the new cabins at Pacific Sands

Pacific Sands Eco-Development

by Adam Buskard, Tofino


The Pettinger family has owned and operated the Pacific Sand Resort since 1973. The process of growth at the Sands has been gradual and with purpose and meaning. So when they decided back in 2001 that it was time to look at replacing their aging beachfront cabins there was plenty to consider.

The original Lindal cabins had been there since 1975 and were loved by the guest families that had spent many summers in them.

The Pettingers approach to this expansion was unique from the start. Beyond the usual development concerns of cost and return they wanted to embrace an environmentally sound approach to the design. There was a sense that part of running a business in a Unesco Biosphere was to strive for a new balance with our environment.

The integrity of the coastal forest where the cabins had been was the first concern. The area was surveyed with the help of an arborist to plot the locations of all the trees on site and to outline a course of action for the contractors to follow that would minimize any disturbance to root structures. The tree placement map was given to the architect with the instruction to design in a manner that would work around them. As the design of the new buildings was started the Pettingers felt that they wanted to embrace as many methods of building ecologically as possible. There were renewable products to consider, alternative concepts to access and costs to consider.

In our temperate climate one of the biggest hurdles in any commercial development is what is going to be your source of heat. There’s electric, gas, oil, wood or GeoExchange, using the ambient temperature of the earth to heat your living space. Because the earth’s energy is a constantly renewable source there is a freedom attained from fossil fuels or mass consumption of electricity. It’s in these types of large-scale commercial developments that a noticeable reduction in resources consumed for heating can be realized.

The GeoExchange systems works by circulating a fluid through vertical under ground holes to a depth of near 400 feet. At this level the ground maintains an ambient temperature between 6 and 10°c. The fluid absorbs this energy bringing it back up into the system to be extracted and circulated throughout floors in the living spaces. There is an energy efficiency to this heating that is greater than 50% over conventional electric. The initial set up costs for the GeoExchange were 25% more than traditional systems but are projected to be recoupable over a 5 to 7 year period.

Methods of construction that offered ecological benefit were embraced in the project on many levels. The exterior finish of the cabins was done in a cement fiberboard that has no wood material in its construction. The beams used in the interior timber framing were cut from standing dead pine that was killed by the pine beetle. Low flush toilets were used exclusively though out the units and of course the geothermal heating system. With all of this attention to the eco there was still nothing lost on the comfort or aesthetic of the units. With their slate floors, fireplaces and soaker tubs the details of luxury are still there to enjoy.

As for the original cabins that inhabited the shore for so many years, they were transplanted into heart of the Sands property and now serve as accommodation for their staff. In these days of house burnings on the beach to make way for new decadence it’s nice to see value placed on what can be reused and renewed.

Adam Buskard has lived in Tofino half his life, six of those years off the grid on Frank Island.

Tofino Time Magazine February 2005

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Pacific Sand beach resort has installed a geothermal heating system in their new phase of environmentally friendly development.

tofino time february 2005

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