Sustainable House

Competition Archetype for the Living City: Sustainable House, Woodbridge, Ontario

Text Leslie Jen

The results of the Archetype for the Living City competition hosted by the Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) in partnership with the Design Exchange (DX) were revealed last month, and seven design teams were recognized in a variety of categories.

In response to anticipated explosive growth of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) over the next 25 years in addition to the atrocious air quality resulting from ever-increasing carbon dioxide emissions, the competition asked architects, engineers and designers across the country to consider environmental responsibility and affordability in the design of a single-family home that would be used as a prototype for future development. As such, the competition promised the construction of the winning design as a demonstration centre for both builders and buyers, with the clear didactic function of creating awareness and fostering an understanding of sustainable design, technology and building processes. The house will be constructed on the Living City Campus at the Kortright Centre in Woodbridge, north of Toronto, and hopes to stimulate community transformation towards sustainable living through its holistic and interactive approach to design.

Stipulations for the detached four-bedroom house plus garage included provisions for adaptability to change and use over time. Standards to be met included a minimum of LEED-H 1.71 Gold rating and EnergyStar for New Homes designation, along with clear suggestions for innovative waste-water treatment. Proposals had to consider the possibility of the mass production of a south-backing house on a 50 * 120 lot.

Requirements for each team included a minimum of one of each of the following: registered architect, registered mechanical engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, post-secondary senior-level student, along with optional team members from the fields of industrial design, building, and development. Consequently, teams were large and diverse, the benefits of which enriched each submission with a breadth of expertise and perspective.

Four prizes were awarded by a jury that included sustainable design leader Peter Busby of Vancouver’s Busby Perkins + Will; Thomas Mueller, President of the Canada Green Building Council; and Andrew Bowerbank, Supervisor of Sustainable Development for Toronto and Region Conservation and the secretary for the Toronto Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council.

The top prize for the Archetype House was reserved for a scheme entitled “Building Blocks.” The winning team is comprised of architects Anne Stevens, Clelia Iori and Christina Carydis, interior designer Terrell Wong, mechanical engineer Al Davis, industrial design student Sunmee Kim, and real estate advisors McKellar Associates.

The “Building Blocks” scheme adopted an extremely thorough approach to provide the potential homebuyer with a diverse array of meaningful choices. According to the team’s presentation material, LEED Gold and EnergyStar for New Homes environmental ratings translate into a high-performance building designed and built to high standards of sustainability, good indoor air quality, and high energy efficiency. Zero lot-line design with flexible modules permit adaptability to a variety of site conditions. A renovation-ready attic and adaptable garage both allow growth according to changing needs at a minimum of cost and disruption. A green roof on the garage reduces heat gain and storm-water runoff, and sun shades on the south faade reduce solar heat gain while creating a series of shaded patios and courtyards. An engineered wetland waste-water system is complemented by the planting of climate-appropriate native species requiring little water or maintenance. Additionally, a geothermal heat source along with an R40 roof and R30 walls reduce the building’s energy demands. Locally sourced materials and material-efficient framing reduce harvesting and transportation impacts.

Some mention must be made of the winning team members of the remaining three juried prize categories. Winners of the Green Innovation Award include Toronto’s Martin Liefhebber of Breathe Architects, an acknowledged expert on sustainable house design. Also on the team was engineer Paul Lee, landscape architect Brad Peterson, interior designer Karolyn Kane, and OCAD students Mike Dudek, Tanya Keigan, Rico Law, Frederick Nduna, Sung Wook Park and Eric So. Other members included Ben Rodgers of Solsmart, Mike Holm of Solera Thermal Heating Systems, Udo Staschik of Bio-filtration ARCOM, and Doug Hart of Watershed.

The Presentation Award winners impressed the jury with their clearly presented and attractively detailed submissions panels. Architect Monica E. Kuhn and intern architects Eric Tomas and Adam Trotter were joined by teammates Martin Wade and Nancy Chater of Martin Wade Landscape Architects Limited, Mario Kani and Cara Sloat of Sustainable EDGE Inc., interior design consultant Jo-Anne McCarthy, contractor Carmen DiSantis of 3-Dimensional Developments, and student Dan Malka of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture.

A beautifully resolved sustainable house prototype entitled “The Suburban Wilderness” impressed the jury with its aesthetic qualities, a scheme that could be perceived as the most purely “architectural.” The team responsible for this submission includes architects Catherine Venart and Naomi Fransos, mechanical engineer Trevor Butler, landscape architect Juliette Patterson, interior designer Etienne Lemay, sustainable and material expert John Fernandes, and students Mark Lee, Jennifer Lau and Jane Abbott.

Three People’s Choice Awards were also named, based on the public’s vote taken at the competition exhibition at the Design Exchange. First place was awarded to the team of Octavian Danes, Jim Douglas, Dextor Edwards, Jeff Fitzpatrick, Heather Garner, Cathy Hay and Tamara Phillips. Second place was given to the team of Wells Baker, Roberto Chiotto, Ian Gray, Karen Herlt, Jenny Hyatt, Noah Slater, Kevin Weiss and Peter Yeadon. And finally, the team that scooped third place in the People’s Choice category is comprised of Edward Chan, Lynnore Jones, Tak Lau, Doris Li, Daniel Loch McDougall, Jennifer Niven, Heman Shih, Mark Sylvain, Nancy-Ann Wilson and Joseph Yu.

Clearly, initiatives such as this competition are critical in fostering the development of sustainable design beyond mere tokenism. The success and excitement of the Archetype for the Living City competition signals the beginning of a new awareness in both the building industry and the public of the importance and necessity of sustainability in every aspect of how and where we live, and ushers in an exciting era of residential design. The Archetype House winning team is working with the TRCA to finalize the design and initiate construction of the home, which is expected to begin later this year or in early 2007.

For more information on the competition and the results, please visit