Mackay Laneway House: Zoning Variances - Submission 1

We received the list of required zoning variances from the City of Toronto for Mackay Laneway House. (If you aren't familiar with this project, please visit

We are seeking clarification on a few items and we will be addressing some of them in a resubmission. But we wanted to share the list with you all so that you get an understanding of the type of variances that may be required should you try and build your own laneway house in Toronto.

In some cases, there appears to be confusion as to what is the front of the proposed laneway house and what is the rear. I suppose that is to be expected at this stage.

Here's a summary:

  • Only 1 residential building permitted on the lot. We are proposing 2.
  • Permitted floor space index (FAR) is 0.6. We exceed this, though the notice lists a different area than what we calculated for our drawings. Awaiting clarification.
  • Minimum rear yard setback is 7.5m. We are proposing 0m and will not be able to meet this.
  • Minimum side yard setbacks are 0.45m on both sides. We are proposing 0m (no windows) and feel it is appropriate given the garages surrounding the proposed house.
  • Building cannot be closer than 2.5m to the centerline of the lane. We proposed 2.0m, but will make this change on the drawings.
  • Parking space must have a minimum width of 3.2m (because sides are obstructed). We are under this width, but we more than meet the minimum dimensions for a conventional parking stall. This will be further reviewed with a traffic engineer.
  • A building may not be located behind any other building. In our notice, we received two seemingly contradictory comments. In one item, the proposed building is behind another building. And in another item, the proposed building is in front of another building. We are seeking clarification.

These variances are obviously specific to the property in question. But it should still give you a sense of some of the obstacles. We also believe in transparency and are happy to make this public.

If you'd like to stay informed about this project, as well as others, you can email subscribe to the Globizen Bulletin at the bottom of this page.


Video: 56 social housing apartments in Bordeaux

Image from Leibar & Segneurin

Last year, French architecture firm Leibar & Seigneurin completed a stunning social housing project in Bordeaux called the Résidence Lauradey. It's about 4,276 square meters and contains 56 rental apartments -- each on their own floor.

For a lot of their work, the firm creates a short video where they talk about their design intent behind the project. They are beautiful videos and definitely worth a watch. Below is the video for Lauradey. It's in French, but has English subtitles.

How art, technology and design inform creative leaders

We're a big fan of John Maeda because he operates at the intersection of art, technology, and design. And we think of ourselves as an inherently cross-disciplinary company. Hopefully one day we can be just like John.

If you don't know who John is, he used to be President of the Rhode Island School of Design. But now he's a Design Partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, because the venture capital community has awoken to the value and importance of design.

If you haven't already seen it, check out John's TED talk by clicking the image at the top of this post. His design lesson is great (and funny) and his "professional social network" is something that still seems mind blowing even though the talk is from 2012.

A long term stay apartment hotel in Philadelphia

It's not exactly new (it opened last year), but we're crushing on the ROOST Apartment Hotel in downtown Philadelphia.

It's located at 111 S 15th Street in the historic Packard Building and is, as the name suggests, a kind of hybrid apartment and boutique hotel. They offer fully furnished studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites for brief or extended stays.

Here's their story:

The spaces they've created are incredible and they've definitely got their finger on the pulse in terms of changing attitudes around global living.

All images from

11.1 foot wide house in Osaka

Here at the Globizen Group we have a thing for small houses and we'd love to see more of them in Toronto. Constraints force creativity and we often don't need as much space and as many things as we think we do.

Here's an example from, not surprisingly, Japan (Osaka). It's called The Kakko House

The lot size is 11.1' wide x 42.6' deep, or about 473 square feet. That's about the size of a studio apartment in Toronto. And this yet this home has a ground floor car park, 6 levels, and total of 1,216 sf.

That equates to a floor space index of about 2.57 (total building area divided by the size of the lot). As a comparison, here in Toronto, most residential areas have a maximum floor space index of 0.6 to, maybe, 1.0. 

Canada has a bit more land to work with compared to Japan. But still.

For more photos, check out Design Milk. The above photos are from there via Yoshihiro Yamamoto Architects Atelier.

One's own home in Berlin

We are currently obsessed with the above residential project in Berlin at Zelterstrasse 5, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg. It's by the architecture firm zanderrotharchitekten and was completed in 2010. Here's the architect's description:

The building in Zelterstrasse consists of 23 townhouses, which are aligned to create a homogenous volume with 10 summerhouses behind it and 12 penthouses above it. In between, there is a large unplotted garden courtyard with a garage beneath it. The advantages of one’s “own home” while retaining the density of a residential estate add significance to the aspect of community. In addition to the garden, there is a rooftop terrace, a summer kitchen, a sauna and four visitors’ apartments, all of which additionally highlight communal characteristics. The separated, yet overlapping access to the building gives the project an additional village character in terms of its use.

What we love about it is the idea of trying to merge urban density with the traditional comforts of "one's own home." The result is something we would love to call home.

All of the images are Simon Menges via zanderrotharchitekten.

Have we hit peak car?

The Guardian recently posted an interesting article talking about "peak car". In many parts of the world, driving peaked in and around 2007. But since that timing also happens to coincide with the biggest recession since The Great Depression, many are asking whether "peak car" is for real or we are simply taking a little break from driving. 

Click here to give it a read. It's by Aaron Renn -- also known as The Urbanophile.

Two crazy public policy ideas that could advance technological innovation

We are very open minded when it comes to new technologies and things that may seem far out there, today. Because what might seem crazy today, could very well become tomorrow's normal.

The above TEDx talk is by Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures (a venture capital firm). We've been following his thinking for awhile now. One of his consistent messages is that we've shifted from a world of scarcity to a world of digital abundance. There has been an inversion.

To go along with this inversion, Albert believes that we should be considering some pretty radical public policy changes. In this talk he explains two of them: (1) a "basic income guarantee" and (2) the right to be represented by a software bot.

These undoubtedly sound crazy to most of you. But it's definitely worth hearing him out and keeping an open mind. Click here if you can't see the video at the top of this post.

First crowdfunded real estate project opens in Washington D.C.

Crowdfunding has officially come to real estate.

Maketto, a unique restaurant/retail store at 1351 H Street NE in Washington D.C -- which was funded using crowdfunding platform Fundrise -- has just opened up. The building was purchased for $825,000 and the crowdfunded amount was $325,000 across 175 local investors. To learn more, check out this post from Architect This City.

Image Source: Maketto