Hewitt Ave House

Designing with light

Located in Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village neighbourhood, this house was conceived as an urban home that would place a bold emphasis on natural materials, sustainable design and contemporary living. The home was constructed on the site of an existing home typical of Toronto’s older neighbourhoods and just steps from Roncesvalles. While renovation was considered, rebuilding was the most cost effective way to achieve the project goals to a create free flowing open concept design with natural daylighting, passive ventilation and a high performance building envelope.

The design implemented a passive solar design strategy that will take advantage of the sun’s daily passage and the movement of air through the seasons. In summer, the overhangs limit heat gain to the south facing rooms, while operable windows are orientated at the north and south ends of the building to take advantage of natural cross ventilation through the large operable patio doors. Two main vertical cavities (above the dining table and above the stair) are also used to bring light into the middle of the house year round and in the summer to naturally ventilate the spaces utilizing the stack effect to vent hot, stale air above and draw cool, fresh air in through lower openings. In winter the sun is able to penetrate the building and heat up the concrete flooring taking advantage of their thermal mass while highly efficient radiant in-floor heating and a wood burning fireplace are used to supplement heating. The heat in summer and the cool in winter are kept out through a highly efficient envelope with walls of R-30 insulation, roof of R-40 and ICF Foundations. These passive strategies reduce energy loads and augment comfort to minimize the demand on the mechanical system. The use of energy efficient appliances, LED and compact fluorescent lamps minimize the electrical loads.

Brick was used to ground the building in place as a dense material that harmonizes with the existing character of the street, while lighter wood introduced a new material that wraps the front entry and extended upwards to envelop the bedroom on the second floor. Cedar was selected as the main cladding material as it creates a natural warm and inviting entrance to the house that is also durable and long lasting. Though the interior spaces are kept crisp and clean, wood was used for the stairs and millwork to provide a richness and warmth in its contemporary design. Wood was also used throughout to support the structure and its workability and versatility made it compatible with other structural systems.

A green roof system helps to mitigate stormwater runoff, while the property’s landscaping was designed to require minimal irrigation with design features arranged to collect and store it on-site. Water conservation was considered throughout the selection of efficient plumbing fixtures.





Sustainability Features

  • Program and Spatial Optimization
  • Passive Solar Heating
  • Natural Ventilation and Passive Cooling
  • Natural Daylighting
  • High Performance Envelope Design
  • Renewable Materials and Finishes
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Non-toxic Materials and Finishes
  • Radiant Heating
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation
  • On Demand Hot Water Systems
  • Wastewater Heat Recovery
  • Rainwater Collection and Reuse
  • Low Energy Lighting & Appliances
  • Water Conserving Appliances & Fixtures
  • Green Roof Systems

Altius Project Team Architecture

  • Cathy Garrido
  • Construction Administration: Cathy Garrido
  • Mike Lanctot
  • Trevor McIvor

Project Partners

  • Builder: Colewood Construction - Toronto
  • Engineering: Hamann Engineering - Toronto


  • Jonathan Savoie