The City of Toronto suffers from a shortage of available housing, and building new laneway homes can help to address this deficit. Laneway homes are also interesting for Toronto because they introduce a varied strategy for densification - beyond the residential tower or the suburban subdivision. A laneway house is a complete and autonomous residence, usually located on the same lot as a main house or commercial building.
You may find freedom in your ability to develop your own property.
I could extend my downtown commercial building all the way to the laneway...
I could build myself a laneway house in my parents' backyard...
I could downsize my life into a modern laneway house and turn my existing house into an income property...
In Toronto, laneside expansion is often allowed according to existing zoning by-laws for downtown commercial buildings. Laneway houses on residential sites presently require zoning variances based on case-by-case review. Toronto City Council is currently reviewing the possibility of a zoning policy amendment permitting laneway houses in certain conditions.
If you wish to pursue a laneway house for your property, the first step, a feasibility study, would include a concept design and the application for a zoning variance for your site. The City's decision to approve the project is dependent on factors including: density of the site, existing zoning setbacks, access to services, access for mail delivery and emergency vehicles, and presence of similar projects nearby.
Lia Maston started focusing on laneway design in Montreal as a partner in the laneway architecture firm Microclimat. Microclimat is on the forefront of laneway design and won the highest award from the Mayor's Foundation of Montreal in 2012. Lia returned to her hometown, Toronto, in 2014 to form Firma. Among other projects, Firma is presently working on a laneway house on Queen Street East in Toronto.
Great contemporary laneway house design depends on the mastery of back of lot conditions. We use a durable shell on the outside to provide security in laneways, and an open modernism on the inside to amplify living area. Our lane homes often take advantage of an elevated garden on the roof deck. At the ground level we gracefully integrate a garage and the front door vestibule. We treat our lane homes with the same care and precision as our high end luxury residences.
Firma is accredited to make LEED certified environmentally designed buildings. In standard form, we equip laneway houses with the capacity for solar panels and battery storage. We also look into the near future at the connection of homes in the city to a distributed solar energy grid.
Each laneway project begins with an enquiry into our client's intentions. Contact us for an initial consultation. During the project, the architect works closely with the client and the process typically follows this order:
Firma can work in a traditional architect's capacity on lane homes but we also offer a design-build formula for laneway buildings that can simplify the process for owner-developers. Design-Build means means that our builder partner is involved from the beginning, allowing the client to build a relationship with the builder from the start and get pricing estimates early in the design process. In this context, Firma partners with General Contractor Jacob Kachuba of Contignum Inc. Both Contignum and Firma guide clients up to the final completion of their building.