Jim’s interest in architecture started as a boy while making driftwood forts during seaside holidays on BC’s west coast, touring construction sites with his city planner father and, later, working summers as a carpenter framing houses. After receiving a masters in architecture degree at the University of Oregon, Jim became a registered architect in British Columbia in 1988 and honed his skills over thirty years at several firms including Henriquez & Partners and Davidson Yuen Partners in Vancouver and Merrick Architecture in Victoria. Project work during this period included large scale urban residential-mixed use developments, non-profit housing, heritage building adaptive re-use, residential care facilities, schools and libraries.
In 2014 Jim established his own practice, James Kerr Architect, in order to provide hands-on design services to discerning clients and to focus on small to mid-sized projects including single family and multi-unit residential, urban infill and heritage building rehabilitation-restoration work. By choosing to operate as a small practice, a deeper engagement of each client and project design thru all phases of work is more readily achieved and with more meaningful results.
Jim is active in the Victoria design community and currently serves on the Oak Bay Advisory Design Panel and the Victoria Civic Heritage Trust Board. He is also an avid swimmer, runner, crossword puzzle-er and a struggling guitarist who lives with his wife Barbara in their 1913 Fernwood house.
We believe good design can uplift the human spirit by the making of special places where people can better engage each other and the natural world.
The firm takes a balanced approach to design incorporating the 3 essential elements of good building identified by the 1st century AD Roman architect Vitruvius, namely firmitas, utilitas and venustas, which translated into English mean “firmness, commodity and delight”. Firmness or physical strength refers to a building’s structural integrity plus its ability to weather well and endure. Utility refers to an efficient arrangement of spaces, enclosure and building systems that provide comfort and support the activities and lives of the building’s occupants. Delight or venustas, the aesthetic quality associated with the Roman goddess Venus, imparts beauty and good proportions.
Each new project involves a search for an appropriate architectural expression rather than the imposition of a pre-determined style. This search considers the client’s aspirations and budget, site opportunities (topography, orientation, vegetation, light and sun exposure), context (urban or suburban or rural), structural systems and materials as well as regulatory constraints. In the case of an addition or renovation, the character defining elements of the existing building-landscape are carefully identified and evaluated so that new work can be made complementary.
Good building design today must also consider the challenge to lighten our footprint on planet earth and its finite resources. Part of the response to this lies in pursuing design solutions which rely more on natural or passive systems for heating, cooling and ventilation which consume less energy and provide greater comfort. The use of on-site energy generation technologies such as photovoltaic cells and thermal solar may also be considered but only after the embodied energy and long term maintenance requirements for the system components are fully understood. Selecting materials and components which have less embodied energy and/or more recycled content, reducing water usage and construction waste are all helpful strategies too. The integration of these and other sustainable environmental measures into new and existing buildings is a key principle of this practice.
An equally important part of this response suggests we be more moderate in the spatial and material demands made of our new buildings than in the past few decades. For example, the idea of making new homes smaller but with lots of natural light, designed to a very high environmental standard and carefully built with durable materials and window-door components, which is common practice in Europe today, will likely become increasingly attractive here.
As a Certified Passive House Designer, Jim also provides design and planning services to meet the International Passive House Institute standard, one of the world’s foremost benchmarks for energy efficient and sustainable building design begun in Germany in 1992. For more information about this initiative, which is now taking hold in North America and worldwide, please visit Passive House Canada or the International Passive House Institute.
With each client-project, the firm is committed to applying the “Five P” principles, namely professionalism, passion, persistence, politeness and patience. Particular attention is placed on clear communication with each client, all design team members and builder in order to enable informed decision making and to move a project forward to a successful outcome.