A Lifelong Friendship is Formed / by Sustainable

Written by: Paul Dowsett


Taking my new pup Creemore to the dog park, I meet Glen Hunter, with his golden retriever Ceira. We strike up a conversation and he cheerfully tells me that he is having an off-grid house designed for his hundred acres of property near Peterborough. I listen with interest, being an architect with a sustainable bent. But I don’t tell him what I do for a living, not wanting to appear to be horning in on someone else’s work.

As the months go by, sometimes I hear about Glen’s new house, and sometimes I don’t. I know that these things take time.


One Friday evening in March, Glen comes into the park looking quite crestfallen. In response to my query, Glen tells me that he’s terribly disappointed, and he just doesn’t think that he is getting what he wants from his architect.


I now tell him what I do for a living, and that after dinner, I’ll be happy to look at what his architect is proposing, and to hear what he wants. I’ll tell him if there is any reason that I can see, why he can’t have what he wants.

An hour later, with warming tumblers of scotch in our hands, Glen and I are looking over the sketches and talking about his hopes and dreams.


He wants a simple, mid-century modern-inspired, loft-like home in the country. One that is not connected to hydro, so that he never has to pay another hydro bill. This is not what his architect’s sketches show. But, I think that I see a solution.

I ask Glen to give me the weekend to sketch out my ideas, and that we’ll look at them on Monday evening, over his scotch.

Glen happily agrees, and asks me over the weekend, how are things going? I simply say, “fine.”


Come Monday, Glen is so impressed by what he sees that he hires me on the spot. Through the design, the house morphs from one nestled in the original stone barn foundation, to a straw bale house, sitting proudly beside the barn foundations, welcoming in the generous passive solar energy.


Glen and his growing family settle in to their new home, just before the 2003 blackout. Working from home, Glen doesn’t even know that the north-eastern U.S. and Canada is without power until his wife calls him from the city to tell him that she can’t get home.


Since 2003, we have worked on further out-buildings on Glen’s land, and Glen has provided web design services for Sustainable. A life-long friendship has been formed.