Going Green in the Sea to Sky Corridor

Glacier Creek Contracting Limited

In a globally competitive world, astute companies realize that clients seek out the best based on judgments of a company’s reputation, particularly as related to innovation, customer service and social responsibility. And in the construction sector, a growing determining factor in a client’s decision making process is a company’s focus toward environmental responsibility – its ability to build green.

Comprised of three companies, it is Glacier Creek Contracting Limited, collectively known as GCCL, that is a recognized leader in customer satisfaction in British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor which includes Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton.

“It’s a whole teamwork approach where everybody including the suppliers, sub trades and even the design consultants are pulling to the same common end goal and a successful conclusion,” explains Eric Prall, Glacier Creek’s founder and General Manager. “Over the years, we’ve built strong relationships with sub trades and suppliers. There’s a loyalty that goes back and forth both ways.”

With 20 employees, Glacier Creek Contracting is a Whistler based general contracting company specializing in the construction of both residential and commercial projects since its inception in 2000. It was in 2008 that Glacier Creek’s third company, Glacier Pacific Insulation, was incorporated, primarily out of necessity and foresight. Glacier Pacific Insulation utilizes all types of insulation and is certified as a spray foam insulation applicator, a green and efficient technology which provides thermal insulation and minimizes air infiltration.

Eric relates that his company started building 150 units for Whistler’s Athletes’ Village in 2008, a $35 million project with a tight deadline, in preparation for Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics. “We had a very aggressive schedule,” he says. “We saw the insulation trade at that time in the industry as a potential weak spot in the schedule. We decided to take control and perform all insulation works ourselves… since then we’ve become the primary insulation company in the Sea to Sky corridor… we’re in control of the workmanship and the end product so it’s easier for us to build to the standard that we want.”

Meeting the Need for Affordable Housing

Glacier Creek Contracting partners with the Whistler Housing Authority whose mandate is in securing quality affordable housing for those who live and work in the resort community. “We’re well established and have excellent relations with trades and suppliers and have been largely focused on affordable housing and working very closely with the Whistler Housing Authority,” explains Eric.

Whistler is an expensive place to live, one of the most expensive in Canada, with an average house costing over $1.2 million. The Whistler Housing Authority, created by the municipality, governs, controls and regulates what is deemed affordable housing. The Authority is instrumental in providing price controlled housing through community partnerships. This tempers market influences which for two decades put housing out of reach of most locals.

All Athletes’ Village units are now part of the affordable housing inventory and are 100 percent occupied. “Affordable housing for those people who live and work here is most important,” says Eric. “This housing is for people that live and work here and service the tourism [industry]. You can’t expect people to pay $1.5 million on a home; this is where the affordable housing comes in.”

A Concentration on Energy Efficiency

In terms of going green, Glacier Creek Contracting is a Built Green Certified Builder and a Certified Building Envelope Renovator capable of providing the latest in heating and cooling technology, using innovative technologies such as geothermal and solar. The company has incorporated geothermal systems into approximately 140 units, and its focus on Built Green standards has earned Glacier Creek Contracting numerous awards.

The company has delivered 70 homes that were Built Green Gold rated and a few Platinum rated. Eric explains that, “Our focus has been primarily to spend attention mainly on the building envelopes. Whenever possible, we utilize spray foam insulation, triple glazed windows, heat recovery ventilators and occasionally, when the customer wants it, we incorporate the solar hot water into the initial build. We always ‘rough in for future solar.”

He also adds that these passive features are, “Intended to not burden the homeowners with expensive equipment to operate and maintain,” and that local customers are increasingly seeking built green construction. “The thing that we’ve been focusing on is a modest cost increase [so that] homeowners enjoy a healthy home that will save them on operating costs.” He admits that sometimes the challenge of budget is the primary consideration but Glacier Creek is always learning about ways to improve on construction without additional cost, while maintaining energy efficiency. “It’s a fine balance for incorporating these green initiatives and affordability.”

The Passive House Concept

At the far end of the green spectrum, the passive house concept utilizes an eco friendly design in which a home’s interior climate is comfortably maintained without active cooling and heating systems. The home cools and heats itself, representing up to 85 percent in energy savings and reducing CO2 emissions by 65 percent compared to conventional building standards. Heat loss is minimized by optimizing thermal performance of the structure’s building envelope and is achieved through such strategies as exceptional insulation, high performance windows and airtightness.

“We are going to be considering this [concept] right away,” adds Eric. “We are going to look into the training required… Building science has come a long way as it relates to building envelopes.”

Eric relates that for the short term the team makes every effort to maintain the workloads its accustomed to in the Sea to Sky corridor. Although there are plans for possible expansion into B.C.’s interior, “There are no plans for that at this time,” he says, adding that the company will “continue with our green initiatives and explore new ways to improve them.”

With a total revenue of $200 million to date, Glacier Creek Contracting Limited believes that its corporate philosophy speaks well of the team’s ability to get projects completed on schedule and to customer satisfaction. “It comes back to teamwork,” shares Eric. “It’s a very productive environment where everyone helps each other to achieve the end goal.”

May 25, 2020, 4:36 PM EDT