Please allow me a few minutes of your time to introduce myself, explain why, and how I became the man who would be consultant with a short journey through my life and experiences.
I am a “Multipotentialite/Polymath” a.k.a. a Renaissance man.
For much of my youth, I was known as “that kid who takes everything apart” and could most often be found in my room, a trash pile or a scrap yard. I disassembled things to figure out how they worked, how to fix them or improve upon them. Unlike many others, I rarely had spare parts left over after reassembly (if that was a requirement).
I was the creative and energetic youngster with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), raised by a single mother, “below the tracks”, in a low-income area of Montreal, Quebec.
Much of my education was cultivated through the “school of hard knocks”, and I learned to do more with less. I can now fully appreciate the little things and the value of a dollar, and even more so, the value of life and the opportunity it provides.
I was the teenager who struggled in a school system not favorable to my learning style (save for mechanics, body shop, and wood-shop). After high-school I studied at technical schools where I excelled in the fields of welding and cellular communications. After failing to find satisfying employ in those industries I worked countless other jobs trying to discover my true passion and “raison d’être”, gaining immeasurable experience in a plethora of disciplines.
I was the young man who late-on was reunited with and worked along side his father (my biggest mentor in the residential & commercial security fields), and I would thoroughly question every trades-person encountered on job sites as to the how’s and why’s of their vocation. My yearn-to-learn in full swing and I was in the company of many professionals.
I was the 30 year old entrepreneur who as a teenager would; charge $0.25 bag /box to remove garbage for neighbors in the surrounding apartment buildings, manage several paper routes, deliver groceries, and collect discarded bicycle parts and up-cycle them into custom units for re-sale. Later in life starting a business as a handyman and eventually a general contractor, which further honed my skills and increased my experience ten-fold. In that time, I also discovered that nothing is impossible, and that we can do anything we focus on and apply ourselves to (yes, even those of us with ADD can focus – when immersed in that which we are impassioned).
Now, a mindful, exacting and determined middle-aged man trained to see the big picture as well as the individual parts, I continue to follow my passions. As a consultant, I utilize my 35+ years of knowledge to aid homeowners and future homeowners in avoiding the unnecessary costs, aggravation, lost sleep, stressed relationships and injury that are often part of the building & renovation process.
My mother decorated and re-decorated every 6 months with paint, wallpaper, draperies, upholstery, art and the like. I was always there by her side, helping out and absorbing her teachings. Over the course of my various employ, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with many professional decorators and designers (who used many of mom’s techniques among others), which I added to my library of useful knowledge in those fields.
Combined with decades of study of and mentoring by architects, draftsmen, engineers, craftsmen and laborers from around the world, my personal database affords me the ability to tackle or consult on topics that the average contractor or builder can’t.
I analyze and fix things, I always have and I always will, but not necessarily with my hands.
Of course, I’ve broken things, but those instances only further developed my skills and database, as well as my drive to learn more. I love to know the how & why.
I fully understand project coordination and management. I also know the materials, products, suppliers, methodologies and technology, as well as the intrinsic trades and professions involved in the construction industry. I’ve also become a master at understanding and integrating people and they’re living spaces.
With each job, relationship and life situation I gather more knowledge and experience, correcting my mindset as I go, so that I may continue daily to grow and be mindful about improving myself, my surroundings and others’ surroundings.
Everyone lives a distinct lifestyle which is in constant flux. Varying geographic locations and differing budgets in conjunction with a variety of arrangements for every individuals’ requirements means that every home should be different.
A broad background in construction and renovations, along with my attentiveness to detail, quest for ergonomic homes and passion for client satisfaction makes my job as consultant a no-brainer. My Cognitive Dwelling Assessment System (CDAS) further aids in making reality of your ultimate dream home.
I do what I do because I enjoy it and it’s challenges, regardless of who, what, where, when, how or how much, I routinely go to the mat for everyone, without exception.
Positions I’ve held through corporate and self employ include but are not limited to:
Builder, Contractor, Decorator, Designer, Handyman, Inspector, Marketer, Mentor, Project Planner/Coordinator/Manager, Salesperson, Supervisor, Trainer and Technician.
Much of that employ has been predominantly in the fields of; Residential/Commercial Audiovisual and Control Systems, Electronic and Hardware Security (Intrusion prevention, Closed Circuit TV, Access Control, and Locksmith Services), Connectivity and Communications (Mobile, Telecom/Fiber-optic Internet/Network, Cable & Satellite TV), Sustainability (solar/wind/water power generation, solar air/water heating, water purification/storage), Construction/Renovation (design, foundation, framing, interior & exterior envelope, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, etc) and building Inspections.
With my knowledge of the proper use of and ability to maintain/repair the tools needed to get jobs done, a part-time position as an associate in the tool rental department (of an orange, multi-national, depot of home goods and services) allows me to even further assist DIY homeowners with their projects.
My personal interests include agri/aqua culture, architecture, organic farming, mechanics, metal-work, science and technology, space, sustainability and anything to do with residential living spaces and landscapes. I also regularly practice the Law of Attraction/Vibration, mindfulness and gratitude.
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to live in, work in, study and embrace many different cultures/geographical areas and I look forward to many more such experiences.
I know about a great many things, particularly about building and renovations.
And as a volunteer firefighter, I regularly undergo Security & Vulnerable Sector Checks so you can rest assured that it is completely safe to have me in your home/office and around your family.
My Tropical Experience and subsequent career change
In early 2014 I shut down my “fixer” (general contracting and handyman) business and moved to an Off-Grid vacation home in Belize, Central America which belongs to a friend from high school. The original plan wasn’t to relocate there but to consult, plan, install and set-up the burglar alarm and closed circuit camera systems. I followed the build through photos and email to ensure that the requirements for my role in the project were in order.
After months of planning and discussions leading up to the trip, he mentioned that he was having difficulty finding a caretaker for the place. Someone he could trust, who was capable of not only dealing with the daily property maintenance and vacationers’ needs, but who was savvy enough to operate and maintain all the high-tech systems the house contained. They comprised of a 14,000 gallon water collection, storage, filtration and purification system, solar and wind power generation, power storage and DC/AC inverter system, solar pool circulation/filtration and lighting systems, as well as wireless audio and internet distribution systems. None of the known locals were up to the task.
I had always dreamed of living off-grid AND in the tropics, and here was the opportunity staring me in the face, a perfect fit!
Needless to say, It didn’t take long for me to make the decision to tell him I’d take the position. I then started the research for what would become both an incredible experience and an awakening. I then notified my clients, closed-up shop, sold pretty much everything I owned and prepared for the biggest adventure of my life – the drive to Belize.
Accompanied by an acquaintance and my 100lb Doberman Max, we traveled from Ottawa, Ontario, through the U.S., Mexico and into Central America. My friend’s old, poorly maintained vehicle car gave us some troubles along the way. We bedded down in some pretty sketchy places and experienced a few close-calls and scary situations, but we made it nonetheless – 10 days and many hard-earned miles later!
At long last, Belize. During the first few weeks it became quickly evident that living and working in a developing, tropical country was extremely different from what I was used to in Canada. And would require that I gain a completely different attitude towards life, tropical cultures and the planet as a whole.
The Off-Grid home was designed by a Canadian, and built by local builders – me being the only exception.
Although the plans were made well in advance, I was brought on site late in the project’s time-line as the security equipment was expensive, not replaceable locally, and sensitive to damage from construction mishaps (and like everything else – prone to theft). Soon after my arrival I discovered that the project was behind schedule, and that much of its afflictions were due to insufficient collaboration/communication between the owners, designer, and the builder/contractor(s). Both minor, and major details had been ill-conceived and/or omitted altogether due to lack of knowledge and research by the parties involved.
To this day I am unaware if the designer had ever physically been to the build site or understood the challenges of the locations’ climate. The sun, heat, salty ocean air and precipitation during the rainy season were huge factors that seemed overlooked in the design. It was also quite apparent that the local builder lacked a firm grasp of the owners’ lifestyle and requirements were not common in the area.
I contacted my friend (who had fair knowledge of my background) to inform him of the deficiencies and was immediately entrusted to oversee the project to its completion. It was a daunting task but with determination and perseverance a good part of the goal was achieved with the available budget. That said, even after things were back on track, due to what lacked or was erred, cost overruns, losses and weather delays, the final product would end up taking a number of years to reach the pinnacle of the owners’ dream.
During that time and since then I have conversed at length with more than 40 North Americans who have built in Belize, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, and Trinidad/Tobago who recounted horror stories about their construction/renovation projects. I visited dozens of homes during my time in Belize (and several dozen in Trinidad) and was quite surprised at the poor designs and lack of foresight in the builds. From my personal calculations, 75% had presumed that their designer/builder (both Local and/or North American) would know and take care of everything.
Many builders, contractors/subcontractors failed their clients miserably (IMO). Some charging 50 to over 100% more than the original agreed price (however most ranged from 40-75%), and the finished products left much to be desired. Some homeowners “lost their shirts” altogether due to overages and lack of immediate, available financing (or time) to complete the work, leaving Mother Nature to wreak havoc on the existing unfinished structures. And lest we forget, some of the health and relationship issues related to many the ill-fated projects.
As for me, “living the dream” in the tropics would not last, and I had to return to Canada.
Because the house wasn’t completed for quite some time, I had no way to keep groceries, cook, do laundry, or connect with the outside world (except to travel a fair distance to any of several resorts for these things – and pay tourist prices), so money didn’t stretch as far as planned.
Along with the delays and added costs for the project, came a lack of funds for marketing and a lack of rental income (from which I would have benefited). Of course there was also a matter of my legal residency in Belize (but that can take years to achieve).
Nevertheless, everything happens for a reason, and mine was to return with even more knowledge and experiences which would lead me to being here, writing this, and doing what I do. As much as I enjoyed almost everything about Belize, I discovered that beach life isn’t my cup of tea. I much prefer to be near water but not surrounded by it, and closer to forest and land animals.
The gist if it…
Q: Are there projects that go smoothly, with no grief?
A: Yes, but honestly, it’s a rarity, those are few and far between.
In the developing countries I have been, I have personally witnessed numerous unfinished projects sitting on vacant lots with “For Sale” signs. Concrete structures crumbling due to the salty air rusting/corroding the inner steel skeleton (due to unprotected, porous cement) and/or untreated wooden structures collapsing from rot and termite infestation. Regardless of the fact that local labor is cheap and that there are plenty of raw materials available, the process of tearing down and re-building (or selling the property with a partially completed, decaying structure) can be quite expensive, not to mention time consuming and frustrating as hell.
Nowadays there are more and more skilled North American and European builders available in on tropical/developing areas and even the local builders are upping their game. However, many builders still aren’t up to snuff on issues with distant/local building customs/techniques, materials and technologies, and many projects still suffer from “Island time”. If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Some retirees/buyers have even had to deal with lengthy land title disputes because on numerous occasions, various real-estate firms/people had claimed title to the same properties, which had lain dormant for years. Without a doubt, the governments in many developing countries seem to have difficulty keeping accurate records of property ownership. Bribery is often a way of life here, but it’s shortsighted and affects many.
Setbacks and issues don’t just happen in the tropics, they can be a part of any project. The onus is definitely on the owners to do their own extensive research and get seriously on-board with everything/everyone. If not, they need to outsource that work to experienced, competent professionals if they want smooth sailing and a gratifying outcome.
Sure, you can leave it all up to someone else, but who’s house is it?
To whom can you complain if you had no input and the result is not to your liking?
A New Beginning
I’m now a huge proponent of sustainable living, an Eco-friendly, low carbon footprint lifestyle. Every year I try to do more to reduce my negative impact on the Earth, the source of everything we need.
My years in the Construction Industry has made me realize that North Americans (typically) are very wasteful.
Far too often I have gutted portions of peoples’ homes that were (more often than not) in perfectly good condition/working order, just because they didn’t like the style/color/age of something or because they wanted to “keep up with the Jones’s”. Load, after load of perfectly good materials destroyed and taken to landfill.
Sure, occasionally some of it was recycled but not nearly often enough. Energy and resources are wasted at an incredible rate. Clearing natural flora and fauna on properties (which require next to no maintenance/water) to put in grass – which requires incredible amounts of maintenance and water. Not to mention destroying the natural habitat of much needed insects and wildlife. Projects which use huge vehicles, all burning copious amounts of fuel while transporting mass amounts of resources, and waste. It’s sad, and it’s not sustainable.
Having visited (and lived in) a few developing countries to date, I have seen how terrible North American habits are rubbing off on other countries and cultures, and how the beautiful, vibrant and natural lands are quickly being raped, pillaged & polluted.
“We (humans) often travel to tropical locations to enjoy the climate, breathe the clean air and stand in awe of the natural beauty, yet we are quick to demand that the natives adapt to our wants and needs so that we may be comfortable during our stay. Unfortunately, that ends up destroying the local nature and culture in the process, along with their way of life and the sustainable habits – which had been around for hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of years. Our technology rarely makes better lives, more often than not it pollutes, expends resources, decimates species and lengthens our lifespans so that we can overpopulate and continue the circle of destruction at an exponential rate”.
My decision to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle and to guide/assist others to follow suit stems from wanting humanity to survive in a healthy and natural way. It is also a necessary step in returning to a more simple, less stressed and healthier life (for me anyway). To help further offset our carbon footprints and promote sustainability, my wife and I purchased a farm on prime agricultural land in south-eastern Ontario. We had 2400 coniferous trees planted (as part of Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Project) to help balance climate change and reestablish homes for birds and other displaced critters. Beekeeping and organic, Aquaponic farming are also in our future.
Originally a dairy farm built circa 1865, it has seen many changes, but we are slowly renovating in an effort to restore and preserve its heritage – minus the cows.
Do good for yourself and generations to come. Build (if not, at least live) sustainable lives, it will definitely aid in slowing the pollution and destruction to the planet that (if current trends continue) will eventually bring an end to humanity as we know it.
…and THAT is why ABC!
If you want something special, individual/different but haven’t a clue where to start, contact me.
Let others’ pasts help steer your future
The following articles are SO incredibly worth the few minutes they will take to read. They cover merely a few of the possible aspects of the journey on which you may be about to embark upon, but are both insightful and poignant.