Building Permit Thriller in Calgary

Building Permit Thriller in Calgary

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  • A Small House Plan, Bungalow Type 19 April 2017

    Check out our presentation on a Small House Plan, Bungalow Type, 880 SF.
    The house plan shows 2 bedrooms and an open living, dining and kitchen.


  • 13 April 2017

    This short presentation will show a 2 storey structure with a 2 car garage on the main floor and a suite on the second floor.  The suite on the second floor is a small suite about 480 SF with one bedroom, kitchen, dining and living area.  


  • How to Upgrade a Convenience Store: A Design Point of View 3 April 2017

     A short video on upgrading a 1,000 SF convenience store by adding a food service at the back of the store.

  • A Video: 3D Rendering of a Commercial Building 31 March 2017

    Check out my short video on the 3D Rendering Job for a Commercial Building.


  • Building Exterior Rendering 25 March 2017

    The Building Exterior Rendering shown above used cement board siding and aluminum panels. to upgrade the building front.  The exterior steel canopy at the top floor is new. The garage door and the man door on the ground floor is shown with a new color to match the aluminum panel.  
    The colors used were shades of red, grey, silver and white. All fun and modern colors.

    Shown below is the original look of building. This building is located in downtown Calgary, and was built in the early 80s. The intention here is to modernize the look and to increase clientele for the building as well.  

    At the end of it, I can truly we had fun and the client was pleased with the work.
    We would like to thank Arch. Michael Turalde for the job well done!

    Arch. Joann Zulueta is a registered architect in Canada and in the Philippines.

  • Saving Energy thru Super Insulated Exterior Walls 23 March 2017
    Super insulated exterior wall in your house can definitely save energy. 
    The latest in the National Energy Code has minimum requirements for exterior wall insulation. It depends on the location and heating degree days.  For houses without a HRV heat recovery ventilator, Alberta has minimum requirements of 3.8RSI or R18. This is usually built as with an exterior sheathing, a  2″x 6″ stud wall filled with fiberglass batt insulation, and an interior sheathing. With thermal bridging, wherein the walls lose heat through the studs, the value of your insulation is technically lower.

    Seen below is a thermal picture of a basement wall.  The stud’s temperature is at 14 degrees Celsius, and the actual wall is 16 degrees. 

    2 degrees Celsius is lost and I took this picture on a spring day, about 11 degrees outside.

    If you are doing any exterior renovation, you should consider doing an  R40 wall.
    The R40 wall translates to 10-12 inch wall- a double stud wall, or a structurally insulated panel.
    To lose 2 feet around the perimeter of your house, most especially on an urban property,  is a lot.
    In reality, people are open to living in smaller homes. In the end, the investment on the superinsulated walls pays off in terms of savings in energy.


  • Pergola At the Roof Deck 15 October 2016
     A Pergola at the roof deck is a special outdoor feature that adds building value,  applicable for residential as well as commercial projects.  An inherent feature that the building should have is a good view – cityscape or landscape. A pergola promotes interaction between users and between user and the space itself. It also provides some shade for any outdoor event.
    Design it to withstand extremes in climate. This is critical to its long term use. The post and lintel type with beams and roof joists is a popular style. As much as possible, use natural elements like wood. Recycled wood can also be used, as long as it is treated properly. This can be complimented by various forms of landscaping. Maintaining the pergola should be looked into at the onset of the project. Take into consideration – cleaning, drainage and repairs.  Always build for longevity.
    Certainly, pergola is an attractive feature that will draw attention to your building, to be enjoyed by users and adds more market value.
    Architect Joann Zulueta is a licensed architect in Canada and in the Philippines.  Contact her at,

    Article : Pergola at the Roof Deck

  • Philippine Architect Salary vs. Other Asian Architects: A Snapshot 29 September 2015

    2015 Architect Salary Guide: Philippines, China, HK, Singapore by Zulueta Architecture

    Take a look at the Architect Salary Guide Table, this is based on 2015 Hays Salary Guide- Asia, 2015 Adrem Group Salary Guide and 2015 JobStreet Salary Report. I converted the salaries to US dollars per month and the data on all these reports are comparable. Its a snapshot of salaries, it does not mention cost of living but check the compensation for a Filipino Architect compared to your Asian neighbors.  If you start off with China, on the average, you are paid a third less.  HK and Singapore rates are fairly close to North American rates.

    Are you any less talented or are will you work any less harder than your counterparts in Asia ? No.

    The problem is Philippine economy – salaries has not improved over the years. The Filipino salaries are still the same rates ten years ago and yet cost of living has gone up radically.
    Eventually you have to ask yourself, what is your future as a Filipino architect?

    Written by Architect Joann Zulueta

  • Mezzanines, Codes and Permits 29 June 2015 I find that the Mezzanine issue is one the most confusing subjects in the building code. Even people in the industry is not aware as to what a mezzanine actually is. The biggest misunderstanding here is how big the area can be before it gets classified as a floor. Here is the code reference- a mezzanine is not considered a storey/ floor if It less than 40% of the open area of the floor below.  Most of the contractors and designers who do not deal with mezzanines extensively think it is 40% of the area below. No,  it is 40% of the open area below. There is a big difference right away.
    And here is another issue as well, some of these mezzanines gets approved at the City at development permit stage with oversized areas. Come building permit time, it gets a whole gamut of code issues. The way the permitting works in the City – development permit process is handled by planners and gets reviewed for building areas, density, zoning, parking. There might be a preliminary building code review. The project can get approved thru DP only to find at building permit stage that it’s not doable. IF it is doable, it can be very costly.
    The mezzanine to me is a loophole to build a floor illegally- what happens after the mezzanine is built? Time and time again you see it, once the inspections are done and the occupancy permit is released-  there’s multiple rooms in the mezzanine, the area is expanded and technically it becomes a floor. It is a truly a safety issue which is not being properly addressed.


  • Buying A Condominium Unit in the Philippines 22 June 2015
    Are you thinking of investing your money by buying a condominium unit in the Philippines? Or as a balikbayan, do you need a property that you can use while visiting? Here are things to consider in condo purchase:

    • Location.  Check the condo’s location. The condo should be located in the city’s prime area. It should have access to major thoroughfares and nearby facilities i.e. – shopping centres, church, schools.  As a buyer and prospective resident, take a look at the neighborhood.  What are the other buildings in the vicinity? Is there a park? What is the community like – is it safe and secure? Bear in mind- you are not only purchasing a property, you would be assuming a certain lifestyle as well.
    • Building Condition. What is the age of the building? Is this new construction? Has the building been maintained properly? The biggest problem encountered most specially for Philippine buildings is water leakage. It is prominent in flat roofs and can be seen on the building envelope. Visually, leakage can be detected if you see water marks on the façade. Take a close look at the exterior of the building and if there is a roof top, inspect it as well. It is very difficult to fix a leaky building.
    • Market Value. The market value of your condominium is based on different factors – location and quality of construction.  Investigate current condo units on sale to have an idea.  The value of your unit is based on the floor area and computed per square meter.
    • Developer. Check the history of the builder. Is it a good company with a strong reputation? Do they have a good portfolio of built projects? For the built projects, were they successfully sold and what is their current physical condition? If you have a good developer, then you can be rest assured that you have a good quality building. 
    • Condominium Association.  Get to know more about the condo association. Is it an active condo association with a strong board? The board is composed of volunteer members that reside in the condominium. What is the financial status of the building? Does the condo have any arrears? Are there residents that are behind in their accounts? You do not want to buy into buildings with financial problems. If there are delinquent members, this means the condo association is covering the overdue fees. 
    • Floor Plan Layout- Usually, the realty sales centre will show the floor plans. Better yet if they have a mock up unit. This will give a better sense of the size of the unit, the layout and the finishes. There are units that are sold as bare, finished unit, finished units that are semi-furnished and finished units that are fully furnished.
      Typically for families, it is best to have a 2-bedroom unit, floor area is about 100SM. A single person can have a 1-bedroom unit which is about 70SM to 80SM.  For studio types, the areas are about 50SM. 
    • Condominium Fees – The condo fees are costs to run and maintain the common areas of the building, this is aside from your own utility bills. Common areas are: lobby, corridors, parkade, elevator, rooftop, building envelope and building structure.  The fees are computed based on your floor area and depends on the building’s systems and facilities – elevators, swimming pool, amenities, underground parking, security systems, etc.
    • Parking- Does the condominium come with its own parking space or do you have to buy parking separately? Possessing parking increases the value of your unit.

    Purchasing a condo unit can be exciting venture. It can create revenue as a rental, a temporary residence while visiting or can be a permanent residence if you are a retiree. Do your homework and as a property owner, you can look forward to a lifetime and worthy investment!

  • Social Media: A Tool for Job Networking 17 June 2015
    The internet and social media has made employment opportunities more accessible but also more competitive. So how do you stand up amongst the rest who are vying for the same work?

    One thing you can do is build a strong online presence through social media.  You can certainly showcase your qualifications, skills and portfolio online. It is fairly common these days for recruiters and employers to check your background online. Information is so easily accessible and public.  Always bear in mind that whatever is posted reflects you. So be cautious and take your time in building that information. One the other hand, you can also promote your image as a good worker, a professional or whatever persona that suits you.     

    One of the popular platforms for professional networking is Linked In. Linked In has a free account and you can create a resume for viewing by the general public.  If there are invitations from other linked in members, make sure that you have screened them. Your contact information and portfolio should be current. Linked In also allows posting of pictures and blogs. It provides various means to promote yourself.

    Another social media tool is Facebook. Although Facebook is geared for personal exchanges and sharing, there are ways to broadcast your talents.  You can also post pictures of your work. Keep your posts interesting and appropriate to the social circle.

    Information you have posted online is open to the public. Protect your privacy. Check that your privacy settings are set appropriately.  Control the contact information.  Stick to the theme – if you are developing your work image, then whatever is posted online should be about work or your industry, nothing more. 

    Social media is an interactive means of networking. Be positive, be engaging and make the most of it!   
    Please feel free to contact us at;

  • Pre-Departure Tips for New Immigrants to Canada 9 June 2015
    Finally the long wait is over. You have received your permanent resident visa from the Canadian embassy.  What is the next stage and how do you prepare yourself for this new and big step in your life?


    One of the major concerns is finding employment. It is common knowledge that licensed professionals with international training find it difficult to find work in their field of expertise. How do you prepare yourself so that you can overcome this problem?



    Prior to departure, network and create your Canadian contacts. Ask your Philippine based professional association if they have a counterpart in Canada. Research over the website for Filipino professional associations in your targeted area of residence.  Communicate within your circle and see whether there’s family or friends that have already migrated to Canada and touch base with them.


    Networking prior to departure is very important. It will save you time. The information and insight coming from fellow Filipino immigrants can make or break your decision in terms of work and career. They can even provide you with job leads and job referrals.


    Contact Canadian professional association

    Most of the Canadian professional associations have an established process for credential accreditation for internationally trained professionals and there are a few that offer pre-departure services. They have online tools that can be helpful in assessing your education and skills. Note that professional licensing is provincial based, so you should have a predetermination as to the province of your destination.



    Check whether you need to take some courses prior to departure. Computer and software courses are cheaper in the Philippines.  Check if the course provider is North American accredited.  These courses will be a plus in your job search.



    Skills Assessment

    Conduct your own skills assessment process. Enlisting your skills will open a wider range of job opportunities. These job opportunities can get you started in the Canadian workplace and can give you proper referrals.



    Preparing yourself to this new and exciting venture is risky and it goes with its own unique challenges. Embrace this challenge and you will do well.

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  • A & W in Calgary 22 May 2015 I went for a completion field review for an A & W Restaurant project and I thought that this project did quite well, despite the usual hair pulling and teeth gnashing that go with any construction project.

    I faced some comments with the City – there is one whole side that is fire rated. Not that anyone would notice it. A & W updated their look – white exterior metal cladding, a darker aluminum panel, glass tiles on the washrooms, the bright interiors  and nuances on the colors. It looks fresh and I believe it serves the purpose of bringing people in. Aside from the juicy burger I suppose.

    I gently asked from the client if there was any more work coming- and the reply I got is that fast food places like these rely on the drive-thru to generate revenue. Apparently it’s difficult to get the drive thru approved. These fast foods places rely heavily on the drive thru for revenue.  If I remember correctly, 60% of the revenue comes from the drive thru.  If the drive thrus do not get approved, then it won’t be built. And of course, in the City, it is not easy to get a drive thru approved.  Anyway, that’s someone else’s battle for now.

    So, when you are driving on the south of the City and see a shiny orange beacon with A& W on it, take a second look and hopefully you agree with me that the building looks a little better this time around.


  • Building Without A Permit, A Risk Not Worth Taking 10 May 2015
    I went for a  site review for a Building improvement project to check on its compliance and completion. The story behind this project was the  client went ahead on improvements without having the proper permits. At the end of the day, all the improvements that were done to this building were removed. It was too costly to bring the building up to Code to justify and  retain those improvements.
    Needless to say, it was a long and difficult process for everyone.  My advice to anyone who is thinking of constructing without permits-  Do not even think about it.
    It is a very painful journey that is not going to be worth it in the end.


  • The "Play Tree" 6 May 2015
    I took my girls to the neighborhood playground and I noticed the play “tree”.  It’s a play equipment that takes after a tree and it rotates thru pushing it on its side. I saw a few kids on the tree playing, 4 or 5 older kids, a smaller child wearing Spiderman and a young girl. They were all laughing and playing unabashedly with each other.


    At that moment, they were connecting with each other so freely. No concept of color, gender or age, just play. I myself have been to the playground a couple of times and never talked to any of the parents, never made an attempt to relate to anyone else.     

    I thought the image of the Play Tree was such a beautiful sight. To realize that it works, is even more amazing.


  • The Bittersweet of Secondary Suites 27 April 2015 I had a building permit revoked because the City would not accept that the walk out basement renovation was for the use of the homeowner’s son. It did not matter if it was the truth- as long as the City saw a bedroom, a kitchen and a washroom in a basement, it’s a suite to be leased out to a tenant. For people who are not familiar with the process- once a space is classified as a secondary suite, there is a long list of requirements that needs to be met. You need to go thru a development permit (and good luck with that) and go thru all code requirements as well.

    It’s unbelievable to me how one sided and convoluted this interpretation of secondary suite. This to me is an infringement of property rights. Plus, there is no recognition of multigenerational lifestyle and diversity.  For example, it’s a traditional practice for communities with Asian heritages to live with their family way into their adulthood. Also, when you are a new immigrant it’s common to live with one of your relatives or friends until you get settled.

    I understand that these policies are made to safeguard public safety but it should not limit and predetermine how you should use your space, your house and your lifestyle. So, the only way your family can live in your basement is to have only two of these 3 rooms- a bedroom, a kitchen and a toilet. Isn’t that ridiculous?

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  • Building A Secondary Suite in Your Home 21 April 2015
    Are you thinking of converting your basement or garage into a rental?  T hen you are looking   at building a secondary suite in your home.                                                                                                           

    What exactly is a secondary suite? A secondary suite occurs when there is another dwelling unit on the same property aside from the primary dwelling. The primary dwelling, the main house, is occupied by the homeowner. The other dwelling unit is usually occupied by a tenant, hence the name secondary suite. The secondary suite is treated as a separate dwelling unit and is self-contained. It should have its own kitchen, washroom and bedrooms.    
    Here are some factors to consider for your secondary suite:
    Check that your jurisdiction allows you to have a secondary suite in your lot. Zoning policies typically require that parking be provided for a secondary suite. Also, check your community. Even if you are allowed to have a suite in your home, it is possible that your neighbors might oppose. There is a perception that rental properties in a residential neighborhood will decrease the property’s value.  
    Building Code
    Building code requirements are actually intensive when it comes to secondary suites. The basic tenet of the code is to protect public safety. There are minimum requirements in the provincial code that should be met. The following are examples. The suite should have its own separate entrance/ exit. The exit is usually the stairs that leads to an exterior door. Another requirement is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning   (HVAC) is a separate system from the main dwelling.
    There is a maximum area that you will be allowed to build. This depends on the size of your lot and the zoning.  Typically for rentals, you should plan an area of 700 SF to 800 SF. This square footage can provide a kitchen, one to 2 bedrooms, a washroom and a living space.
    Types of Suite
    A detached suite is separate from your main house but still within the same property. This can be a detached garage and it can have a loft as long as you don’t exceed allowable height. The basement suite is the basement in the main house. The basement suite is a popular choice for most homeowners.  
    Building a suite is not cheap. You need to ensure that you have budgeted properly for the construction. For a basement, it is easier if all the utilities is already roughed in. The types of finishes contribute to the cost. Typical finishes for living spaces is a good quality carpet and painted walls, the kitchen counter can be plastic laminate with the kitchen flooring as vinyl.  Detached suites right away are more costly. Think of it as a separate small house altogether that you need to provide the utilities and still finish off the space.
    In conclusion, the revenue of your suite is dependent on location, size and the facilities.  A one bedroom suite can rent out for a minimum of $800 a month and a 2 bedroom a minimum of $1,100. This revenue should eventually pay off for your construction. Once your construction cost is paid off, the secondary suite can generate its own income and be sustainable. You can now put your feet up, call yourself a landlord and count the money that will roll in!

    For further information, please feel free to contact us at
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  • Useful Tips for a Successful Home Improvement Project 6 April 2015
    Spring is here! Like everyone else, we eagerly waited for its warmth and the flurry of exciting activities that comes with it. For the Do-It-Yourself people, this is the opportunity to roll up sleeves and get started on the home improvement/ construction project.
    Here are some tips that can help your project be more successful.
    1. Plan Your Project.
      From the start, be clear on the goals and what you want to achieve. Delineate the scope of work. Start off by defining the space, calculate the area to come up with the square footage. Next is to assess the physical condition of the area. Based on this assessment, make a list of the work you intend to do.
      Let’s say the project is basement improvement, check if there are existing drawings. If not, then verify the area by measuring the distances. This process will help you calculate the square footage. Next is to evaluate the condition of the basement.  If it’s an unfinished basement, then definitely there is a lot of work that can be done. The scope of work should be measurable, defined, tangible and it should be within your capabilities to perform. Do not take on more than you can do.
    2. Follow a Budget.
      On any project, the cost is the driving factor of what can actually be executed. Be realistic with the cost. Most people underestimate the cost right from the beginning. Do not lowball your expenditures.
      So what are the costs? Compute for material and labor and add 10-15% for contingency. Other expenses can be: permits, inspections, drawings, interests from financing, deliveries, delays, special items, etc. 
      If you do not follow your own projected budget, then there is an increased risk of an incomplete project.  Avoid the mistake of having to dig deeper into your pocket to finish. Either way, this error is going to hurt your wallet.
      The project is an investment in your property. If done properly, in time, the costs spent for the  improvement should increase the real estate value of the property. 
    3. Timeline.
      How long will it take you from start to end to complete the project? This is another critical factor  towards a successful project. If you are working on the project on your own, then the execution of even a small improvement i.e. floor upgrades, painting a room- can take the very least 2-3 months. Use of custom made or special order items will have an impact on your schedule. The weather also predetermines timelines. If you are doing exterior work, then there is a narrow window of opportunity to work outside. Ideally, exterior work can be done from spring to fall.   If the project requires permits, the permitting process itself, depending on the jurisdiction will have a bearing on the schedules. Avoid delays, any delay will cost not only time but money as well.
    4. Check for Permits.
      Contact your jurisdiction/ city for the requirements on permits. If the work is not permitted, then there is the possibility of penalties. As a homeowner, you cannot declare the improvements done in your house. These improvements will not be legitimate and will not contribute towards increasing the real estate value of your property. The permitting process itself depending on the project can be relatively easy. Major improvements i.e. additions can have more intensive requirements.  
      For most places, there are 2 types of permits- the development permit and the building permit. Development permits involve exterior changes, increase in building area, height or density, parking issues and zoning. The process for development permits can be tedious process. Your project aside from being reviewed by the city/ jurisdiction planners, allows your community and neighbors to have a say on the project.   My best advice- be friendly with your neighbors. You never know what comes out of the woodwork.
      The other type of permit is the building permit. The building permit focuses on building codes, constructability and public safety. The building code is a regulation in place intended to protect the public.  Some examples of the minimum code requirements are indicated in: the dimensions for height of railings, doors, stairs, exits, fire rating, exposure of windows, etc.   Application of permits usually require a set of drawings, preferably professionally drawn and payment of  fees.
    5. Seek Professional help.
      Recognize that there are things that are beyond your capability to do. It might be best to engage a designer to prepare your drawings so that these are done properly and quickly. As to contracting out construction work, the benefit of hiring good contractors is an assurance of the quality of work and a warranty.
      A basic rule for hiring- there should always be a written agreement signed by both parties, owner and contractor. This agreement should clearly spell out the scope of services, the timeline and the fees. 
    6. Be Creative, Have a Vision.
      Close your eyes and visualize what the space is going to be.
      Beyond anything, this image is your motivation. Remember this image while you are trudging along the headaches and troubles.   Imagine walking into this spectacular space, using it and showing it off to your family and friends. This way, when all is said and done, you can congratulate yourself that you have made it through the challenging journey of construction.  
      It will be all worth it in the end.
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  • Should I work with my competitor? 27 July 2012 This is a tricky question from a newspaper headline spurred my thoughts. I am big believer in collaboration. The construction industry is tough and competitive. Every single project, big or small, it seems you are fighting tooth and nail for it. To survive, it helps to work with parties  that complement your strengths. That’s how I got started on some of my projects. Design and working on projects is a continuum of dialog and partnerships. That is how relationships flourish. At the end of the day, because everyone knows each other, you will eventually work together in a some form or the other. So, why not the build the foundation now?

    Zulueta Architecture is a dynamic professional practice currently based in Calgary, Alberta.

  • Moment of Influence 20 June 2012 For some strange twist of events, I stumbled upon a big client who was looking for an architect to work with in Calgary. I believe I was chosen by merit, but I was also at the right place and at the right time. Who knew that my reprieve in Manila last year would lead to this fortunate circumstances.  In any case, I went from being a nobody to a person of influence.  I was so used to being ignored, people could not even pronounce my name correctly. Suddenly, because I am representing this client,  I get a dozen calls from suppliers, vendors and contractors trying to get on my good side so that they can get a piece of action.  All of this though, has not changed my attitude. Down to earth, and as fair as I could to everyone. I know  how quickly the tide can turn. But at this moment, it does not hurt to enjoy this moment of influence, however short-lived it may be.

    Zulueta Architecture is a dynamic professional practice currently based in Calgary, Alberta.

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