Hewitt Ave House

Toronto, Canada

Located in Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village neighbourhood, this 3,000 square foot 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.

Toronto contemporary home with skylights providing natural light.
Dining Room with large skylight above custom marble and wood dining room table
Siting Room with polished concrete floors, multi-panel sliding doors and fireplace placed in a concrete mantel

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.


  • 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
  • Green Roof Systems
  • 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
Contemporary dining room with floor-to-ceiling French Walnut cabinetry

Jonathan Savoie

Detail of custom build marble table with wooden base to match the legs of Eames chairs

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.

“The property’s hulking, century-old neighbours created luminary limitations, but this was nothing that 13 skylights—and a brilliant interior plan—couldn’t fix. Three sun tunnels flood the second-floor bedrooms and bathroom with light. But it’s the two multi-paneled light wells, infusing the sprawling ground floor with daylight, that do the real heavy lifting. One, a four-panel bank cut out above the dining area, makes the space glow; a second cavity set over the floating French walnut staircase is even larger. Totalling seven panels, the skylights are controlled by a rain sensor and work in tandem with the ceiling-height sliding doors to light and ventilate the home.”


“The couple – who have a young son and a cranky Siamese cat—had purchased a dilapidated duplex on a small dark lot (just nine-metres-wide) in Roncesvalles, but they wanted ‘bright and contemporary. The lot and the Ontario Building Code limited how many windows we could put on either side, if any.’”