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Daniels Residence: Eco-Deco


2012 photograph of south elevation and landscaping


Project Name:
Daniels Residence: Echo-Deco

Project Owners:
David Daniels, Kate Alexander Daniels

Project Location:
Toronto, Ontario

Principal-in-Charge 2005-2008 (Scott Morris Architects Inc.) Paul Dowsett, Architect                                                            Principal-in-Charge 2009-2013 (Paul Dowsett Architecture Inc. O/A SUSTAINABLE.TO) Paul Dowsett, Architect

Project Completion Date:
June 2013

Project Site:

Project Type:
Single Family Residential

Project Type Context/Setting:
Renovation and addition, increasing GFA by 10%

Other Building Description:
Historic, art deco mansion located in the South Hill neighbourhood of Toronto

Lot Size:
1900 m2

Building Gross Floor Area:
836 m2 (9000 sq.ft.)

Built in 1935 in the neighbourhood of South Hill, the original art deco masterpiece was designed for Major-General D. M. Hogarth, a prominent MPP and mining executive. When David Daniels, son of legendary developer John Daniels, purchased the historic home for his own family’s use, he spared little time in reimagining it into the elegant, “echo of deco” sustainable home that it is today. 

Sustainable Metrics

Through a thoughtful combination of energy efficiency strategies and dilligent construction practices, the project team was able to achieve a 36% reduction in total energy use intensity, as measured from The Owner’s utility bills. 



Diagram illustrating sustainable features 


A carefully orchestrated synthesis of resource and energy-efficient additions, heritage restoration, and deep green retrofit to a Toronto Art Deco masterpiece. The Daniels’ Residence is a symphony of 21st-century sustainability: taking advantage of the existing site orientation to maximize vistas and to capture cooling breezes from the adjacent low-lying lands; to harness passive solar heating and cooling; and implementing variety of creative reuse opportunities that presented themselves in the original structure.

Further sustainable strategies include: rainwater collection for irrigation; highly-effective insulation; light-coloured roofing designed with provisions for green roof installation; energy-efficient doors and windows; geo-exchange heating and cooling; multiple optimally-sized heat pumps efficiently zoned throughout the house; solar thermal hot water; solar electric preparations; sun shading devices; thermal mass concrete floors; hydronic radiant floor heating; and best-possible indoor air quality strategies.

The Daniels’ spectacular collection of art, furniture and light fixtures fills a home that is just as breathtaking in form. As stylish as it is sustainable, the ingenious ‘reimagination’ of this landmark Art Deco home is a testament to David, Kate and the team’s mission to preserve the old, while seamlessly weaving in the new.


1935 photograph; Northwest elevation with street-scaled garage podium


Originally constructed in 1935 by architect Mackenzie Waters, the Daniels’ Residence appears to be a mini Maple Leaf Gardens. In fact, Waters worked for the Montreal firm that designed the Gardens immediately prior to this South Hill Residence, clearly taking much away from his experience at Carlton and Church. 

Rather than demolishing the historic, though slightly past her prime mansion, owner David Daniels embarked on a restoration that he refers to as “the echo of Deco.” Daniels believes that it is important to respect Toronto’s rich architectural heritage, asserting that he is “fanatically devoted to Toronto and to preserving what we can of the housing stock.” By retrofitting the existing structure, the project team has achieved a high degree of sustainability, both environmentally and culturally.  


2012 photograph; Northwest elevation with street-scaled garage podium


2012 Site Plan


By opting to make use of existing neighbourhood development and infrastructure services, the project team avoided significant environmental impact to local ecosystems and reduces pressure on municipal services.  The project’s location in an urban setting provides occupants with easy, carbon-reduced access to basic services. Additionally, the project team sought to thoughtfully maintain as much of the existing construction as possible, reusing the original brick structure and window openings, and maintaining the principal room layout on the ground and second floors to reduce the need to alter the floor plate. This further allowed the preservation of the original quarter-sawn, white oak flooring; original Art Deco plasterwork; and the spectacular Gloria Swanson-esque principal staircase.   


1935 South Elevation and Floor Plans




Operable windows facilitate natural ventilation, while insulated spandrel glass reduces undesirable heat transfer


Paul Dowsett, Architect believes that buildings should strive to be a reflection of their environment, coexisting organically with their natural surroundings. The Daniels’ Residence is an exercise in respecting a heritage design, while taking a 21st century approach to passive design. Installation of operable windows allows for cooling cross ventilation, enabling occupants to easily regulate their indoor environment without the use of fossil fuels. In addition to natural ventilation strategies, the Daniels’ Residence is designed with a thoughtful transition from opaque, insulated spandrel glass on the North, to translucent glass along the East and West faces, permitting both natural light as well as privacy for occupants, and finally to the striking, energy-efficient transparent glass on the South facade. 




Exterior solar shades mitigate unwanted solar heat gain


A major aspect of the renovation programme was to enable as much natural lighting as possible, while respecting the original design of the historic art-deco mansion. Because the home was designed with a significant amount of South-facing glazing, the project team introduced tasteful, exterior solar shades to reduce summer solar heat gain, while permitting winter warming. Additionally, interior reflective light shelves were used to increase daylight penetration into the house, especially in the winter, artfully reducing electrical consumption due to lighting while providing an elegant, stylistic touch inside the house.  


Light shelves direct natural light deep into the indoor space


Mechanical room


Buildings play a massive, negative role in our climate, both locally and globally. Therefore, architecture must strive to reduce energy consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if we are to avoid global warming in excess of 2 degrees Celcius, commonly referred to as the ‘climate’s tipping point.’ In a region with seasons as extreme as Toronto’s, it is especially important to minimize the building’s heating and cooling loads by intelligent, passive design strategies. In addition to an extremely efficient, computer-controlled mechanical system, the Daniels Residence thoughtfully employs passive strategies such as triple-glazed, low-e, operable windows and curtain wall, which permit natural light while reducing unwanted heat transfer; south-facing exterior sun shades positioned to reduce summer solar heat gain, while permitting solar warming in the winter; interior reflective light shelves to increase natural daylight penetration into the house, especially in the winter; and a high albedo roof to reduce the cooling load in the summer. 


Exterior sun shades, one of many passive strategies



Durisol/Roxul Insulated concrete form (ICF) foundation wall


“If it was able to be recycled, it was probably reused on site,” says Dowsett. Innovative examples of this philosophy in action are cabinetry doors built from the old, single pane, steel-frame windows; as well as the pool house, which was framed with wood salvaged from the demolition of the original third floor and clad with cedar panelling and doors from a previous indoor sauna. Original, quarter sawn white oak hardwood floors were maintained, as well as the striking, art deco terrazzo staircase and plaster features throughout the home. Additionally, stone terrace slabs quarried in Southern Ontario reduce the distance materials are transported, conserving fuel. Block foundations made from cement and industrial waste wood chips; Mineral wool insulation, made from industrial waste slag; Sugar-based spray foam insulation; 33% recycled-content drywall; New Floors made of crushed walnut shells, a commercial waste product, encased in water-based epoxy resin, manufactured in Mississauga.


Poolhouse made from cedar panels, salvaged from former sauna


Green Roof Installation - June 2013


When the Daniels’ Residence was renovated for inhabitation (2006-2009), the economics of installing photovoltaic (PV) panels did not work favorably for the owners. However, recognizing that this would likely not be the case in the near future, provisions were made for future roof-mounted solar electric panels, which will reduce the building’s reliance on the municipal power grid. Additionally, provisions were taken to allow for the installation of a green-roof, which will reduce stormwater run-off, and filter pollutants out of rainwater. The vegetation and solar panels will keep the roof shaded and cooler, saving energy by reducing cooling loads. The PV panels and green roof are expected to be installed in the spring of 2013. 


Green Roof Installation - June 2013



Installation of an underground, rainwater-harvesting cistern


Too often, sustainable design focuses on energy-efficiency without paying much attention to other equally important aspects of sustainability, such as water purification and consumption. The Daniels’ Residence, being a large project, has a rare opportunity to not only reduce its own water impact, but also to set a powerful example as far as what can be achieved in other higher-end developments moving forward.

Employing proven strategies such as rain water collection in underground cisterns for use in irrigation, a green roof to filter pollutants out of stormwater, and native plants in landscape design, the Daniels’ Residence is able to achieve a very high level of water effiency while respecting its Art Deco tradition. In addition to reducing overall consumption of water, the Daniels’ Residence employs solar thermal hot water panels on the roof to preheat domestic water without the use of fossil fuels. 

SUSTAINABLE.TO team and U of T Engineering Students Hard at Work


In keeping with the project team’s tradition of active involvement with Ontario learning institutions, we have taken on a small group of University of Toronto Engineering undergrads who we will supervise as they hone their energy-modeling skills through use of the Daniels’ Residence as a case study. In this way, the students develop powerful professional skills, while the project team gains important data that will better inform our ongoing design practice.

David Daniels (L) and Architect Paul Dowsett (R)


Design Architect:
Paul Dowsett, OAA

General Contractor:
Coheze Developments Ltd.

Landscape Architect:
Ron Holbrook

Structural Engineer:
Halsall & Associates

Interior Design:
Phillip Moody

Lighting Designer:
Glenn Boccini

David and Kate Daniels

Calibre Mechanical