Hewitt Ave House

Toronto, Ontario

Located in Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village neighbourhood, this 3,000 sq. ft. house was conceived as an urban home with a bold emphasis on natural materials, sustainable design and contemporary living. The home was constructed on the site of an existing residence typical of Toronto’s older neighbourhoods, and just steps from Roncesvalles Village. While renovation was considered, rebuilding was the most cost-effective way to achieve the project goals and create a free-flowing open concept with natural daylighting, passive ventilation, and a high-performance building enclosure.

A green roof system helps to mitigate stormwater runoff, while the property’s landscaping was planned 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 and appliances
  • Water conserving appliances and fixtures

Jonathan Savoie

The design implemented a passive solar strategy that takes advantage of the sun’s daily cycle 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 utilize natural cross-ventilation through large operable patio doors. Two main vertical cavities (above the dining table and above the stair) bring light into the middle of the house year-round and especially in the summer. This naturally ventilates the spaces by applying 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. 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 very effective enclosure with walls of R-30 insulation, roof of R-40, and insulated concrete form (ICF) foundations. These passive strategies reduce energy loads and enhance 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.’”