360 Winnett

Building An Eco-Modern Home

Take a good look because this house at 360 Winnett Avenue is about to be demolished in favor of a new "Eco-Modern" house to be built in its place.

Jeremy Bell and his wife have embarked upon quite a project- to document their experience designing and constructing a brand new home on the lot they have lived in for the last five years. They have set up a blog with the aim of sharing the details involved in choosing to build an eco-friendly home over simply buying something new.

Jeremy says that although it's great to share green design and construction ideas, he hopes that blogging the process will provide a platform to answer all the little questions people have about what he's doing. Daily photos, a calendar, webcam, and open access to project documents (including budgets) will all be a part of the site which is live now but gaining more content as the demolition phase is scheduled for the end of July.

Is it really possible to have absolutely no prior experience in building design or construction and decide to be involved every step of the way? "My experience ends with Holmes on Homes," says Bell. The original plan started with a pretty normal design with an emphasis on more space than the current home. He just had a feeling he could do better with the money they were spending and came around to the idea of quality over quantity. The new design has a reduced size but more features and "less empty space".

Bell emphasizes that a good architect willing to spend the time explaining the pros and cons of the various "eco-friendly" options is essential. Solar panels and water collection units sound like great ideas but are not always the best investment when working with a budget. He's already taking a bit of heat for forgoing some of these more hardcore green ideas and focusing on quality (expensive) insulation, windows, lighting, and otherwise less glamorous design features.

You can take a look at some cardboard model photos.

For potential buyers, the perceived high Toronto house prices can make renovating a more attractive option. And Cedarvale is consistently ranked as one of the Toronto's hottest real estate markets if judged by prices on the rise. A big renovation might not be the best option if your agenda is to flip your home, but if it's somewhere you know you want to be for a long time it gives you real control over your space. The fact that the project is technically considered a renovation- they are rebuilding what was already there- actually qualifies them for more grant money (federal and provincial energy efficiency audit grants) than if they were building on a new lot.

They might be paying more upfront to build the home they want but they see that as a sacrifice worth making. And sacrifice they will- they'll be living with in-laws for the 6-8 months it will take for the new house to go up.

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