How Far We’ve Come / by Michael Mazurkiewicz

Written by: Steve Socha

 

Back in November 2009, we were nothing more than a few people around a table in Paul Dowsett’s dining room. We had no formal office space, but we did have a dream. A dream of making sustainability mainstream. 7 years later, as the NOW Magazine People’s Choice winner for Best Design Firm, we have achieved that goal, and validated our efforts as leaders of sustainability.

We’ve been taking this week to reflect back on some of our most notable achievements, and how we got to where we are today.

2010
SWALLOW HOLLOW: “FOR THE BIRDS” COMPETITION FINALIST

This birdhouse design was created by hand in Paul’s backyard for the Toronto Botanical Garden ‘For The Birds’ competition and fundraiser. Titled Swallow Hollow: Purple Martin Condo Living, this unique structure was auctioned off to the highest bidder, along with the other competition finalists.

Swallow Hollow construction

Swallow Hollow construction

Celebrating at the Toronto Botanical Garden ‘For the Birds’ Fundraiser

Celebrating at the Toronto Botanical Garden ‘For the Birds’ Fundraiser

Sidenote: we even had a real office at this point!

Original STO office

Original STO office

2011
LOW-COST LOW-ENERGY HOUSE: LOWER 9TH WARD, NEW ORLEANS

We submitted an international competition-winning entry to a challenge posted by Design by Many, the Low Cost/Low Energy Passive House for New Orleans employs an efficient linear organization (known as a “shotgun” house in New Orleans), and very simply integrates both passive and active climate regulation systems.

Our design for Low-Cost Low-Energy House

Our design for Low-Cost Low-Energy House

And we won a plotter!

Plotimus Prime

Plotimus Prime

We also moved into our newer, better, office, which we immediately tore apart.

Renovating the STOffice

Renovating the STOffice

2012
CMHC HEALTHY HOUSING AWARD

We were the first architects to be awarded the CMHC Healthy Housing Award. Typically, the CMHC recognizes builders for this award, but in this instance, they acknowledged our substantial contributions related to their five essentials of healthy housing: occupant health, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, environmental responsibility, and affordability.

CMHC Healthy Housing Award

CMHC Healthy Housing Award

The architect is in! - at the Livegreen Toronto Festival. We weren’t yet bold enough to put our name is capitals… but that all soon changed.

Spreading the good word

Spreading the good word

2013
NEW YORK RESILIENT HOUSE

We were the winners of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)-sponsored international competition for our Resilient House for Far Rockaway, New York, the place that hurricane Sandy hit the hardest. The launch of he project was supported by the Clinton Foundation, represented by Chelsea Clinton who we were lucky to meet at the storm’s one year anniversary.

Hangin’ with Chelsea Clinton

Hangin’ with Chelsea Clinton

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: CAMBODIAN SUSTAINABLE HOUSE

Our short-listed entry to the Cambodian Sustainable Housing competition responds to the needs of its inhabitants and to the ethos of Cambodian living. This house design was featured in the Phnom Penh post, and the Globe and Mail. We’ve even had recent interest in this house being constructed.

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We also had to say farewell to our beloved office cat Edyth. But we soon after welcomed her successor, Nero.

Edyth

Edyth

Nero

Nero

2014
BHAYANA FAMILY FOUNDATION AWARDS FOR COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP

This award recognizes outstanding partnerships (between three or more organizations) that are committed to collaborating on a specific project or initiative for an outcome that one organization alone could not achieve. SUSTAINABLE.TO was honoured to receive this award for our collaborative work at the East Scarborough Storefront.

Bhayana award ceremony

Bhayana award ceremony

Community Vision for the East Scarborough Storefront

Community Vision for the East Scarborough Storefront

NORTH AMERICAN POLLINATOR PROTECTION CAMPAIGN AWARD 
SUSTAINABLE.TO designed and built five unique bee hotels across sites around the GTA as part of the Wild for Bees initiative - a partnership with Burt’s Bees, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and the Pollinator Partnership Canada. In recognition of our outstanding efforts, we were selected by the NAPPC as the 2014 Advocate for Canada.

Fairmont Royal York Bee Hotel

Fairmont Royal York Bee Hotel

Holt Renfrew Bee Hotel

Holt Renfrew Bee Hotel

2015
O-ZONE INFILL HOUSING

This design was the winner of “Design and System Integration Eexcellence” at the annual U.S. Department of Energy ‘Race to Zero’ competition. Designed in partnership with Ryerson University Architecture students and Greening Homes, we were proud to sponsor the team, and are glad that they have kept up Ryerson’s tradition of success in this competition. So far we have hired 2 staff members who won this competition in 2 separate years!

2015 entry

2015 entry

2016 entry

2016 entry

METHOD.TO TEST SHED
We have never shied away from innovative approaches, and 2015 was no exception. We literally pushed the envelope with a new building assembly, which we constructed via a test shed, which now resides at the Evergreen Brickworks. We are continually implementing and evolving our methods of creating highly-insulated homes, to keep you warm and comfortable.

Test shed construction

Test shed construction

2016
7 years later, the people have spoken. We are proud to say that we have been voted the Best Design Firm in Toronto. And we’re just getting started.

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