Calgreen Homes gives new meaning to 'tree house'

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Nick Han founded Calgreen Homes in 2018 with a mission to build inspiring inner-city homes. One of his latest creations, a single-family home in Capitol Hill, stands testament to that goal.

“Many inner-city infill homes are narrow, and they can be boring with dark corridors. That’s why I like to create special spaces inside,” says Han, who holds master’s degrees in architecture and construction management.

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With that in mind, he designed a 3,059-square-foot, three-storey infill at 1725 20th Ave. N.W. with almost 30 feet of vertical indoor space. The main floor is open to the second floor, which is open to the third floor. That open-to-above space floods the home with light, which is just the right sort of environment in which to grow lush indoor plants. Which gave Han his wow-design moment as he was sketching out blueprints for the luxury home.

“In that sunken area of the main space, I built a foundation wall so the dirt is exposed for an indoor garden. We installed gravel and weeping tile for proper drainage and insulated the foundation. Then, we were able to plant a tree right in the ground,” he says.

The tree in his skylit masterpiece is a Ficus Alii, an indoor ornamental fig tree that will develop a thick trunk and grow to about 10 feet or even as tall as 33 feet. Growing tropical trees in Calgary indoors in pots or in an atrium is common, but a tree rooted in the ground is something Peter Hughes, owner of Pete the Plantman, has only seen once before in our city.

“There was a guy who built a house in the Mission Hill area in the ’70s that did that. He had a two-storey open feature as well, but I can’t say it’s a trend. I would say living walls right now is the most popular indoor feature,” he says.

Even with its unique biophilic centrepiece, Han says no functionality of the home — listed at $1,589,800 — was lost. It has a full gourmet kitchen, a dining room, mudroom and a half bath. There’s a second family room and three bedrooms each with their own bathroom. The third floor has a bonus room and two rooftop patios.

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Han is both architect and designer of his homes. Another recent project in the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood, this one a renovation, earned his company a 2023 Building Industry and Land Development Calgary Region Award in April for Best Home Renovation with an Addition. It also garnered national attention at the Canadian Home Builders’ Association National Housing Awards of Excellence on May 10. Calgreen was presented with the Best Whole Home Renovation $500,001 to $800,000 award.

The winning home at 20th Avenue and 18th Street N.W. was a 1960s-era single-family home built by a well-known local architect. It had many mid-century design elements that Han wanted to preserve, particularly the wall and ceiling panelling and a unique aggregate concrete block fence.

“It had lots of special features that I kept. The home was extended, and a second floor was added,” he says.

To date, Calgreen has focused on inner-city townhomes, single-family and duplex homes.

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