Vancouver Forest is an example of how Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. helps B.C. companies crack China’s booming construction market.
As part of a little-known mandate to promote Canadian construction companies internationally, the federal housing agency helped local companies including Kryton International, a Vancouver-based concrete waterproofing provider, and local architectural firm Ekistics Architecture secure contracts in a $300-million residential development designed as a high-end, mini-Vancouver neighbourhood — with hundreds of planted trees — in northern Beijing.
Vancouver Forest, located 30 minutes from Beijing’s international airport, is being built in phases by China’s Beijing Capital Group.
The ongoing project, which was designed by B.C. architects and uses B.C. building materials including wood construction, will feature 900 Vancouver-style single detached homes ranging in size from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet on a 549,000-square-metre site that includes many natural landscape features.
It’s just one of many Chinese construction projects that CMHC has helped local companies get involved in.
“There were about 10 [B.C.] companies involved in that project initially,” said Don Renaud, regional CMHC manager for international, communication and marketing. “We provided the introduction to the [Chinese] developer in Beijing, who is looking for Canadian products to include in the project.
“The Canadian brand of housing is quite popular there: environmentally friendly, green, very appealing.”
Renaud said the national program has a strong B.C. component, with four staff members including himself and three trade consultants.
“We [the B.C. branch] are responsible for China, Japan, Korea and the Western U.S. [and] we have about 15 to 20 clients in B.C. that we work with.”
Renaud said the CMHC program started up about a decade ago. Typically, they introduce local company representatives to foreign builders and contractors, either in Vancouver or the host country.
“We have a number of projects in China, [including] a major project in Kunming with up to 2,200 homes.”
CMHC facilitates about $120 million in foreign contracts for Canadian firms annually, with about $35 million of that in B.C mainly because of the “booming” Asian markets, Renaud added.
“In China, CMHC is quite important,” said Kevin Davis, Kryton’s director of sales, about their involvement in Vancouver Forest.
The contract, worth up to an estimated $600,000 for the company, was secured through a collaboration of CMHC, Kryton’s head office, and its office in Beijing.
“They have a good team and a good philosophy there,” Davis said. “They interjected us at a level that we couldn’t have gotten to initially. We develop a marketing plan with [CMHC] annually.”
Ron Baerg, a principal with Ekistics Architecture, said that CMHC’s Nellie Chan helped his company by promoting wood frame construction at Vancouver Forest.
“We had already begun the project, but she had a role in influencing the client to build a full street of show homes for the project with wood frame construction, as well as the marketing building with Canadian wood. This was the first time this had been done in China.
“Consequently, we were able to design the marketing centre out of wood and provide specific wood frame expertise to the client in the design of the show homes.
“It allowed us to use our expertise from working locally in B.C. We had to be much more involved in all the detailing [and] it was a lot bigger contract due to her influence.”
Baerg said that typically a Chinese development features homes that are similar in design.
“In this, the homes are different. They include the Craftsman style, Tudor, Prairie and the Georgian style.
“Our company did the planning for the whole neighbourhood, including the design of the houses and the first building in the commercial centre.
Baerg estimates the Vancouver Forest contract is worth about $1 million.
Lately, he added, CMHC “has been talking with us about a project in Moscow.”
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