Local Architects Propose 10 Low-Cost Green Design Solutions / by Sustainable

Toronto may soon be home to a chain of DIY back­yard bee ho­tels and a nat­u­ral for­est in a down­town al­ley­way. Those were the win­ning de­signs se­lected in the first Homegrown De­sign Chal­lenge, launched this spring by Work­shop Ar­chi­tec­ture and the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion.

The Homegrown De­sign Chal­lenge in­vited prom­i­nent ar­chi­tects and land­scape ar­chi­tects — and mem­bers of the pub­lic in an open call — to sub­mit ideas for low-cost, easy-to-im­ple­ment green de­sign so­lu­tions for yards, al­leys, com­mer­cial prop­er­ties and school­yards.

The ju­rors se­lected two win­ning sub­mis­sions: DIY Back­yard Bee Ho­tels, by SUSTAINABLE.TO Ar­chi­tec­ture + Build­ing, and Carolinian Way, a nat­u­ral­ized, forested al­ley by land­scape ar­chi­tect Tawab Hlimi. The two win­ning sub­mis­sions shared the $500 in prizes.

De­sign ideas in­cluded pro­pos­als to adapt laneways and park­ing lots to more ef­fec­tively ab­sorb and fil­ter storm wa­ter; to trans­form school­yards to cre­ate out­door learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments that are more nat­u­ral and eco­log­i­cally di­verse; to fos­ter greater di­ver­sity in front yards to sup­port pol­li­na­tors like bees and but­ter­flies; and to cre­ate raised struc­tures that play­fully con­nect res­i­dents with lost rivers be­neath the city.

The two win­ning de­signs and eight in­vited sub­mis­sions were shown at the Pro­ject Wild Thing event at Fort York, on July 9, and are on ex­hi­bi­tion at Ur­banspace Gallery from July 10 to Aug. 10.

The hope is that these de­sign ideas will in­spire home­own­ers and prop­erty man­agers to reimag­ine what’s pos­si­ble for their bal­conies, yards and neigh­bour­hoods.

In the mean­time, the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion is work­ing on pur­su­ing per­mis­sions and fund­ing to re­al­ize a few of the ideas in the ex­hi­bi­tion as demonstration projects within the Homegrown Na­tional Park.

At the ex­hi­bi­tion, view­ers will be able to see the ad­di­tional eight sub­mis­sions that were not se­lected as win­ners but still demon­strate in­no­va­tive ideas for easy-to im­ple­ment green de­sign so­lu­tions.

For view­ers that live in con­do­mini­ums and don’t have a yard of their own, TIC TAC FLO, by archiText, pro­posed a mod­u­lar wa­ter, shade and gar­den sys­tem that al­lows for bal­cony and roof-top gar­dens on build­ings that in turn cre­ate a potable wa­ter source for the build­ing.

Another pro­posal took an en­tirely dif­fer­ent fo­cus and de­vel­oped an idea to im­prove the school­yard at Oss­ing­ton Old Or­chard Public School into a pos­i­tive out­door learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The school is lo­cated on the Gar­ri­son Creek Water­shed and is part of the green net­work of the Trin­ity Bell­woods neigh­bour­hood; how­ever, the school­yard cur­rently con­sists of crum­bling as­phalt and dan­ger­ous slopes.

The pro­posal, rePLAY, by Elise Shel­ley Land­scape Ar­chi­tect, is a play­ground ren­o­va­tion that would in­volve a nat­u­ral play­ground area, gar­den spa­ces that fos­ter habi­tat and in­te­grate storm wa­ter man­age­ment, a hill­side slide and a climb­ing struc­ture made from lo­cally sourced tree logs. The pro­posal also in­cludes out­door class­room spa­ces for stu­dents.


The ex­hi­bi­tion may in­spire you to de­velop a green project for your home, gar­den or lo­cal park.

David Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Na­ture of Things and au­thor of more than 30 books on ecol­ogy.