to new challenges in the years to come.

“Our goal is to carry on and keep building quality communities, and to remain innovative,” says Mr. Lemoine. “With every project, we try to raise the bar for ourselves in terms of technology and environmental sustainability, and I think we’ve been successful in achieving that.”

Winning numerous awards over the years, the company received its latest accolade, as ICF Builder Magazine’s winner for Best Development in North America for Ravenscraig. For the team at Polycorp, it serves not only as recognition for a job well done, but as the impetus to keep improving.

“We’re not the biggest development firm in town, but we like to think of ourselves as a small niche player that does innovative, quality projects,” says Mr. Lemoine. “And in this business, each project continues to build on the success of the last.”

November 19, 2017, 3:26 AM EST