Providing excellent architecture and design for excellent people in the Lower Mainland, Mid-Island and southern Gulf Islands

Who is MAA?:

MAA is a boutique design office located in Nanaimo led by Mark Ashby, a registered architect with over 15 years of experience. We enjoy our work and the excitement of visualizing great homes for great clients. As a small office, collaboration is critical to our success. We play well with others and our sandbox includes landscape designers, engineers, graphic designers, artists as well as our clients.

What does an architect do?:

Your architect is skilled at creating coherence from a myriad of complex, and often contradictory, constraints. Architects listen to you and co-create a design that is unique to you and your property. Architects guide you through the design, permit and construction process, provide recommendations on the best strategic use of your budget and assist the contractor to build your home right. Architects work with clients with varying degrees of experience and can tailor services to suit your needs.

What is the difference between a draftsperson and an architect?:

A lot. Architects are registered professionals who are rigourously trained and highly skilled designers. Architects do create drafted plans for buildings but this is not what we do. There is no cookie-cutter in an architect’s toolbox. Architects provide design service that synthesizes a client’s requirements or program with the opportunities and limitations of a property. A qualified designer is equipped with the knowledge and expertise to solve each design challenge with a solution that is functional, inspired and beautiful.

Who will I work with?:

When you hire MAA, you are working with me. The firm’s principal maintains direct oversight over all the studio’s work. Design work is collaborative; it is not delegated. Learn more about Mark and his collaborators.

Who are your clients?:

Mark deliberately maintains a small practice, choosing to serve a small number of select clients. We turn down more work than we take. This is because we care deeply about the quality of our work. We believe in architecture’s ability to improve lives and we take our responsibility to the environment very seriously. We only work with clients who share our values. Select clients include private residential clients in Nanaimo, Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, the Old Massett Village in Haida Gwaii, the Cities of Nanaimo and Richmond.

What do you mean by coherence?:

We are expert at creating spaces for your specific needs that take full advantage of the daylight, views and topography of your specific property. By visualizing your complete home in the context of your property, we create homes for you and your family that are both beautiful and beautifully integrated with the landscape. Coherence exists where complex challenges meet elegant solutions.

How big are your houses?:

As small as possible. ‘More’ seldom translates into “better”. Space, cars, ice cream, bathrooms; simply having more does not make a richer experience. Quality matters. We encourage our clients to think of their future home like an espresso shot; a selection of high-quality, intense, invigourating experiences in a small package.

Do you ‘do’ victorian style houses?:

No; we are not stylists. Period architecture is the legacy of the past and a gift to the present. We love that these old buildings exist and that many of them continue to function in our modern world; we do not aspire to recreate them. As contemporary designers we create architecture that reflects the culture, craft and technology of our time with the hope that our buildings will become our legacy to the future.

Do you design gardens?:

Absolutely! Conscientious garden design is one of our favourite tricks for making small homes feel bigger on a budget. In our temperate climate outdoor spaces can be made habitable for much of the year by considering micro-climates created by the architecture and the topography. We collaborate with skilled and qualified landscape designers to craft houses and outdoor spaces that function together as a whole. Careful selection of plants and materials create “outdoor rooms” that are both elegant and practical to maintain.

Should I care about energy?:

There are lots of important reasons to care about the energy use of your home. Here are some you may not have thought about: • Energy efficient homes are comfortable. They don’t suffer from the ‘mood-swings’ of poorly insulated houses. You can stand in front of a picture window on a winter morning in your PJs and feel warm. • Energy efficient homes are quiet. All that insulation and triple glazing also stops noise. • Energy efficient homes are healthy. When designed correctly with balanced, efficient ventilation systems, energy efficient homes provide a constant flow of fresh, conditioned air to living spaces that is also filtered to keep the dust and pollen outside. • Energy efficient homes are resilient. A well insulated and draft-sealed home loses heat very slowly. Super-insulated homes can maintain a habitable temperature on the coldest day with only the warmth of its occupants, which is something to think about in a region prone to prolonged black-outs. • Energy efficient homes save money. In many cases the monthly energy savings of an energy efficient home negate the monthly financing cost of the energy upgrades themselves. The future holds many uncertainties; rising energy costs is not one of them. • MAA are members of the Canadian Passive House Institute and dedicated to creating energyefficient homes through intelligent design. You can learn more about Passive Houses here.

What is a builder really saying by advertising that a house “complies with the building code”?:

The building code is a complex set of laws that regulates construction. Its purpose is to protect the public by establishing minimum standards for health, fire and life-safety and general construction. That a building “complies” with the building code simply means that it is constructed as poorly as possible without actually breaking the law! Some aspects of the building code, such as fire and earthquake resistance, are pretty good; others, like material durability and energy performance lag far behind industry best-practices. We help our clients to make intelligent choices when and how to exceed the minimum.

What is the value of design?:

DIY builders and homeowners report experiencing smoother project flow, spending less money on construction and saving time by investing in design at the beginning of a project . But the real value of design is unquantifiable. There is no greater disappointment than spending your savings to build a home that doesn’t quite fit your family, slightly misses the view or that just feels wrong. Building a home is expensive whether you do it right or wrong; designing a home is comparatively cheap.

How much does design service cost?:

A well crafted custom home takes time and care to design. Architectural design fees for single-family homes are based on 10% of market construction value for the home with the expectation that the design work will increase with size and complexity. We encourage clients to consider the budget for their new home as a whole. Investing in the service of a skilled designer at the beginning of the project can result in a home that exceeds your expectations at a lower overall cost.

How do you work with clients?:

Please have a look at an overview of the design process here.
Download our introductory package here:
Client introduction package