SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building

Architects
943 Queen Street East, Suite 200 Toronto ON M4M 1J6
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Reviews for SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building

Average customer rating:
9.7 10 (43 reviews)

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michelle arteaga in
2 reviews Oakville, ON
10/10

Our home was originally a 1950 side split with many stairs, drafty windows and one bathroom. Our family of five didn’t grow into it as easily as we thought it would. Especially with a young son with special needs.

We hired Sustainable.TO Architecture + Building after years of carrying around old newspaper articles on the work the company did. Our leads were Paul Dowsett and Steve Socha and we couldn’t have been happier.
They patiently reviewed our endless requirement lists, Houzz photo files and our need to see everything on paper in order to understand the vision.

We ended up with a beautiful home which accomodates our current lifestyle and will allow us to continue meeting the needs of our special needs son. As well, whether we believe it or not may age one day too...

Steve and Paul were especially educated in helping us understand and decide on the many seen, and unseen, energy efficient features. Our energy bills and maintenance of the home have already proven to be our favourite features of the house.

They were also extremely knowledgeable and professional when aiding us at the Committee of Adjustment meetings where they provided a professional fact heavy presentation to the town in order for them to understand why we had many of the features we were asking approval for. We truly feel that our home would not look or work the way it does without this initial hurdle conquered by Paul and Steve.

Overall we would highly recommend Sustainable.TO. for big or small projects because the value they add to the efficiency and beauty of your project will be enjoyed for many years to come.

Sustainable.TO provides beautiful designs that blend what you've dreamed about and add incredible behind the wall features to ensure the structure itself will keep you safe and warm for your life time and in our case our children’s.

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Company Response

Dear Michelle:
It was absolutely our pleasure, both myself and Steve ...and the whole STO team ...to work with you and your family to realize your dream home.
To hear how happy you are in your new home is the highest praise that we can receive.
That your energy bills are now so tiny is the icing on the cake!
We hope that you and your family enjoy your home for many years to come!!
Paul

Melanie M
1 review Toronto, ON
10/10

We have been following the work of sustainable.to for a couple of years and have always been impressed by their business model and approach to architectural design. When it came time to renovate our own home, we therefore knew that sustainable.to was the right design firm for us.

It was important for us to maintain the integrity of our neighbourhood’s culture and history when designing our house. Paul Dowsett, Nicholas Discenza, and the team at sustainable.to understood this and worked to ensure that our house balanced the modern, minimalist style that we desired with the heritage appeal of our street. At no point did they try to impose a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to our home design. Right from the beginning they made us feel like the house was an extension of us. They took the time to understand who we are as people, how we live, and the things that we value. They worked with us to understand how we move through the house and how we perform simple daily tasks, such as doing the dishes, and incorporated this into the design. They also advised on energy-saving strategies, heating and cooling efficiencies, and sustainable materials, all of which were important considerations in the modernization of our 90-year-old home.

From the initial design meetings through the building permit application process, Nicholas helped turn our vision into reality. He provided expert advice and guidance, while also listening to, and incorporating, our preferences along the way. This translated into a design that we are incredibly happy with - right down to the smallest detail.

We are proud to be part of the sustainable.to ‘family’. We would recommend Paul, Nicholas and sustainable.to without hesitation to anyone who is looking to renovate their home in future.

Andrew and Melanie

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Company Response

Dear Melanie & Andrew:
Thank you so much for the glowing review ...Nicholas (especially) is beaming!!
It was our pleasure to work with you ...and we hope that you and your family are happy in your 'new' home for many, many years to come!!
Paul

Etobs in
1 review Toronto, ON
10/10

We live in an area of Central Etobicoke where all the 1000 square foot bungalows or 1-1/2 storey houses in the neighbourhood are gradually being bulldozed and replaced by stucco boxes. 5 years ago, we bought one such house, which was built in 1932 but had received some cosmetic updates to the interior. While we loved the location of the house and its proximity to transit and shopping, there were several issues with original structure.

-There was no insulation in the house -- most of it was just plaster over masonry.

-No matter how much high the heat or A/C was cranked, the second floor was always freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer due to the sharp rooflines, building materials and lack of air circulation.

-The basement height was 6'2, but due to an HVAC retrofit, there were a series of bulkheads running through the middle of the space that had a 5'5 clearance.

-We wanted a little more space than 1000 sq feet, but were not looking for a mansion.

After living in the house for about 4 years, we compiled a list of everything we wanted in a renovation. We interviewed a few architects and in the end we chose Paul and Steve initially for their expertise in energy efficiency and also for their folksy, down-to-earth manner and their flexibility with meetings and correspondence. We knew that Sustainable.TO would not come cheap, but given the nature of the project, we didn't want to settle for price alone. This matched the ethos of Sustainable.TO. They approach architecture with a focus on durable, long-lasting and efficient materials and houses that are designed to last generations.

From the beginning, they advised us not to tear down our house and send it off to a landfill. The bones of the house were rock-solid. Steve came up with a plan for a rear extension and the conversion of our tiny garage space into a workable layout that would open up our living space and create flexibility that our family could grow with. They advised us on incorporating sustainable, high-quality building materials that are locally-sourced such as galvalume steel roofing (that will last 50+ years and reflect summer sunlight), a complete-house cladding of Roxul insulation that would insulate the house well above code, and a cladding of durable Hardie-board on top of the insulation.

When we were satisfied with our plan, Steve and Paul used their expertise to guide us through the city permit process as well as the selection of reliable, professional and honest construction professionals that could build up to their high standards. In the end, we went with a builder that we would have never found without their input.

We were out of the house for 8 months. Construction proceeded seamlessly and we moved back in ahead of schedule. Our little house had been transformed:
-With the large investments in "passive" features like the insulation and the roof, interior comfort at all temperatures has been drastically improved.
-HRV ventilation has increased indoor air quality.
-The low ductwork has been removed in favor of hot water radiators. The house was cozy and comfortable through the winter. We still have an air conditioner, but are hoping it does not require much use this summer.
-Despite a large increase in square footage (and higher energy prices), our energy bills have gone down
-Sun tunnels bring light through the roof without the issues that skylights present.
-Overcladding has improved air-tightness to prevent energy leakage.
-Not only has the Roxul insulation brought warmth to our house, it has made a very noticeable difference in noise level. Traffic noise that once came into our house from Bloor Street has been all but eliminated.
-The additional square footage was custom-designed for our needs (included upstairs laundry room and a walk-in closet) without excessive "luxury" features we would never use (soaker bathtubs, sauna, wine cellar).
-The outside of our house has been transformed into a sleek and modern look with clean lines and smooth sides, due to the use of the Hardie Board and steel roof while retaining the basic architectural structure of the original house
-Best of all, we did not have to tear down a high-craftsmanship, 85-year old structure and replace it with a stucco box!

Sustainable.TO is not cheap, but you will not be paying for frills and extravagances. What you pay for is technical expertise and a scientific, analytical and practical approach to solving a given set of problems. If this is the approach you are looking for in your project, we heartily recommend Sustainable.TO

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Company Response

Dear Etobs In:
Thank you so much for your ringing endorsement.
Steve and I (and the rest of the Sustainable.TO team) hope that you and your family are very happy in your "new & improved" home for many years to come!!

Lily in Toronto
1 review Toronto, ON
10/10

We worked with Paul and Donald to convert our multi-unit house to suit our family’s needs. The main floor now gives my father-in-law privacy, with a senior-friendly bathroom, a bedroom and living area. The new kitchen and dining area at the front of the house, where we all can come together, offers a place for my father to interact with the rest of the family. We are also pleased with the exterior insulation and overclad. We noticed the difference this has made; the exterior walls felt warm in the winter months. We upgraded the heating system. This included radiant flooring which the whole family enjoys. Paul and Donald, thank you for your creative solutions and listening to our needs!

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Company Response

Dear Lily:
It was our pleasure to work with you and your family.
We hope that you are all comfortable for many years to come!

olsendr in Toronto, Ontario
1 review Toronto, ON
9/10

We hired SUSTAINABLE.TO when we decided to renovate our century-old, semi-detached home in Riverdale. We wanted to add space for our growing family by expanding a previously-captured third storey. Maintaining the character of the existing house, increasing openness and natural light, improving the functionality of each floor level, and creating a connection to our back yard were key elements of our design brief. SUSTAINABLE.TO listened to our wish list, and proposed several design options for us to consider. We worked closely with the design team of Paul, Kelsey, and Nicholas, to refine our home into exactly what we wanted. SUSTAINABLE.TO were very mindful of our budget throughout the entire process and were very responsive through the entire process.

When deciding to add a third floor, we wanted to ensure the front of the house would retain its character and fit in with the other houses on the street. Our original idea was to keep the small original dormer at the front of the house and to forego gaining headroom. Paul's suggestion to build a larger dormer in keeping with the character of the street allowed us to gain valuable headroom in our new bedroom without disrupting the neighbourhood. These seemingly small touches make us thankful we hired Paul and his team.
SUSTAINABLE.TO worked well with consultants and the City to get all of our permits and approvals. Because we were adding a full third storey, we required approval for minor variances from the Committee of Adjustment. SUSTAINABLE.TO prepared the necessary materials, and Paul represented us at the hearing. After presenting our case, the Committee granted us approval for all of our variances! 
During construction, the team continued to keep in touch and were quick to respond to any questions and concerns, whether by us or by our contractors. They made themselves available when asked to come by and review construction, and provided guidance and recommendations when needed. When the new dormer began construction, the framer was unsure how to proceed. Paul and Kelsey stopped by to chat with the framer and clarify the design. A few hours later, the dormer was framed, and construction could resume! There was only one instance where the building inspector did not approve the roofing insulation, Roxul, which was proposed by SUSTAINABLE.TO, and we had to get a change order to go with spray foam.  

SUSTAINABLE.TO were also very helpful when we were making decision about finishes. For example, when we asked Paul what he recommended for window and door trim that would fit within the existing character of the home, he came back to us within 24 hours with construction details of a trim-work design that we loved for its simplicity and tradition-honouring detail. 
We had a great experience working with Paul, Kelsey, and Nicholas and would highly recommend them for any project ...so much so that we have recommended them to our friends ...and they are now happily working together!

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Company Response

Dear olsendr

Thanks for the great referral, and for the recommendations to your friends ...truly the best testimonial!!
The entire crew at SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building hope that you and your family are happy in your 'new' home for many years to come.
This will be our greatest reward!
Paul

Afterglow Studio in Toronto
1 review Toronto, ON
10/10

Working with Paul and Steve was an amazing experience. It was seamless, even though some of the timing with the city or landlords didn't always go as planned. I would highly recommend them for any architecture as well as design.

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Company Response

Dear Afterglow Studio: It was our pleasure to work with you, and we found your patience with the City and the Landlord to be extraordinary and a great example for all of us! We wish you all the best on your Yoga Studio ventures. Namaste!

L Janissen in Toronto
1 review Toronto, ON
10/10

I hired Paul and his team, Nicholas and Joel, to design an artist studio to replace a single car garage that needed to come down. The permit process was very involved and we ended up going to the committee of adjustments. Sustainable.to did a great job of managing this whole process and I got exactly what I wanted including plumbing to the building which every one said would be impossible! They also found a great contractor who did a fantastic job on the build. Overall I would recommend.

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Company Response

Dear L: It was our pleasure to work with you and your husband. We hope that your gorgeous new studio inspires you to great heights of creativity!! Paul

Sue DeGrandis from Markham
5 reviews Toronto, ON
10/10

This was our second architectural job where we employed Sustainable.to and worked with Nicholas Discenza as our primary designer, but overseen by the principal, Paul Dowsett. I think the best endorsement, is repeat business!
Nicholas is a good listener, and provides us with everything on our “want” list. He suggested many creative designs that suited our individual needs and so much more. We now have a brand new house with “street appeal” and functioning interior. Nicholas is the best and he remains professional even when things get tense and yes with construction, there are stresses.
There is great talent at Sustainabl.to and Paul Dowsett is always in the background when problems arise and he always had resourceful workable solutions as complications arose that needed a solution.
This architectural firm looks to the future in their design for sustainability. In areas such as energy consumption, environmentally friendly insulation and materials, good cross ventilation to keep the house cool without the use of Air Conditioning, a 50 year steel roof and proper water drainage. They also worked with us to design a house that we can live in, well into our senior years, with only minor modifications to accommodates.
The esthetically pleasing colours and combinations were the suggestions of Nicholas who also worked closely with my own artistic training in Ikebana. Sustainable.to also recommended some wonderful suppliers and trades: KWeld (Burlington) for our custom stairs; New Steel Roofers; Hardie Board Siding and so much more. I did do my due diligence with suppliers and trades, even when recommended by Sustainable.to, to ensure compatibility. Our main contractor was Arundel Contracting of Georgetown, with Craig at the head, we were in skilled hands and an unflappable personality.
We kept the Toronto Victorian exterior but the interior is very contemporary. We want to thank Nicholas Dicenza, Paul, Donald and all at Sustainable.to who helped us achieve a fully functioning and aesthetically pleasing house. Also for the support in getting us past those bumps and grinds of construction issues. We are thrilled with the result! Thanks to all at Sustainable.to and especially to Nicholas Dicenza.

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Company Response

Dear Sue:
Thank you so much for the opportunity to work with you and your family again. From our end, there is comfort in working with repeat clients ...you know us, and we know you. We hope that you and yours enjoy your 'new' home for many, many years to come.
Paul

Michael from Toronto
1 review Toronto, ON
10/10

Hugely grateful to our contractor for engaging Paul, Craig & the team at Sustainable.TO to help create YamChops - North America's first vegetarian butcher & prepared foods shop. Their creativity and input were invaluable. Our build brings us great pride and countless comments from our customers. Would definitely recommend Sustainable.TO and look forward to working with the team again. Hopefully real soon!

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Company Response

Thanks Michael: To say that the pleasure was truly ours is an understatement! To go on to say that, since your opening, we have enjoyed YamChops food offerings is a grand understatement!! Now we're just looking forward to your Leslieville expansion ... soon ... please!!!

KCnSuzie from Toronto
3 reviews Toronto, ON
9/10

Paul Dowsett, Steve Socha, Craig Race and his team are phenomenal!
We were looking to tear down our 1950's bungalow and rebuild a green energy efficient home for our family. We interviewed several people but found Paul on the internet. If he could design a straw bale house that was energy efficient, then he was the man to design our green house (although we did not build a straw bale house). Paul knew his green architecture and technology well and could field any of my questions with ease, insight, and confidence. . If you want to build a green home of your dreams that is one-of-a-kind then Sustainable.to is the team for you. I found it thoroughly enjoyable to work with the whole team. I had many ideas of my own, and they willingly incorporated them, improved on them, or suggested something better. If we ran into a problem, they could come up with creative solutions. Even the other trades and professionals that they recommended to work on our house were fantastic and I would recommend as well! They can walk you through the entire process.
We've finished and moved in and lived through a summer and winter in our new house. It was designed to use less than half the energy of a typical N.Am. house built to the same size, depending on our lifestyle energy usage. The top floor of our house is cool in the summer, only 1 degree difference from the bottom floor. He told us we wouldn't need air conditioning, but it really depends on your comfort level of heat and humidity. We got one anyways for comfort. In the winter, our walls are not cold to touch. We have a solarium that can heat up to 14C with just the natural sunlight while the outside temperature is freezing at -20C. This is just some of the many green home features.
However, be prepared to pay for the high level of service you will receive from Sustainable.to. We found them rather expensive, although well worth it. We've never done this before, so we wanted someone who was experienced, responsive, and easy to work with. To keep costs down, we found our own contractor to build our house (who were also excellent and have a long history of satisfied customers, although your probably won't find the company on Homestars). Although Paul's recommended builders are probably great as well, Paul was just as amicable to work with whoever we chose.
Building your own home is not something I would recommend for everyone, lots of blood, sweat, tears and risking your marriage. But if you want to make the experience enjoyable and fun, I would highly recommend hiring Paul Dowsett and his team at Sustainable.to!

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Company Response

Dear KCnSuzie: Thank you so much for your heartfelt endorsement!! It was our team's absolute pleasure to work with you, and we hope that you enjoy your affordable, healthy, and energy-efficient home for many, many years to come!!

The reviews on this page are the subjective opinion of the Author and not of HomeStars Inc.

More about SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building

SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building provides sensible, sensitive & sustainable solutions to create or renovate your home or workspace.

After three decades of green architectural practice, I understand the client's challenge: to see clearly through the fog of green technologies, products and philosophies. I began SUSTAINABLE.TO to provide expert resource and energy-efficient design /build solutions that are realistic, healthy and affordable.

Awards:
2018 - Winner of Youth Impact Award for Business from the Rotary Club of Toronto West
2016 & 2017 - Best Design Firm as voted by NOW Magazine Readers' Choice awards
2017 - Winner of Certificate of Excellence for outstanding achievements and dedication to Scarborough.
2017 - Winner of Urban Hero award for Community Engagement (Paul Dowsett)
2016 - The first renovation project in Toronto to receive the LEED Platinum for Homes from the Canada Green Building Council.
2015 - Winner of Design and System Integration excellence at the annual U.S. Department of Energy "Race to Zero" competition (in partnership with Ryerson University)
2014 - Aster Awards Winner, selected by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) as the 2014 Pollinator Advocate for Canada
2014 - Winner of the United Way - Bhayana Family Foundation Awards for the Community Design Initiative
2013 - Winner of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)-sponsored international competition, Resilient House for Far Rockaway, New York
2012 - Shortlisted entry in the Cambodian Sustainable Housing Competition for Habitat for Humanity
2012 - First Architects to receive the Healthy Housing Award from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
2011 - Winner of International Competition by "Design by Many" for Low Cost/Low Energy Passive House for New Orleans
2010 - "For the Birds" Competition Finalist in support of the Toronto Botanical Garden

CATEGORIES
Architects, Design/Build, and Design/Project Management
SERVICES
Our expertise in navigating environmental concerns, project budgets, social considerations, and municipal approvals allows us to efficiently complete projects at many scales. We will carry a project from early stages of Conceptual Design (often in the form of sketches, diagrams, and models) through to Design Development (further refining use, form, and material) and concluding with Municipal Permit Applications and Construction Documents. The decisions made in the early stages of design ensure success throughout a project.
STYLES
Sustainable architecture doesn't have a style! Any building can implement sustainable strategies to make it more green, healthy, comfortable, and energy efficient. Whether you're looking for modern, traditional, or something in between, we can help you out.
SPECIALITIES
renovation/addition, new construction, residential, commercial buildings, institutional buildings, passive design, net-zero, off-grid, grid-connected, heritage preservation, adaptive re-use, retrofit design, tenant improvement
WEBSITE
http://www.sustainable.to
YEAR ESTABLISHED
2009
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES
10
PAYMENT METHOD
cheque, e-transfer
LICENSES
OAA
MEMBERSHIPS
MRAIC, LEED AP, CanPHI Passive House Planner
LIABILITY INSURANCE
Yes
DIPLOMAS
B.E.S., B.Arch.
WORKERS COMPENSATION
Yes
BONDED
Yes
PROJECT RATE
as required
WRITTEN CONTRACT
Yes
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