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Canadian Modern Architecture: Toronto Healthy House

22 Oct 2019
Image Credit: Toronto Healthy House, exterior view from laneway.
Architectural Credit: Martin Liefhebber Architect, 1996.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Breathe Architects

This month, World Architecture Day is celebrated around the globe. In Canada, October also marks the debut of the first comprehensive review of Canadian architecture in decades. Co-published by Canadian Architect magazine and Princeton Architectural Press, the book Canadian Modern Architecture, 1967 to the Present, will be released on Monday, October 28. It launches with a series of events in cities across Canada, including several events in Ontario that have been supported by the OAA.

To celebrate the book, the blOAAg will include eight excerpts—chosen by co-editor Elsa Lam—over the month. Today’s selection is about the Toronto Healthy House, taken from Steven Mannell’s chapter, “Environmental Architecture.”

Though the competition design’s rooftop greenhouse was abandoned, the built version of the Healthy House goes beyond typical energy and water conservation to embrace technologies such as rainwater harvesting and on-site sewage treatment. Outside, the architecture leaves no doubt that this is not a typical urban Toronto house. Prominent exterior solar panels, including both photovoltaics and solar heating for domestic water, serve as sunshades and porch shelters.

Each unit of the duplex presents a different approach to self-sufficiency, allowing for comparative study of urban sustainable design. The official CMHC Healthy House unit is entirely “off-grid.” The second unit is grid-tied but still places much lower demand on city services compared to a conventional house, thereby expanding the ability of existing infrastructure to support urban intensification. The Healthy House garnered positive public interest by bringing a lifestyle of minimized environmental impacts to the urban core.


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