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Laneway Housing and Garden Suites



I believe the second one was pointed out to UT members by Ed007 during the last Doors Open. Trefann Street, by Queen and Parliament IIRC.

That's not it. The one on Trefann is on the corner of Trefann and a laneway.

Trefann from last winter. Need to do a followup.





Perfect house for laneway
But regulators block this type of low-energy home

Robert Ouellette
National Post

Thursday, November 23, 2006

When architects Bridgette Shim and Howard Sutcliffe decided that Toronto's back lanes were a design opportunity, they had to spend years convincing the city that laneway homes should be part of our urban fabric. After all, Toronto decided it had to intensify its core. Laneway homes offered one way to do that.

At the time, our city's moribund regulatory environment stifled innovative architecture. Toronto's planners and politicians received a gentle nudge from the two local architects, changed and the city is better for it.

Skip ahead a decade or so. Laneway housing is an entrenched part of our city. It works well. However, as Shim and Sutcliffe can confirm, changing the city's policies did not come easily.

Today, we need innovative land use policies more than ever. Look, for example, at the Ontario Liberal government's decision to build a gas-fired power plant downtown. Instead of using energy wisely, it promotes more consumption.

And, according to some critics, it creates a tipping point. They argue the plant's additional contribution to airborne pollutants will increase the rate of illnesses and cause deaths. In 2005, Toronto suffered through about 50 smog days. Get ready for more.

What can government regulations do to make the city healthier to live in? Encouraging energy-efficient buildings is an important step, but the lead time on new office complexes is long and it appears this generation's condominium tower buildup is just about over. Toronto will just have to live with the big buildings and work to retroactively make them more energy efficient.

Fortunately, there is an option that is energy efficient -- and we can start implementing it today. Sustain Design Studios's miniHome is CSA-approved, and production can accommodate 1,000 families in a year. That is, if our regulators are forward-thinking enough to allow it.

Architects Andy Thompson and Lloyd Alter of Sustain Design are dedicated to creating and selling well-designed, energy-efficient housing. How efficient? A family of two adults with two small kids can live a year in one of their miniHomes and consume the total energy equivalent of about $200 in propane. Theirs may be the world's "greenest" mass-produced dwelling.

With built-in solar panels and a small wind turbine to generate electricity, the miniHome does not require hookups to the electrical grid. It also has tanks for fresh water and waste water so it can, if needed, be independent of the city's water and sewer system. Other refinements include a "green" roof that reduces the need for air conditioning. The one problem: Where do we put them?

This takes us back to Toronto's laneways. In many neighbourhoods, long lots back on to viable laneway streets. Shim and Sutcliffe proved that those lots can be subdivided to make room for new housing. Imagine if the city were to decree that miniHome-like solutions could use those lots. In one step, we would create communities of sustainable housing on otherwise underperforming land.

Right now, the city and province have regulations that will not allow this type of low-energy home. There are a number of reasons why. Some have to do with building codes and others are planning related. Given an increasingly fragile environment, all cities will sooner or later have to change their building policies. We can plan for that change or react to it. The choice is ours.

The one problem: Where do we put them?

Healthy House in Riverdale is a good example where to put them.


My scans came out funny so they look like drawings, but I believe they're actually photos.

No, actually, they're conceptual. Investwhore linked to an article that explains where they're from.


A back-alley building brawl

A back-alley building brawl

From Friday's Globe and Mail

A bid to launch a creative new style of downtown home by converting a laneway commercial building into two “town lofts†became a harsh primer in the bureaucratic process for two young sons in a Toronto development dynasty.

The costly tribulations of Jordan Mecklinger, 25, and his brother Shawn, 27, show just how hard it is to build housing anywhere in Toronto's 311 kilometres of back lanes, despite the city's commitment to increasing density in the core and to considering such projects on a case-by-case basis.

Jordan and Shawn, recent graduates in urban development and real estate finance, respectively, and the fourth generation in a family of builders, thought they'd come up with a no-brainer to brand their new company, Kilbarry Hill Corp., as a hip, young downtown developer.

They had purchased a building on Croft Street, tucked behind the shabby cafés and variety stores of Bathurst and College streets, right next door to a pioneer laneway housing development that had set a precedent when the Ontario Municipal Board approved it in the eighties.

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Enlarge Image
Developers Jordan and Shawn Mecklinger, right and second from right, along with their uncle Jerry Mamid, left, and father Allan, at the site of their new project at 6 Croft St. Jordan and Shawn will soon begin the conversion of an old commercial building in the alley into a two-unit apartment. Next door is a rug factory that has been transformed into four separate laneway condos. Inset: The revised drawing for the building on Croft Street. (ASHLEY HUTCHESON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

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The Mecklingers' building, though zoned residential, was being used as a commercial photography studio. To turn it into housing would restore it to its correct legal use.

Furthermore, city planners had specifically mentioned Croft Street as the type of lane that is suitable for the odd, innovative little laneway homes that have been pet projects of a number of architects in the past 20 years. It was classified as a street, had water, sewage and power hookups and a number of commercial structures.

But their plans to transform the big square commercial building into two 2,100-square-foot residences with three open-plan levels and exposed beams and ducts quickly ran into trouble. They needed zoning variances because the present building filled the whole lot, and that meant notices were sent out to the neighbourhood, including the homeowners on to whose yards the property backed.

They got unlucky. Some of the neighbours hated the idea and one happened to work for the city. A massive neighbourhood mobilization ensued, and the Mecklingers found themselves facing a crowd of hostile faces at two public meetings called to discuss the plan.

At the second one, they were shouted down and hustled out of the public hall.

“We had introduced ourselves, said ‘Hi, we're gonna be in the neighbourhood,' and there were 20 or 30 people there all shouting,†Shawn says. “We weren't building 150 townhomes or a high-rise condo, yet there was this huge mobilization and email campaign.â€

After purchasing the property a year ago and closing the deal in February, they'd hoped to be starting the construction work last April.

Their uncle, Jerry Mamid, wanted to move into one of the units and had agreed to sell his family's Forest Hill home to Shawn.

“The city ground us,†says Mr. Mamid, a former lawyer, teacher and garment factory owner who is “acquisitions director†for Kilbarry Hill.

When the variance issue went to the committee of adjustment, the plans were rejected.

The Mecklingers didn't want to throw in the towel, and prepared an appeal to the OMB. It scheduled a meeting for August. The afternoon before the meeting, the family's lawyer got a call from city solicitors asking for a compromise that would push the massing of the building away from backyards and onto the lane.

Mr. Mamid called on his father-in-law, 75-year-old architect Peter Darling, to do an 11th-hour overhaul of the plan, and the funky H-shaped original with its cut-in courtyards at front and back, and open space on the lane, was gone.

“It would have been beautiful,†Jordan sighs. “We wanted it to be like a wedding-cake step-up to the second and third levels. It would have been more aesthetically pleasing.â€

Mr. Darling drew the redesign by hand, Mr. Mamid recalls.

“Faxes flew back and forth that afternoon and the next morning between lawyers' offices.†When they got to the OMB hearing they had made a deal, which the OMB approved.

But still no building permit came.

After spending more than $700,000 on the property and $100,000 to get it through the approvals process, they still don't have a permit in hand — though the city has said it will come in two weeks and has given them the go-ahead to proceed with digging up the floors and excavating soil for new footings.

Jordan and Shawn's father, Alan Mecklinger, a developer and landlord of industrial and commercial plazas throughout the city, expresses bitterness.

“NDPers [at the city] are just picking our pockets,†he says. “A simple project is turned into a very, very costly chain of events orchestrated by the bureaucracy. ... Everyone is a loser in the end.â€

Then he switches from experienced businessman to fond father.

“I really saw it as a great opportunity for the boys to put themselves on the map with something creative in the central core, and it turned into a very miserable experience,†he says sadly.


Re: A back-alley building brawl

Some of the neighbours hated the idea and one happened to work for the city. A massive neighbourhood mobilization ensued

Oops. Sounds like a lack of research on their part. When you know someone has the ability to make your investment a difficult and expensive process, make sure they're on-side before kicking in the capital.

They knew a zoning change would be required and that requires some buy-in from the neighbourhood.

These things go much easier when a few folks in the area will say they trust your judgment.

An hour going door to door saying "I'd like move here and make an investment that I believe will improve the neighbourhood, what do you think?" would have saved them a ton time and agony.

“NDPers [at the city] are just picking our pockets,†he says.

Yes. Laneway housing was so much easier to build during the Lastman days. Thousands of them went up during that time without any problems at all.


Re: A back-alley building brawl

I just love how people throw out NDP as the reason for either a) Toronto is "in decline" b) Taxes are too high c) There's crime or d) NIMBY pandering. It's as bad as how Bush throws around 9/11.

Last time I checked, Stintz and Walker, the worst NIMBYs on council, are no Dippers.


Re: A back-alley building brawl

The idea of building laneway housing is both positive and exciting and I would expect, at least within the next 5-10 years to see a increase in such buildings, legal or not. That said, I would bet that this will be discussed again and eventually will be passed, probably with lots of restrictions and regulations at first, but eventually legal. The added densities would be great for the city and not to mention how great it would be to walk through these tight narrow laneways, with various styles of small infill architecture..

Kind of reminds me of Japan or parts of Tokyo-at least the idea of it does- not from visual looks, but from a space perspective.



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The Junction, Toronto
I noticed this place recently. It's another laneway house recently built in what was an industrial area. Check out the link for photos.

Function in the Junction

PROJECT Courtyard House, Toronto, Ontario
DESIGNER Studio Junction Inc.
TEXT Lola Sheppard

There are many areas of Toronto whose edges are defined by ravines, rail-lines, or major traffic arteries, and they operate like urban villages. Wherever such infrastructure--whether it is natural or man-made--intersects the traditional fabric of the city, urban anomalies emerge: triangulated lots, disconnected alleyways, dead-end streets and so forth. It is within this accidental or anomalous fabric that one encounters architectural surprises such as the courtyard house by Peter Tan and Christine Ho Ping Kong of Studio Junction, a young Toronto design firm.

Situated within a surprisingly sublime landscape of rail corridors, concrete factories, and light industry, the architects have converted an old contractor's warehouse into a remarkable live/work space for themselves and their two children. Maintaining and extending the original concrete block walls of the factory, the designers have created a truly urban house, but one which creates an intimate interiority within the surrounding urban fabric.

Much as infrastructure creates anomalous zones within the city, voids are used in the house to demarcate programmatic transitions from living to working spaces. The house is organized around two courtyards: a more formal court at ground level that separates the main house from a workshop/ studio space, and an intimate courtyard on the second floor which acts as a counterpoint in scale and section to the main court.

In plan, the house develops as a series of spaces or strata alternating between well-lit and muted zones. The ground floor, albeit entirely open, is subtly divided into office, kitchen, living space, courtyard, and workshop strata. These strata are marked by zones of compression and decompression, articulated through changes in height and light. Similarly, the second floor is organized into strata of bedrooms and play spaces, a circulation band, a wet "corridor core," a smaller courtyard, and a linear void to the office space below.

The ingenuity of the house is the doubling of the courtyards, and the articulation of their differing programmatic and experiential roles. There is a sense that even the most seemingly mundane acts of domestic life, particularly the spaces of labour, are given equality with more formal spaces. The kitchen acts as a centre or pivot point on the ground floor while the generous bath and laundry room are given full glazing and direct access to the second-level courtyard. This "wet" workroom and its adjacent courtyard serve the basic needs of washing and hanging laundry, but also provide intimate play spaces for the children.

Offset in section, the courtyards serve as a light source in a range of ways. Because of the relatively large area of the original factory, the house is deep in plan and has surprisingly few openings to the street. Hence, virtually all views and light are captured from the courtyards. The ground-floor office is bathed in clerestory light borrowed from the upper-level courtyard. Similarly, the kitchen area which separates the office and living spaces, is otherwise quite dark but is animated by a skylight which gathers light from the upper courtyard. This play of courtyard, light and views establishes a sequence of long vistas which perceptually expand the volume of the house.

The materiality of the house is controlled and minimal. Concrete block and large cedar-framed glass panels define the exterior enclosure with a recessed wood "bay" marking the house's entrance. Inside, the polished concrete floors at ground level are a nod to the industrial origins of the building, while teak and mahogany plywood line the ceilings, walls and built-in cupboards. The extensive use of wood, which is warm and slightly dark, emphasizes the sense of interiority in the house.

For Tan and Ho Ping Kong, the house was a leap of faith, a kind of urban and architectural pioneering. The couple spent several months looking for an appropriate site--in particular, one inexpensive enough that they could afford to build a house from scratch on a very tight budget. Having spent a year on design and planning permission, they spent the next three years building the house themselves, with Tan acting as general contractor.

The architectural graduates have travelled extensively throughout Europe and Asia studying courtyard typologies: both vernacular and formal, ancient and modern. These influences permeate the architecture. The house also evokes a Dutch humanist sensibility, recalling Aldo van Eyck's statement that "a house is a tiny city, a city a huge house." There is an urbane quality to the house. In its reinvigoration of a neighbourhood in transition, there is also a sense of interiority at multiple scales such as the courtyards, lighting, and even the furniture. Drawers tuck ingeniously into the stairs to form storage. Beds are built into walls, and the play spaces can be reconfigured, subdivided or expanded, by means of screens. Each occupant--whether adult or child, working or playing--can customize the house to his or her uses.

Van Eyck denounced the falsity of abstract antonyms: "small versus large, near versus far, part versus whole, outside versus inside, individual versus collective." It is the courtyard house's multivalence--to be urban yet introverted, open yet intimate--that reveals the rich potential of the project's double readings.

Lola Sheppard is Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. She is a partner of Lateral Architecture in Toronto.

Client Peter Tan and Christine Ho Ping Kong

Design Team Peter Tan, Christine Ho Ping Kong

Millwork Studio Junction Inc.

Contractor Peter Tan

Ground Floor Area 2,200 ft2

Budget $350,000

Completion 2007


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The Mews houses in London UK are charming

expensive and exclusive. It's a shame new housing has to mean even more one bedroom unit condos.


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I may have caught a fleeting side-glimpse of it--is that Carleton Village school in the background in one of those article photos?


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From National Post 4-2-2009

Prefab modernist studios in Toronto's back alleys?
Posted: February 04, 2009, 3:27 PM by Allison Hanes
planning and growth committee, BlueSky Mod, prefab

Imagine Toronto’s laneways lined with sleek, modern studios and offices, where artists paint and architects design, their commutes to work reduced to slipping on shoes to pad across the backyard. But don't dare imagine living in such divine quarters.

BlueSky Mod, which describes itself as “a Toronto-based design and manufacturing company that creates beautifully designed, eco-friendly modular living structures to meet the needs of aesthetically and ethically discerning consumers” made a presentation to the planning and growth committee yesterday on their wares.

They were invited there by councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity Spadina), who followed up by asking city staff to report back on the logistics of allowing such modernist pre-fab modules to be used in Toronto – but not as granny suites or rental units, he was quick to specify.

“As of right you can put a garage down, but you can’t put down an artist’s studio or a pottery studio or a games room, if you wanted to. But is there a way of [situating] these little spots which might also create local employment for professional services?” he said.

Such structures could be laden with possibilities in some quandrants of the city, Mr. Vaughan said, although he added:

“It’s fraught with difficulties though. I know from my own ward, that nothing triggers concern more than house-behind-a-house environments. I’m not trying to create separate environments in that regard, but I don’t think we should be outlawing all options without exploring them."

While garages are allowed, Mr. Vaughan said the back alleys and expansive yards of some parts of Toronto could be put to much more creative use.

"I don’t think it should be in every neighbourhood and I don’t think every building site in any given neighbourhood is necessarily appropriate, but I don’t think it should be forbidden right across the city," Mr. Vaughan said. "I know exactly where I wouldn’t do it in my ward. But I also know there are places in my ward where it might actually be an interesting way of using land differently. And so I just want to get staff to look at it and give me there opinion as to whether there’s a way of proceeding with it."

Although BlueSky Mod does design prefab modernist cabins and cottages that are "off grid", Mr. Vaughan said he's not looking for a new type of housing for the city, because it would open a whole new can of worms.

"I don’t think it should be a way of subdividing your property and building a second house because then you’re going to come back and ask for two, three, five storeys," he said. "How can we use the garage differently without actually going up and what kind of zoning restrictions could you put in place so you didn’t end up with two- or three-storey houses in the backyard, which I don’t think are appropriate."
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Hipster Duck

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I love proposals like this, but have you ever seen one of those red vans the Toronto Fire Department drive marked "Supervisor"? What people don't know is that they're not sent out there to help fight fires but to deploy a team of specialists whose job it is to supervise the act of putting down great urban ideas.
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A professor of mine back in the day, Martin Liefhebber, won a competition back in the early 1990's to come up with a solution, and a plan for laneway housing. His plan was to allow for what would essentially be the extension of the existing street grid by including the laneways and to make all housing/dwelling/offices located in the laneways almost entirely self-reliant. Rain water collection, solar and wind power, sewage collection all done in house and used to fertilize garden in greenhouses etc. This would have meant increased density without only having to build ridiculous condos everywhere, but also would have created some absolutely phenomenal intersections of life within many neighborhoods scattered across the city.

The ideas went over so well, that this city even tasked him to draw up preliminary plans as to how to implement his plan. However, due to the narrow laneways, the plan died a quick death- why? Our immensely large firetrucks cannot fit in the laneways and poof! that was the end of that.

Why not have some smaller trucks that can make it into these places? How does Europe manage, or any city where they have tight lanes, only wide enough for three people? The point is they do and they have and they have accommodated such interesting places by making smaller firetrucks. We on the other hand do not and will not. Let's just make outright illegal.