Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Message 2011 from Wo-Built

Image: Christmas message 2011 from Wo-Built
Christmas cookies, milk, Santa hat and note all on a table
Image credit: MS Office ClipArt -MH900216163

"It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace, and live in peace."
- Shenandoah proverb

At this special time of year, the entire team at Wo-Built, Inc. would like to take an opportunity to wish you and yours Seasons Greetings.

It is also worthwhile to mention at this meaningful time of the year that as a company Wo-Built continues its dedication to our social missions and to helping strengthen communities.

We also send our heartfelt wishes for peace at home and abroad, and the alleviation of hardships for all those less fortunate than ourselves.

We also remember the planet itself at this time of year. Mother Earth has been good to us, no question about it. She, too, deserves a token of kindness at this time of year. Wo-Built renews its commitment to eco-friendly building.

Last but not least, should you decide with your family that the New Year should bring a profound change to where and how you live, please remember that Wo-Built is here to help you create the house of your dreams for the family who calls it home.

To you, your family, your friends, and all those you care about, a very happy Holiday Season and a healthy, prosperous, peaceful New Year.

Wo-Built's Team
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Lighting Design of a Retail Space

Corus Quay, Atrium: Corus Entertainment Building - Overlooking the Atrium, photo by
Photo: Corus Entertainment Building - Overlooking the Atrium
See how the eye is drawn towards the light.
2011 @
Uploaded on

Design is all around us. Coming from an architecture background I look at spaces and often start analyzing them to see what makes them work or more often not. Recently I looked at the impact daylight has on the illumination of an up-market restaurant.

Let's imagine a restaurant with a store front, i.e. any passer-by can look into the restaurant and daylight can enter the building. This is a challenge during the day due to the brightness contrast between outside and inside. If the restaurant is not lit brightly enough to be seen, the space will look dark and forbidding from the outside. How often have we stood in front of a restaurant or a shop and wondered if it is open or closed. And, of course, if there is uncertainty we don't even try the door.

An up-market restaurant is a special case, since over lighting it during the day would make customers feel as if they were in a fast food environment, not very romantic and relaxing, but under lighting it would not be very inviting from the outside. Big dilemma.

Fortunately, a solution for this dilemma is simple and inexpensive. The solution is a combination of lighting and surface treatment. As the eye is automatically drawn to bright areas, the end area or wall of the restaurant has to be brightened up by using lighter colours and light fixtures that will wash the wall with light. This will give the inviting element to the space. The remaining restaurant can be kept relatively darker to create the more intimate setting. The lighting should be concentrated to shine on the tables, so that the diner can appreciate the food as we do eat with all our senses: taste, smell, appearance and even sound (just remember the crunchiness of freshly baked bread).

It is important to be able to create different light levels, as at night the contrast to the outside is reversed and it does not take as much light to sparkle. Hence in any design dimmers and selective switching of light fixtures is a must.

Lighting design is not cookie cutter and each situation need to be designed on its own merits. We incorporate lighting in all of our designs, and for restaurants and retail spaces good lighting is an absolute must. It will often make or break a space. Just imagine how much better your business would do if you created the right ambiance for your space.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build
Member of IESNA
Illuminating Engineering Society of North America

Thursday, 15 December 2011

To Renovate or Not to Renovate?

Existing House or New House, Move or Renovate Spreadsheet, image by
Image: Existing House or New House: Move or Renovate Spreadsheet
A homeowner dilemma: To stay-and-renovate an existing property
or to buy-and-move into a new house

2011 @

When talking to prospective clients often they wrestle with the choice “Shall we renovate or just move?”

Even though there are many reasons that will play a role in the decision, such as loving the house, proximity to schools/amenities, friendly neighbours, gardens, making the house exactly as you want it etc, money is high on the list.

Let’s look at the following scenario: An existing house and a new house located in the same Toronto’s west end neighbourhood.

The existing house required a rear or side extension to gain extra bedroom or family space : Current value: $ 400,000 + Reno cost $100,000 + HST

New house with required extra space (some renovation required): Estimated: $475,000 - $500,000

Scenario 1: To Renovate an Existing House
(owner can live in property while it is renovated)
Current value: $400,000
Renovation costs (Addition): $100,000 + HST
Estimated renovation cost: $113,000

Total staying and renovating costs to get the extra space: $113,000

Scenario 2: To Move to a New House
(some renovation required)

Estimated value: $475,000 - $500,000
Upgrade costs:
Difference to existing house : $75,000 – $100,000
Land transfer tax: $11,200 - $12,200
Difference to existing house buying costs $86,200 – $112,200

Moving costs:
Commission: $24,000 + HST
Moving expenses: Estimated: $2,000 + HST
Legal expenses: Estimated: $1,500 + HST
Home inspections: Average: $500 + HST
Minimum renovation: (window coverings, painting, bathroom upgrades, new carpets etc): $10,000 + HST
Estimated moving costs: $42,940

Total upgrade and moving costs to get the extra space: $131,140 - $154,940

Of course this is a simplified calculation and in reality the cost will vary according to the specific circumstances, but the case can be made that a renovation is more cost effective in the above situation.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Message from the CEO: Why Hire Us? We Are the Best...for You

Giving a helping hand: Image, illustration for message from CEO: Why Hire Us?
Giving a helping hand.
Image No: 0722800 from

All rights reserved

My recent experience having an advocate while dealing with one of Wo-Built's issues reminded me how much of a relief it is to have someone you trust guiding you and fighting in your corner. It made me realize that what we do for our clients is very similar.

Often, a large renovation is a once-in-a-lifetime project and it can be at once exciting, daunting and scary. You don't know what is going to happen and what to expect.

In the past articulating why I believed we are the best was always a challenge. Yes, we are the best because of our inspired designs, our professional work force, our transparency, but this is just as it should be. We’ve called it a stress-free renovation, but that didn't address what made it stress free.

Having had someone I could rely on to do the best for the company and therefore me, was a revelation. This person was my backbone, my resolve, my guide, my coach, my consultant, my cheering section… and this is what we do for our clients. This is what makes us the best for you, our clients.

We are your advocates, your champions and we 'fight' for you against all the obstacles a project might have: the city, the weather, building surprises.

We are also your coach, giving you guidance through the emotional rollercoaster. You can rely on us to do the best for your project and therefore for you.

We are stakeholders in your project, not only because we like you — that is a given as well — but because we have both a financial stake (we like to be paid) and reputational stake (we like to show off the projects we do).

Like any coach, advocate, champion… our success depends on you ‘winning.’ That is why we are the best for you; and, why you shouldn’t settle for second best.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: A Message from the CEO: What Guides Us We Are Looking for Adventurous Building Owners What We Do: Renovating, Contracting, Building Custom Homes A Reflection: Inspiration - Using the Building Trades for a New Start in Life
by Sabrina Erneman

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Contemporary Design vs. Classical Design – Personal Preference or De-facto Evolution of Design?

Contemporary design vs. classical design in architecture, collage

Collage: Contemporary Design vs. Classical Design
Images Credit: MS Office ClipArt: Cube Houses in Rotterdam; Row Houses in Amsterdam

"All the evolution we know of proceeds from the vague to the definite."
Charles Sanders Peirce


"All the ills from which America suffers can be traced to the teaching of evolution."
William Jennings Bryan

Quotes Sourced from: Brainy Quote

The argument for and against evolution is fitting given the question of contemporary versus classical design. It’s a case of the future versus the past. But which belongs in the present?

Contemporary designers
would argue no-doubt theirs is the valid approach. After all, isn’t this the 21st Century? Raised on Star Trek, dreaming of the day our living spaces made us feel we were an advanced, sophisticated, space-faring society, why not envelope ourselves in stainless steel, glass, concrete, etc.? Trouble is we are none of these things (at least not in the way we imagined). Technology has made us more detached from each another, our communities, our food and the environment. Contemporary western society confuses connectivity with connection; complexity with sophistication.

Maybe this explains contemporary design’s obsession with simplicity and “cleanliness.” Simple forms and clean lines counter the chaos of the modern world, but does it create warmth; comfort? There is nothing warm or inviting about stainless steel and concrete. Like industrial food (another “technological wonder” of the last Century), all the “life” has been processed out.

Classical design, on the other hand, seems sorely outdated—quaint for stay at a B&B in the Muskokas or a fancy dress ball at the Royal York. But really, who needs all that clutter in their everyday life? If you live in a farmhouse in rural Ontario, great; but, in East York, Oakville, and elsewhere in the GTA, the trend is to blend contemporary interiors with existing buildings (be they brownstones or loft conversions of old factories). Blending old and new in — dare I say it — a contemporary way.

The reality is that design is always a sign of the times. Like any other art form, it reflects the idiosyncrasies of particular eras or moments. Our society faces advancing technological complexity at a pace never before imagined. Resistance to change is equally potent. Today’s design is truly eclectic. We can see every conceivable permutation and combination of old and new imaginable. Old-style houses made from faux concrete stones with stainless steel kitchens, steel roofs and hardwood floors. Concrete, glass, and stainless steel buildings with animal skin rugs, wood furniture, stone accents.

To say it comes down to personal preference seems like a cop-out. It’s really about livability. Does a space strike a liveable balance between what you find aesthetically pleasing and what you need practically speaking? It’s not just about what a space looks like or how it works, but also how it feels.

The question of contemporary vs. classic has always been there, as each generation struggles to fit the new into the established. What makes a space liveable for you? That’s what matters today.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: Architecture: Combining New and Old Do Industrial Buildings Have a Future? Design in Motion … in a House!?