TORONTO ARCHITECT ASEN VITKO ON THE ADVANTAGES OF SUSTAINABLE HOME CONVERSIONS

by | Apr 8, 2021 | Interior Design, Real Estate

Two factors headlining a blazing hot real estate market through the spring months: home renovations and sustainable construction. Enhancing lifestyle while reducing carbon footprint are big priorities among Canadians now. Both are the main storylines when touring an eye-catching luxury rental now available at 142 Roxborough Dr. W., in Toronto’s Summerhill neighbourhood, a historical four-bedroom conversion by architect Asen Vitko.

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“Restrictions and lockdowns are fuelling the luxury real estate market in Toronto right now,” says Tamsin Pukonen, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “It turns out that being confined to our homes makes us want to switch up our environment and move to a different space. The properties that are getting the most interest are unique, character homes with access to private outdoor space.

“Anything out of the ordinary that gets the imagination going will peak the interest of people wanting to get out of their house. It’s almost like people are using real estate as a form of entertainment right now because there is nothing else to do.”

During wintertime, unique wood stoves adds a layer of warmth to the home, yet another reason to hunker down with family and friends.

Which brings us to 142 Roxborough St. W. in Toronto. In his conversion/home renovation plan, sustainability was a big focus, Asen says. Overall, talking to people in the real estate industry, there is more appetite among buyers and renters to reduce carbon emissions associated with their housing. But not at the expense of comfort and design.

That’s where 142 Roxborough St. W. scores – sophisticated and modern design melds with the heritage home, historical features (check out the images of the home, pre-conversion, below). Big trends in home renovations/conversions these days are energy efficiency through better windows, insulation, general air tightness in the home, and improvements in air quality.

Available for rent now

Just the facts: The home is available to rent, now. There are two units in the house. Top level is four bedrooms, two offices (ideal for work-from-home folks), six washrooms, one parking spot. It rents for $7,900 per month. The other suite, on the lower level, rents for $3,000 per month, and is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom luxury oasis.

You are just steps to Rosedale Station. So keep your car parked and enjoy the high walkability appeal in the neighbourhood, especially with summer coming. The design of the home is very spacious, natural materials contrasting with sleek finishes – contemporary, urban uniqueness.

Heritage home meets urban sleek

Original, exposed brick, tall concrete ceilings (9 feet), modern kitchen, polished concrete waterfall island, heated floor throughout are other features. There is a private fenced backyard with heated ice melting paths. Constant fresh air exchange and materials create a hypoallergenic environment. Passive House Standard of construction makes it an extremely energy efficient space.

(Passive House Building Certification is internationally recognized and provides third-party verification that the building meets high performance standards in energy efficiency when talking processes and products.)

Regarding Luxury spoke with Asen about the 142 Roxborough St. W. conversion project:

Click on image to enlarge and view gallery

What were the major project objectives?

Energy efficiency. The construction was to meet Passive House Canada standard of energy efficiency where solar heating and electrical requirements can be met with the minimum of solar energy system requirements.

No. 2 was saving all historical components of the building to preserve historical continuity of a 110-year-old Toronto home, which we accomplished. The third objective was creating a healthy hypoallergenic environment within the building.

What was your first impressions of the house prior to renovation?

I thought the house was a medium side detached building, that allowed more for considerable freedom in design. The original historical elements were largely intact and were in restorable condition. The lot was deemed large enough to allow for enlargement without seeking bylaw exemption approvals.

How were the historical components reused?

All exterior historical envelope components, such as decorative brickwork, stained glass windows were rebuilt and relocated facing the interior, including the original stone sills. All historical masonry walls were saved, cleaned and repointed on the inside, while new heavily insulated walls were constructed on the exterior to Passive House Canada standard.

The salvageable wood elements such as fireplace surrounds were reused on the inside in a decorative way. The original 110-year-old front door was restored and reinstalled. The feature central oval stained glass window facing the street was preserved in place and together with the front door serves as the only two original elements visible from outside.

Tell us about some of the sustainable construction techniques in the project?

The newly constructed elements are all made of poured concrete, heated with a hydronic hot water system that can be easily connected to drain down solar water heating without the use of glycol. The interior of the building thus achieved an enormous heat sink thermal quality, very much like the prehistoric caves dwellings functioned, cool in the summer and warm in the winter with a bare minimum energy requirement.

The relatively small solar system can sustain the domestic hot water and heating requirements. The electrical demand was reduced by sourcing warm LED lighting quality fixtures, and all materials were chosen for longevity that require no or minimal maintenance that are hypoallergenic and will last many generations.

Cooling is provided individually to house areas through heat exchangers. Thus there is no forced air transmission of bacteria and individual areas are cooled to the requirements of the occupier. The dewatering system of all underground water below and around the building is collected in a basement cistern that automatically sprinklers the soft landscaping.

142 Roxborough St. W., pre-conversion – click on image to enlarge and view gallery

What are some of the trends in home design, renovation and conversions that you see?

I do not see any trends. Single family dwelling design is going in all directions. They all meet the ever stricter energy requirements of the building code. General architectural design improved vastly. Sustainability is not a high priority.

The government bodies need to provide incentives. Cars have evolved much faster than architecture.

Were you satisfied with the project, looking back?

I am satisfied with the results we achieved. Will luxury homes go in this direction? Only if the home owner either is building for oneself as a long-term residence and wishes to benefit from the results energy-wise and take pride in reducing the carbon footprint.

Furthermore this type of construction is not subject to deterioration and keeps its construction value for generations. The hypoallergenic environment sustains occupant health. The physical cleanliness is easy to maintain.

For more information, and to take a look at this home renovation project, call Tamsin at 647-272-2467, or email her at [email protected]

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