Since 1968, the Mike Geric Construction brand has been synonymous with quality and community. The company began as a single-family homebuilder in Victoria, with a focus on Royal Oak and the surrounding neighbourhoods. When Ed Geric joined the company 20 years ago, he initiated the transition to multi-family development, focused on condominiums. For Ed, it was vital to maintain the same level of quality in its condo buildings that Mike Geric Construction had become known for in its single-family homes. He recognizes that buying a home is a significant financial investment, and he wants to ensure that buyers always get their money’s worth from a Mike Geric Construction property.
To kick off our Innovation Series, we spoke with Ed about Mike Geric’s new environmental initiatives, building with mass timber and why innovation is so important to the company’s legacy.
Q: How are you currently pursuing innovation?
EG: Much of the innovation in our business focuses on green initiatives. We pioneered a few innovations that other developers have now adopted. A number of years ago in Victoria, we introduced Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF). VRF is a heat pump system that circulates refrigerant instead of water. Traditionally a commercial application, we translated it to residential development. It’s an efficient option for larger buildings, with zero energy costs. We’re also using solar panels to heat domestic hot water, so it is pre-heated before it enters the tanks. That approach reduces the typical strain on the system. All of our homes are also electric vehicle (EV) ready. While it’s a requirement that all city development must be 100% EV ready, we’ve taken it a step further. In older buildings, EV taps into a common meter, making it challenging to determine costs. We’ve implemented separate meters dedicated to electric vehicles, making it easier to distribute monthly bills.
Q: Why is the Tresah project such an important part of your commitment to innovation?
EG: Throughout our history, we have always built wood frame. Whether it was single-family homes, a four-story condo or a six-story building, we used dimensional lumber. But we could only go up to six stories. When we were envisioning Tresah, we worked with a consultant who advised us on the benefits of mass timber. We went deep on the research, and realized that evolving from dimensional to mass timber construction was a natural next step for us as wood builders. Mass timber replaces what you would do in concrete. So we are now using cross-laminated timber and glue lam timber for columns, beams and floors. With mass timber, we can build up to 12 stories as well.
Q: Why did you choose to pursue this particular emerging technology and emerging field of construction?
EG: We are selling to a younger market that really cares about environmental issues. Innovating environmentally helps us stand out from other developers. There are some other, more practical reasons as well. Soil conditions in Victoria aren’t optimal. If we built in concrete, we would need extra enforcement. Mass timber is one third of the weight of concrete, so we avoid that requirement. We also know that timber performs better than concrete in earthquakes because wood has give to it. It’s a similar proposition for fire. It’s impossible to burn through cross-laminated timber or a timber column or beam. Beyond that, wood is aesthetically pleasing. When I was researching mass timber, I toured Portland, where there are a lot of mass timber office spaces. The environment was fresh, appealing, energizing and comfortable. For us, with a 50-year history in wood construction and wood exposure in our buildings, that combination of structure and aesthetics was really appealing. In addition, the federal and local governments, as well as the Wood Council of BC, are really promoting the lumber industry, specifically mass timber. We received enthusiastic support from the provincial and local governments in moving this project forward.
Q: What impact do you hope to make?
EG: Green construction is the only way to move forward. For every unit of mass timber you build, you are taking a diesel or gas vehicle off the road forever. Mass timber doesn’t produce carbon the way cement, concrete and steel do. Much of a mass timber building is built off site, which accelerates development and enables cleaner builds. A 10,000 square foot floor can be built in a week, as opposed to four weeks for concrete. So there is less waste, less pollution and less time spent on sites, reducing disturbance to the community.
Q: Why is innovation important to your company’s legacy as much as its evolution?
EG: My dad, Mike Geric, founded this company more than 50 years ago. For him, it was never work. It was a way of life. He passed away in August. Even at 80 years old, he would come look at properties with me and give me his opinion. He was a leader in this industry and shaped it to a large degree. This year, he is being recognized with a honourary Construction Awards in Real Estate Excellence (CARE) award. Throughout his five decades building, he stuck to the same philosophies – work hard, customers are first, build every home as if you are going to live in it and never waver from your quality standards. He instilled those values in me, and I try to instill them in my team every day. For my dad, delivering a good product was everything. That’s why he stuck with wood construction and emphasized craftsmanship. His inspiration is what motivates us to continue to find opportunities to innovate. New generations have different ideas of what residences should look like and desired technologies. We’ve always moved with those trends, pioneering in areas including soundproofing, customer service and general contracting our own projects. Innovation is a just another way to deliver quality, and that is something my dad valued, and I will continue to value because of his example.
Q: How did First National support your vision for innovation with this project?
EG: When first I told Michael Yeung the Regional Vice President for BC and Paul Steckler, our Originator, that I was going to do a mass timber building, they were a bit apprehensive. But they were also open-minded. So we spent time with consultants and pursued a lot of research and education. Once they got a read on it, they were fully behind us. And independently of us, they dove deep into learning and getting up to speed.
Q: What’s next for Mike Geric Construction?
EG: We closed out 2020 on a high note, winning five gold Construction Achievements and Renovations of Excellence (CARE) Awards from the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA). Our awards included Best Innovative Feature, Best Website, Award for Environmental Achievement, Green Builder of the Year and Excellence in Creating Housing Affordability. In terms of future goals, I want to build another mass timber project in the Saanich area. But I want to complete Tresah first and apply any lessons learned. We’re growing. We believe in Victoria. And I personally think that Victoria has yet to boom. With COVID, we are seeing a greater influx of people from Vancouver, but Victoria is still relatively undiscovered. So we want to grow as Victoria grows and shape the landscape of the island.