A Healthy Home Starts Here.

Sustainable is founded on the principle that sustainable design and construction is a step towards a healthy future for all.

People spend 90% of their time indoors, and a significant amount of money on home maintenance and operation.

We can help you achieve your New Home or Home Renovation goals with healthy, environmental, and cost-effective design strategies that focus on: “people, planet, and prosperity”.

Sustainable works closely with you to define your needs, wishes, and sustainability targets before crafting a design that satisfies both your functional and aesthetic preferences.

Our building-science-led approach ensures the design process delivers a comfortable, durable, and beautiful home that can be enjoyed for generations to come.

We thank you for your commitment to building or renovating your home with personal and ecological health in mind, and look forward to creating something incredible with you.



Meet the Team.

We are leaders in pragmatic sustainability, showing that “simple is the new smart.”


Paul Dowsett

Principal Architect


Joel Gilbert Anderson

Architectural Designer


Karen Rankin

Number Cruncher


Laura Casas Martin

Architectural Designer


Dakota Park

Graphic Designer


Bilal Khan

Intern Architect

Donald Peckover

Architectural Designer


Brad Tapson

Intern Architect


Joanne Malakassiotis

Office Manager


Nicholas Discenza

Architectural Designer


Pearl Chan

Intern Architect

Our Approach to Energy.

The Trias Energetica


The most sustainable energy is saved energy, the energy that you don’t use.

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1. Reduce 

The energy demand of your home by focusing on air-tightness and insulation. These two strategies have the lowest cost and highest impact on efficiency.

2. Reuse 

Nature’s energy through passive strategies. In the winter we capture sun for heat while in the summer we block it to keep your home cool. Natural breezes are used for summer cooling and ventilation.

3. Recycle

Nature’s energy through active strategies such as: solar panels to convert the sun’s energy into electricity and hot water; wind turbines to convert wind energy into electricity; and geo-exchange to use the earth as a heat battery.


These strategies are ordered for best value – balancing cost and impact.
As the Recycle strategy is the most costly with the lowest impact on efficiency, Sustainable prioritizes Reduce and Reuse before Recycle.


Frequently Asked Questions.


What does Sustainable do differently?

Sustainable designs with your health in mind.

We prefer to use natural and toxin-free materials for the construction and finishing of your home, resulting in higher indoor air quality.

We focus on passive design strategies to capture available daylighting, regulate solar heat gain, and promote natural ventilation.

We use our knowledge of building science to design for durability by specifying the right amount of the right material in the right location.

What does a building scientist do?

A building scientist understands the physical behavior of the building as a system and how this impacts energy efficiency, durability, comfort and indoor air quality.

Building science is essential. Our building science team uses energy modeling, hygrothermal analysis, and on-site quality assurance to deliver innovative and high-performing architecture.

Why should I build green?

Building Green means building better: improved building enclosures, high quality materials, and efficient mechanical systems all lead to improved occupant comfort and quality of life.

Indoor air quality, acoustics, and daylighting are better in green buildings — they make for healthier places to live, learn, and play.

Does sustainable architecture fit my style?

Sustainable can work with every style of architecture: from traditional, to modern, and everything in between.

I have a limited budget. Can I afford to build green?

Yes. Building green means choosing to spend your money wisely.

Sustainable works with you to determine the scale and scope of your project to ensure it fits within your budget. We propose strategic upgrades to conventional construction methods that result in healthier more comfortable home that save you money in the long run.

For example, improved air-tightness and insulation will reduce the heating and cooling demands of your home, which in turn reduce the size of the heating and cooling system, as well as the cost to run the system over the lifetime of your home.

Are green incentives and government rebates available?

Sustainable understands that the initial cost of renovating or building a new home can be a hurdle to success. There are several municipal, provincial, federal, and utility-based programs available in the GTA that can help. We keep a list of incentives and programs for financing green renovation and new construction. Speak to our building science team for more information, as these programs change from time to time.

Project Stages.

Part A: Schematic Design and Zoning Compliance


Existing Building Documentation and Zoning Review

The building department requires a full set of measured drawings (including an up-to-date survey) illustrating what conditions are existing versus what is proposed. To begin the design and approval process, Sustainable will prepare a set of ‘existing’ measured drawings of your home as well as a photographic record. Sustainable will then investigate zoning restrictions applicable to your property and determine what building size/shape is allowable as-of-right, and where we may require variances to the Zoning Bylaws.

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Preliminary Concept Design

One of Sustainable’s first tasks will be creating a comprehensive functional program with you. This will list the spaces you require at your property, along with any desires you can provide us that will allow us to begin design. It is important to list all spaces you wish to include in your property, as we will be designing to this document in later phases. Of course, functions are not the the only attributes that you’ll want Sustainable to capture. Desired feelings, moods, and looks are important too. 

With an idea of zoning, building program, and any images you may share with us, we will prepare a first-draft set of sketches to show the design possibilities of your property. These sketches will form the basis of our conversation and revisions moving forward, and will represent the first step towards a design for your property. Sustainable are very visual people and will welcome any images that you may have collected, showing structures and spaces that you like or dislike.

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Schematic Design

Continuing from the Preliminary Concept Design, Sustainable will develop a Schematic Design through a series of two to three design iterations, best to be reviewed with you at face-to-face meetings. At this stage, our in-house building scientists will prepare a preliminary energy model to help in making design decisions around comfort, efficiency, and energy cost savings. An energy modeling tool will be used to develop an overall preliminary building performance strategy tailored to your home.


Preliminary Budget Review

With Schematic Design complete, we will work with a contractor (or multiple, depending on the scope of work required) to develop a preliminary construction budget. Some contractors may charge a fee for this service, which is not included in our fee schedule. We can then review this budget against your project budget to determine if any revisions are required before moving forward with a Zoning Certificate application.

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Zoning Certificate Review

The final Schematic Design will be submitted to the Municipality for a Zoning Certificate Review. Sustainable will prepare the necessary documentation and will oversee the application, submission, and review with the Municipality. This municipal review will indicate items of zoning non-compliance (if any) that may require approval of minor variances at the Committee of Adjustment. If variances are not required, a Zoning Certificate will be issued and Sustainable may proceed to Design Development and Building Permit Application. A Zoning Certificate is required for a “Complete” application for Building Permit.

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Committee of Adjustment (CofA)

We will make every effort to conform to the Zoning By-Laws currently in effect, although you may elect to (or be required to) seek variances due to site restrictions and design preferences. This will require a hearing at the Committee of Adjustment (CofA). Sustainable will oversee the application, guide you through the process with your neighbours, prepare the necessary exhibits to illustrate your intentions, and represent your interests at the hearing. Upon successful completion of the CofA process, a zoning certificate will be issued.

Part B: Design Development and Building Permit Application

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Design Development

With Municipal Zoning approvals in place, Sustainable will develop building details and construction assemblies. Also included will be any  required zoning, and desired aesthetic revisions to the previous Schematic Design. The energy model will be refined in order to finalize the building performance strategy including building enclosure design (walls, base, roof), material specifications, energy efficiency and air tightness targets, window types, and mechanical system performance.  

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Energy Modeling Report

The purpose of energy modeling is to analyze the energy demands of your home to optimize its energy efficiency, comfort and durability, thus reducing operational and maintenance costs. Sustainable will provide you with a final energy modeling report outlining our recommended building science strategies. If you would like a formal certification for your home (LEED, Passive House, Living Building Challenge, etc.) we are qualified to do so, and would be pleased to facilitate as an additional service. Ask us what’s involved.

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Building Permit Application

In order to obtain a Building Permit for construction, Sustainable will assemble all customarily required information from the Design Development stage. Engineering specialty consultants will be required to produce certified designs for heating/ventilation/air-conditioning (HVAC), alternative energy systems, and for structural engineering. Sustainable will coordinate these consultants, and will be pleased to get comparable quotes from our regular consultants as well as any with whom you may prefer to work, at your request. Basic interior design layout of bathrooms, kitchens, and built-in cabinetry is included at this stage.

In concert with the specialty consultants, Sustainable will produce a set of architectural drawings in conformance with the Ontario Building Code and Municipal guidelines. Sustainable will prepare the necessary documentation and oversee the application, submission, and review with the Municipality.

Part C: Construction Review

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Construction Documents

Construction Documents provide further details above and beyond the basic information required for permit application. This may include: lighting design, interior and exterior finishes, construction material and assembly specifications, door and window schedules, and advanced building envelope details. These documents will also allow the prospective bidding contractors (see Tender below) to more accurately price the project for construction, and for the successful bidder to build without confusion. Interior elevations or detailed design for custom millwork, washrooms, interior finishes, exterior decks, etc, as may be requested by you, can be completed as additional services. Often, our interior design package, beyond that required for a permit application, can be very helpful to the bidders, saving you time and money over the project.

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With a set of construction documents complete, your project will be distributed for a competitive Construction Tender. At this stage, Sustainable will meet with you on site with several prospective contractors (generally 4-5 contractors, and generally scheduled back-to-back on the same day). Sustainable will tour the site, further inspect existing conditions, and ask questions back-and-forth. These meetings will also allow you to get to know the contractors, and to begin to understand what it would be like working with them. Sustainable recommends soliciting bids from at least 3 contractors. After the meeting the contractors will have a few weeks to coordinate subtrades and submit their bids, after which Sustainable will perform a comparison and review with you to help you select a contractor for construction.

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Contract Administration

Sustainable’s Contract Administration assures both you and the Contractor that each are fulfilling your respective roles and obligations as outlined in your construction contract. Additionally, it is an opportunity for Sustainable to assist in realizing the collective vision by providing technical interpretations to ongoing construction decisions as they relate to your needs, unforeseen site conditions, and the requirements of the Municipality and the Building Code.

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Field Reviews and Reports

Sustainable will perform periodic site reviews of performance-related details pertaining to air-tightness, thermal effectiveness, and other key details that affect energy-efficiency and occupant comfort, in concert with the general site inspections required by the Municipality. Sustainable recommends review of: substructure and weeping tiles, framing, insulation, air/vapour/weather barriers, window installation and sealing, HVAC systems, cladding, lighting, interior finishes, and final project completeness. Multiple items can often be reviewed simultaneously; therefore Sustainable generally proposes 4 Field Reviews, along with ongoing coordination. Sustainable will perform a blower-door test once all windows, doors, and air-barriers are installed. Blower door tests verify the quality of construction and indicate where/how air-tightness can be improved. Air-tightness is a key factor in building efficiency, long-term energy savings, occupant comfort, and durability.


"Our contractor worked well with Paul and his team and often commented that the architectural drawings were excellent and easy to follow."

– West End Home Review - HomeStars 2013


Project Budget.

One of the first questions we get asked is “How much will it cost to build what we have in mind?”.
That’s a difficult question to answer, but we’ll try our best. 

 Your total Project Cost is made up of:

1. Construction Cost (to build your home);
2. Contingency;
3. Architect’s Fees & Expenses;
4. Engineers, ‘Specialty Consultants’ & Permit Fees;
5. Construction Cost (to build your home); and
6. Taxes (HST)

Budgeting the costs of Design and Construction is an important first step to help you to avoid surprises and frustration. Please share with us your budgetary goals and constraints. Only with full knowledge of your budget can we design within your constraints and allocate your project money wisely.

Sustainable can develop estimates in order to get the design into the right ballpark, but we rely on Contractors to provide the actual construction cost.

The architect, client, and contractor best work together to arrive at a construction cost that works for the client.

The total funds available for your project determines what size of building we can potentially construct new, or renovate/add to. When considering building new versus renovating/adding, costs per square foot tend to be similar. For a renovation/addition, savings are realized through lower material costs. However, there are increased labour costs to work around existing elements, to maintain existing features, and to improve the building envelope. In the end, the cost-per-square-foot is about the same. Every project is different, especially for renovation/additions, where reuse of the existing building comes into play.

Project Budget Breakdown

Source: Altus Group 2019 Canadian Cost Guide    https://www.altusgroup.com/canadian-cost-guide-2019/#close

Source: Altus Group 2019 Canadian Cost Guide



"Sustainable remained very conscious of our overall budget throughout the process. The importance of that cannot be overstated."


– Rosedale Residence Review, HomeStars, June 2010



The First Step.

Sustainable’s job is to make a space that is perfect for you, and which doesn’t cost you more than you want to spend. Although it will be hard work, it can also be fun and extremely rewarding.

As we progress through the design process you will learn about many different options that you have for each area of your home. Each project is different, and some of the techniques and approaches we talk about are appropriate and possible for some clients, sites, budgets and projects and not for others.

Your responses to the following Things to Consider will serve as an initial guide for Sustainable to create a design that is right for you. It will also be an opportunity for you to start, or to further develop, your thinking about your goals and priorities, which will make it easier for you to make the many decisions  required as we go along.

Once Sustainable has a good understanding of your desires for your home, Sustainable will draft a proposal outlining our fees for services, to be completed in parallel with the municipal approvals process.



Things to Consider.

1. What does your typical day in your current house look like?

2. What lifestyle are you looking for in your new home?

3. What architectural style do you like?

4. What type of spaces/houses inspire you?

5. How many people will be living in this space?

6. Do you frequently host family gatherings?

7. What is your overall budget?

9. Is it important to meet LEED, or Passive House standards?

10. If yes, then is it important to obtain official certification?

11. Are you committed to building a sustainable home, or do you need more evidence?


Get Inspired.

Before our first kick-off meeting, please take some time to collect some visual inspiration below that you can share with your Sustainable team.


The Sustainable Team looks forward to working with you to realize your healthy dream home.



200-943 Queen St. E. Toronto, ON M4M1J6