Integrated into the 2011 Federal Budget, the government announced yesterday a one-year extension to the Eco-Energy Retrofit program for home owners. If you live in a drafty old house and feel like you are paying too much for your heating and cooling, the program can help offset the costs of upgrading building insulation, weather stopping, doors and windows. However before any of the renovations start, make sure that a qualified engineer of energy auditor tests your home in its current state to create a benchmark reading for comparison. If the drywall is already ripped off, you will not be able to conduct the test, and thereby become ineligible for the program. For additional information, refer to Natural Resources Canada's website. For information and suggestions on how to improve the energy performance of your home, contact KHA Design.
The Ontario Power Authority is offering up to $650 worth of incentives for homeowners to replace their existing furnace and/or air conditioning unit with new, Energy Star certified heating or cooling systems. According to the Power Authority, up to 60% of a typical home's electricity bill is devoted to heating and cooling. With the continual rise in energy costs and another hot, humid summer expected for Ontario, installing a new system can help reduce utility bills and the home's draw on our shared natural resources. The offer is valid only in Ontario between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011. For details, refer to the Ontario Power Authority's website.

Aging-in-place is a hot topic these days. As baby boomers enter retirement, the government is bracing itself for the impending “gray wave” of elderly adults who will need access to specialized health care services and accommodation at the same time. Ideally, an individual will stay in their own house or condo as long as possible. There are many modifications – both permanent and temporary – that can be made to a home to achieve this. As there are many different considerations, this topic will be broken down into different parts, the first being dedicated to bathrooms.

Despite everyone's best attempts to age gracefully, the process is often accompanied by slowly diminishing capacities such as vision, hearing, balance, flexibility and strength. Washrooms that were once considered luxurious can become hazardous, but with simple modifications can be made safer and easier to use. A person can spend thousands of dollars retrofitting a washroom with permanent components. However; if on a budget, many temporary items can be rented, or found on Craigslist, Kijiji or other classified ad websites. Below is a list of considerations that incorporates both permanent and temporary measures that can make a bathroom more accommodating.

For those who sorely miss the venerable Ballenford Books, Swipe Books has stepped forward to create a store-within-a-store to fill the void left after the former landmark institution closed it doors. Currently, Built Books offers Toronto's best selection of Architecture and Urban Design publications. It can be found at 401 Richmond Street West, just east of Spadina Avenue. Their website features a blog that discusses new acquisitions as well as architectural issues in Toronto.

Source: Masonry Heater Assoc.
The Masonry heater goes by many different names; Finnish Fireplace, Wood Heater, Kachelofen, Grundofen, Varaava Takka, Tile Stove and Ceramic Stove among others. All of these names refer to a large, specially-constructed fireplace that uses small amounts of fuel and is capable of heating an average family home. Although not always appropriate in a retrofit application, in the cold Canadian climate they are a sustainable home heating alternative in new home construction.

Masonry heaters first appeared in Northern Europe in the early 16th century. Historically, they were used in the kitchen, combining a stove, oven and seating areas. Located in the center of the home, they were fired twice daily for the preparation of meals and heating. The heaters were in all homes regardless of social status; however they varied aesthetically from white wash clay to ornate masterpieces.

In celebration of its new issue covering how Toronto "embraces, endures and ignores the coldest days of the year," the venerable Spacing Magazine will host a release party for its Winter 2011 edition on Monday, February 21, 2011. The event will be held at the El Mocambo (264 Spadina Avenue - the corner of Spadina and College) starting at 7:30pm. Existing magazine subscribers pay $5 at the door; $10 for others (however this gets you a copy of the new issue too). The event promises games and prizes for attendees.

If you are in the market for a new home heating system, consider radiant heat. These systems come in different configurations such as under or in-floor, or the traditional radiator variety. The most energy efficient and cost effective systems are water based – or “hydronic” systems. Going from an existing forced air furnace to a different system may seem exorbitant, but if you are in the midst of a home renovation and have the opportunity to reconfigure your heating system, it may be worth the effort.

Source: Fine Home Building.
If you do a quick Google search for 'Dog Architecture' there are two typical results. The first, epitomized in Fred Albert's book Barkitecture, are examples of extravagant dog houses, created with all of the creature comforts a well-loved canine companion deserves. The second are examples of off-leash dog parks, expertly integrated into beautiful landscape designs that are discretely fenced and free of poisonous plants. If you refine your search to 'Pet-Friendly Home Design', there are many articles discussing interior design issues such as flooring, furnishings and other elements to provide a comfortable, safe home for you pet. However, in addition to interior and landscape design, if you have the good fortune to renovate or build a new home, there are many pragmatic space planning considerations for the dog owner.

Planning opportunities include storage, maintenance and rest. Compared to a typical house cat, dogs – especially large breeds – have considerable more space requirements. If you love the look of contemporary, minimalist architecture, to achieve this the dog owner must ensure that everything has a place. This includes not only food and water dishes, leashes, mitts, and towels, but also designated areas for sleeping and cleaning. Solutions to these requirements vary from integrated millwork to designated rooms.

The Toronto Society of Architects (TSA) has introduced their 2011 line up of events, including their Urban Affairs Forum. The first of the 2011 season will be held Thursday, February 3rd, at the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto located at 14 Elm Street (two blocks north of the Dundas Street Subway, east of Yonge Street). The forum will "[discuss] ‘the media-cracy of design’. What is the role of media? How can/does design become a public debate? How is awareness generated and, does it matter? How does public perception (and media’s depiction) influence the design process + outcomes?"

The event will be moderated by the CBC's David Michael Lamb and include a panel composed of other architectural critics from around city. The TSA promises that the forum will generate a heated debate. For more information, visit the TSA's website.
When starting a renovation or new construction project, knowing where to start and who to ask for help can be confusing. While a contractor or home designer can modify or adapt at your request, architects are trained problem solvers who can provide design solutions that take many factors into consideration. These include both pragmatic elements such as the cost effective use of building materials and the integration of all building codes, as well as abstract ideas such as natural light and air quality. Architects will ask questions and gather information about your lifestyle and specific requirements. They are trained to recognize and anticipate your needs – even if you don't know how to express them. The success of this process relies on communication. Space creation is collaborative; your architect can't do it without you. For as much training as architects have, however; if you begin a project without having done any of your own research or investigation, the process is more difficult for the architect – and more costly for the client – as the architect will spend many hours trying to determine both your requirements and preferences.

To facilitate this process, you can do some homework. Below is a list of items to consider and collect. They will help your architect quickly get an idea of what you are looking for and also help the architect refine their fee proposal and their own research on your behalf.