$300,000 was originally included in the 2013 Capital Budget, and the additional $150,000 will come from the Fair Share Reserve.
Council only decided in late April that the house will be used as a temporary living area and recruitment incentive for new employees for the first year, and be turned into a single family home.
“In order for us to encourage others who are building homes and developers to take this route, to get the real return on the investment, to see what that’s going to be, you need to have a family living in there,” maintains Mayor Lori Ackerman.
However, City Manager Dianne Hunter explains that meant the addition of work like cabinets, appliances, and furniture to the original plan.
“Once council made the decision that we would like to put a family in there, and monitor its energy consumption,” she says, “then of course we realized we needed to put a kitchen in there, and then finish it and bring it up to occupancy permit stage.”
Cabinets are expected to cost an additional $22,000, to go along with $10,000 to make it universally accessible, and almost $16,000 to change the site to behind the current fire hall. Senior management also made the decision to build it to certify with German Passivhaus Standards, which brings a $44,000 price tag, plus the additional cost of specific “certified” building material.
“We could have built it without the certification, but built it Passivhaus-like, but really because it’s a demonstration project, we really lose a lot of status that comes with it if you don’t go for the full certification to prove that you can do it in Fort St. John,” argues Hunter.
In addition to all that, some of the costs like excavation and crane fees that were already approved were higher than expected, to the tune of over $22,000. All together, based on the original scope of the project, it is approximately $40,000 over budget, and the completed project cost with the extra work is expected to be $490,000.
Despite that, it’s believed the house will still achieve council’s goal of having it cost no more per square foot than a standard house in Fort St. John.
“When you build this house this far north, there’s lessons that you learn,” admits Ackerman. “We believe that we have built a good example of how it will work.”
Once finished, the Passivhaus would be the most northern in Canada, matched worldwide only by one in Finland.