Michael Knight, President of Heatherbrae Builders, established the company in 1989 in Vancouver, and since its inception, the company spread its reach throughout the province and beyond, delivering on the promise of service, quality and cost.
Knight launched Heatherbrae with focus on commercial building. As a family business, Knight’s sons Dave, Greg and Tim have joined the company as managing partners, leading the company to the next generation. Today, the company and its 200 employees operate offices in Richmond and Nanaimo, supporting projects in the $1 million to $50 million range, and with annual revenue of approximately $140 million.
According to Knight, it’s the ability of the company to win the business by meeting clients’ demands on quality of work, competitive pricing and often aggressive delivery schedules. “While we remain a family business, we are an organization that has the people and the experience to deliver all types and sizes of projects.”
Heatherbrae has extensive experience with the construction and renovation of commercial spaces and buildings with complex and unique systems and usage requirements. These include residential buildings, recreation facilities, fire halls, theatres, schools, places of worship, schools and community centres, and research and healthcare facilities. Heatherbrae has worked in partnership with various municipalities, school and health boards, native bands and government agencies to construct high quality buildings that enhance their respective communities. Heatherbae buildings are all about maximizing value. Many of the company projects have included complex phasing, tight budgets, and additions and renovations to existing buildings while in operation. All of these skills have been well demonstrated in projects completed by Heatherbrae.
One of the most iconic buildings Heatherbae has been involved with has been the four-phase interior and exterior renovation of Vancouver’s Science World.
This project includes the addition of an 11,000 square foot interactive exhibit gallery, a family centre stage, and an interactive outdoor science park.
Developed using a fast-track design building approach, Heatherbrae provided ongoing costing and construction advice to adjust and meet a phased and constrained overall budget.
The company has recently completed the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) at the University of British Columbia. The building is constructed to LEED Platinum and the Living Building Challenge standards, pushing the boundaries of sustainable construction materials and building techniques, radically reducing material consumption, emissions, and energy and water usage.
Currently Heatherbrae is the Construction Manager for the new Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC, the renovation and addition of the Guilford Aquatic Centre in Surrey, and new Construction of the T’it’q’et Community Hall and Health centre in Lillooet.
As far as renovation goes, the company also provides building remediation, including envelope repair, seismic upgrades and heritage restoration. This has been a profitable segment as in recent years the focus in B.C. has been on seismic upgrading and restoration of older buildings, including many public buildings and schools. “Vancouver lies in an earthquake zone, so many early buildings need to be updated to meet the new building codes that address this issue,” Knight explains. With the building code changes in Vancouver, Heatherbrae has become an expert in seismic upgrades, and has retrofitted many schools in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
While the company grows its market presence, Heatherbrae remains a family business at heart, and recognizes that construction business is not always about the glitter that comes with winning awards for architectural uniqueness, and is often about the people who use the buildings and facilities on daily basis. As the company often builds in rural communities, it focuses on working with families and the community. “We work with the communities where we build. We use our presence;,however temporary, to build relationships, and use local workforce to engage the local community. Relationship building and community participation are a very important part of our business and we take a lot of pride in it,” says Knight.
While Heatherbrae’s know how built up the company name across B.C., according to Knight, the company needs to remain competitive, and Knight shared his opinion of being competitive. “You have to work hard and be open to opportunity, and you always have to make sure the actual building cost remains below original estimates. That’s the challenge, and that’s one hell of a challenge.”