Ulster House

Harbord Village, Toronto

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Toronto’s first multiplex demonstrates market affordability, beautiful design, gentle density, environmental thoughtfulness.

 

In Toronto’s Harbord Village, a mature and walkable residential neighbourhood rich with amenities, Ulster House is LGA principals’ Janna Levitt and Dean Goodman’s self-initiated challenge to create a prototype for medium density housing: a five-unit condominium built on a typical, single-family lot, that benefits both its occupants and the city.

The project’s forward-looking goals also included delivering each unit at a price comparable to a standard Toronto condominium, designing compact spaces in which one could happily live for years, and advancing a zero-carbon agenda without sacrificing conventional comforts.

The design team measured each material and system for its viability of construction, beauty, and market affordability. Consequently, Ulster House has no gas line. It runs on an all-electric HVAC system and solar panels, utilizes plywood veneer instead of drywall, and it meets the sustainable metrics of Architecture 2030 for Carbon and Passive House, all at a market rate.

Although Ulster does not resemble a typical house nor a condominium, the architecture feels familiar. Its clay tiles nod to the surrounding context. The overall design highlights views of  a mature Blue Spruce tree, and the landscaping features new contours and native plantings to retain stormwater, draw natural light into the lower level and encourage pollinators. 

The couple occupy the building’s main floor and the laneway house as one unit, traversing between the two via a heated and covered walkway to engage daily with the elements. There’s a one-bedroom unit on the lower level, and two two-bedroom units on the second and third storeys, each with generous terraces and expansive views. 

Ulster House illustrates both how single-family neighbourhoods can break Toronto’s dominant “tall” and “sprawl” development with gentle density, market affordability, and deep sustainability. The project also demonstrates how “citizen developers” can achieve alternative forms of homeownership with an emphasis on the quality of life.