Moving Sustainability to a higher level: Secondary suites, garage suites, garden suites, and renovations

With keen interest, we’ve watched and participated in consultations driven by the City of Edmonton on secondary suites, garage suites, and garden suites. The Sustainable Development Department is currently advancing planning and policy around these housing options and it is anticipated that a policy, zoning, and variance package will be approved in the spring of 2015.


Meanwhile, October was marked by Renovations Month and at this time, homeowners’ turn their focus toward the inside of their homes. In fact, Canadians spend over $60 billion each year renovating and improving their homes, which in turn, supports more than a half-million jobs and generates more than $27 billion in wages. Moving forward, the economic impact of this can only increase, as additional building alternatives are approved as evidenced by the current work being done at the City of Edmonton. With this, homeowners, builders, and renovators will be faced with a whole new set of considerations. 


For homeowners facing a renovation, this can be an exciting and overwhelming process as many factors go into the decisions that are made—all of which impact the bottom line. With this investment, homeowners want peace of mind knowing they are receiving quality workmanship. And understandably, homeowners become tempted with “cash” contractors who offer reduced rates. These are contractors who seem to cut corners by not claiming their earnings and in so doing, avoid their share of taxes. The question is what other corners are they cutting, and how does this impact the renovation project?


Poor quality work may result in a homeowner paying more if things go wrong, and worse, may see the value of the home decrease, as no quality assurances were in place. To address these factors and ensure a quality renovation, there are a number of renovations programs out there that offer reputable builders who abide by ethical business practices, include a warranty on their work, carry liability insurance, and so forth. 


In parallel, Built Green Canada has been put together a provisional Renovations Advisory Group comprised of renovators and industry professionals who are actually doing renovations—this in keeping with Built Green’s underlying belief in engaging with industry and being “by builders” (or in this case “by renovators”). This group is reviewing the BUILT GREEN® Renovations Checklist, alongside the Technical Standards Committee for recommendations on revisions to ensure relevancy, rigour, and program integrity are maintained. For a list of BUILT GREEN® builder and renovator members please visit:


And so, if you’re considering a renovation, here are a few things to consider:

  • Renovate with confidence and work with a professional renovator.
  • Use quality products—these can have a big impact on the quality of the job. 
  • A low price for your home renovation may be tempting, but ensure you have a contract and a solid plan. 


Economic Impacts were calculated by Will Dunning Inc. Economic Research, based on data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Statistics Canada.