Naikoon’s Commitment to Sustainability Inspired by Haida Gwaii
Hailing from Haida Gwaii, a place known for its deep connection to nature, Josef Geluch, president at Naikoon Contracting Ltd., credits his roots for his interest in sustainability, describing it as a pure place that deeply influenced him.
Reflecting on his foray into sustainable building, Geluch recalls taking BUILT GREEN® training back in 2009. Led by Troy Glasner of E3 Eco Group, it was a small group, but the experience further fostered his commitment to the environment.
Sustainable building practices were in their infancy, and few builders were actively pursuing this path. “I wanted to build a better home and differentiate our company,” says Geluch. “At Naikoon, we wanted sustainability as part of our identity; we recognized the value for both the homeowner and for our staff.”
Despite having a penchant for sustainability and recognizing the business advantages, the first BUILT GREEN® certified project was influenced in part by consumer demand. Naikoon was contracted to build two homes on a double lot with two different owners, one of whom was very committed to sustainability.
“We learned a lot about general air tightness, exterior insulation, comfort—the house as a system. And Built Green has a good checklist of green options to build a better house—it’s well set-up and easy to use,” says Geluch. From there it was full speed ahead. The team was brought together to review the program checklist, the project’s specifications and budget, and then develop a project plan that everyone could commit to.
The commitment and enthusiasm for innovative building practices was formalized and became a philosophy that Naikoon integrated into all aspects of their business through policies, processes and methodologies. This approach was also applied to their client relationships: the benefits of building green are discussed in those first conversations with homebuyers. Breaking down their materials and methods into individual features allows their team to communicate the associated benefits while keeping it simple.
When they’re working on infill, this may include reusing parts of the old house; reclaimed materials like lumber, beams, stairs, walls and doors have both environmental and aesthetic benefits. “We educate them so they understand the value of sustainable features, and we personalize this with storytelling, so the home becomes all the more meaningful to our clients: the end result is a homeowner who is proud of their home and excited to show it off to their friends.” Geluch credits this educational approach to what attracts their customers.
It isn’t just homebuyers attracted to Naikoon. People want to work with them. When a builder pursues innovative practices, their team grows, but it also impacts a wider circle. Geluch is enthusiastic about how the trades have adopted and embraced new ways of doing things. “Most recognize it gives them an edge over their competition and those that have been with us for a long time have come back with thanks.”
And internally, Naikoon has low turn over. Studies continue to reveal that staff retention improves at companies offering a sense of working toward a higher goal. Employees want to feel like they’re making a larger contribution. Meanwhile, Naikoon’s inclusive approach to sustainability allows for ongoing team input and engagement—staff members are engaged in the process and feel they’re a part of making a difference.
To-date, Naikoon has completed 29 BUILT GREEN® single family certified projects, including one renovation, with six projects slated for certification currently underway. While Naikoon is proud of all of their sustainably-built projects, one BUILT GREEN® home stands out. The Midori Uchi residence, completed in 2014, was a triple threat—certified BUILT GREEN® Platinum and LEED Canada for Homes Platinum, as well as R-2000 certified. The home is stunning, proving solid design and sustainable building are complementary. Key features include rammed earth walls, structural insulating panel roof system, insulated concrete forms, triple-glazed fibreglass windows, heat recovery ventilators, rainwater collection, xeriscaping, solar photovoltaic power system, reclaimed timber, greywater, reuse system, and more.
Though all projects currently underway are noteworthy, given Naikoon’s integration of innovative building practices, two are particularly distinctive. The first is a project called The Ridge, a four-home development in North Vancouver. This project is a great example of urban density and what can be done on a pre-existing 66’ wide lot that used to have one dwelling on it. The second is The Radcliffe, which could be the first home in the Lower Mainland to hold BUILT GREEN®, R2000, and Net Zero labels once completed this spring.
While there are many factors impacting the housing sector, Geluch considers climate change as revolutionizing the industry—modest thoughts from one who has contributed to the progression to the industry through his own work and embrace of sustainable building practices.
Based out of North Vancouver, Naikoon Contracting Ltd.’s portfolio includes a diverse range of projects from custom builds to include food processing facilities, airport terminals, civil works upgrades, envelope remediations, community centres, chemo labs and more.
Their lesser-known philanthropic work is inspired by one of Naikoon’s clients. Geluch’s brainchild, Construction Cares, is an initiative that raises money for the MPS II Research Fund. MPS II, or Hunter Syndrome is a very rare, inherited genetic disorder caused by a missing or malfunctioning enzyme: only 50 persons in Canada have been diagnosed with this disorder. With MPS II, the body doesn't have enough of the enzyme iduronate 2-sulfatase, which breaks down specific complex molecules. Without enough of this enzyme, the molecules build up in harmful amounts, eventually causing permanent, progressive damage that affects appearance, mental development, organ function, and physical abilities. Currently, there is no cure, but initiatives like Construction Cares help to offer hope that there one day will be.