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.
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.
Sidenote: we even had a real office at this point!
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.
And we won a plotter!
We also moved into our newer, better, office, which we immediately tore apart.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We also had to say farewell to our beloved office cat Edyth. But we soon after welcomed her successor, Nero.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.