Laneway Expert Series: The Architect Builders Collaborative Inc.
Updated: Feb 10, 2022
Ever since the inception of the laneway suite movement, forward thinking professionals in the building industry took a leap of faith by using their knowledge and fundamentals of design and construction to pioneer the development of laneway suites in Toronto. As the interest in laneway suites among the general public grows, experts in this field, (including designers, suppliers, and builders) are being provided with new opportunities to showcase their innovative visions and technical prowess. As the first marketplace for laneway suites in Toronto, we at TurnKey wanted to highlight experts who have made significant contributions in the new, and innovative laneway industry in Toronto. In this segment of the Laneway Expert Series, we are featuring Daniel Hall & The Architect Builders Collaborative Inc.
Daniel’s love for Green design evolved from his early wood working days and it further permeated his interest during his studies at University of Waterloo School of Architecture. At the time, the Architecture faculty was closely aligned with Environmental studies and this is where the connection began. The Architect Builders Collaborative (TABC) was founded in 2009 and grew from an understanding that Architects & Builders need to work much more closely together to create affordable green buildings. Overtime, the team’s understanding of green building has evolved. It began with concepts such as energy efficiency and now it includes aspects of social sustainability and affordable housing with agencies such as the Red Door Family Shelter, John Howard Society of Ontario, and others. Laneway housing fits into their goals of a sustainable economy and Daniel Hall, the Director of Design at TABC, views laneway homes as the “thin edge of the wedge”. He and his colleagues have been interested in the typology even before it was codified with the city and recently they have been doing research on how green these dwelling units can be.
As the excitement of Garden suites grows in the city, Daniel and his team recently completed a 3 month-long research project on the cost vs benefits of requiring Garden suites to be green. This project provided value for the City of Toronto since it factored in the Toronto Green Building standard in an effort to sync housing with the city’s initiative (Transform TO task force) to have the city Net Zero by 2040. Daniel strongly believes green building practices should be implemented now to avoid costly retrofitting when the initiative is enacted in the upcoming years. Not doing so digs the hole deeper which is why Daniel and his team offer affordable green design. Overall, they see a huge potential in the laneway and garden suite space although these typologies are not their only service offering.
TABC has a few recently completed laneway suites and a half a dozen in the pipeline. A recent project was a property purchased entirely with the lens of investment potential. The house in front was rented out to 5 students due to its great location near the Bloor subway line and the rear yard presented the opportunity for a 1600 sq ft laneway suite. The project showed that in this new era, a 3-bedroom home with equally sized rooms on the second floor is now desirable while the concept of the master bedroom is phasing away. Before the project was fully completed, a video walkthrough was done and by the time the tour got to the 2nd bathroom the tenant took the deal - the suite rented for over $3/ft. Many of TABC's Clients are more interested in creating spaces for family use instead of rental income. In one project homeowners had an old Victorian near Trinity Bellwoods and the parents moved into a laneway suite so that their daughter could move into the upper floors of the main home and their aging mother in the lower. In this scenario, a backyard became a shared courtyard for 4 generations on 1 property.
In Daniel’s experience, one of the biggest misunderstandings about backyard homes is how big a 2-storey laneway suite really is and its impact on the backyard. When they walk into the backyard everyone wants to know how close to their house the suite can be built. The thing is, most people have no clue what a 20ft high wall looks like. When people realize they are amazed because in many people's minds they think a laneway suite is just a garage. They don’t realize that it’s going to be an actual house, which is smaller, yes, but still a second house - especially when 1600 sq ft is placed in your backyard.
Of the 50k properties that abut laneways in Toronto, Hall estimates that as many as 15k-20k of them might meet the various rules to build a laneway suite. With less than 250 built or in the approvals process, we have seen less than 2% uptake so far. When it comes to the key difference between laneway suites and garden suites, Daniel pointed out that laneway suites will have their distinction because the door in the laneway keeps residents close to the main house but is also very independent. Garden suites and their side yard access on the other hand, may have people more aware of those coming and going.
So far his best moments in the laneway suite industry are seeing the suites be completed and the look on client’s faces during move-in. Daniel recalls walking through a laneway suite with a couple that was partly moved in. He will never forget how delighted they were with the space and their excitement of having their family there on one property. Tony Robbins said, “Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life's deepest joy: true fulfillment” and the team at TABC exemplify selflessness and unwavering passion through their healthy, efficient, and beautiful spaces.
If you're interested in learning more about The Architect Builders Collaborative feel free to visit their website at www.tabc.ca or check them out on Facebook or Instagram.
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