Thursday, 29 November 2012

It Takes A Village To Build A Village

It takes a village to build a village, collage, by
Collage: It Takes a Village!

It Takes A Village...: Part 2

It Takes A Village To Build A Village

So how does all this pertain to idea, "it takes a village to build a village"? And why should we care? The answer lies in the reality of today’s world, our relationship with nature and our disconnection from it and one another.

Nature has no “global solutions.” The environment of the earth is a complex ballet on an enormous scale, consisting of countless individual local ecosystems in balanced harmony with each other. In other words, the “global village” only exists in the minds of human beings. Nature itself understands that the status of the planet relies on strong local ecosystems, living in harmonious symbiosis with their neighbours.

We need to learn from nature and mimic its wisdom. That means connecting more with each other on a local level and in person to foster civic engagement, greater empathy for our neighbours and deeper social interaction. In some ways we are already doing this. The phenomenon of meet-up groups is clearly a manifestation of our innate need to connect in communities of likeminded individuals with common goals.

But a village is much more than a community of interest. A village, like an ecosystem, may have a common, shared goal (survive; thrive; prosper), but its constituent components (i.e. its community of members) can be very different. Indeed, they MUST be different. A village is made beautiful, powerful, resilient, interesting, dynamic, and creative — just like any ecosystem — through diversity.

It’s the way in which the diversity that makes up the village comes together to define it, build it, evolve it, grow it and bring it to life which matters.  It’s all in the how. And, just as ecosystems evolve overtime to adjust to the changing forces in the environment and the evolving needs of the individual members of its diverse community, so to must the way in which the village organizes itself change to meet the needs and demands of today.

PeapodLife is on the verge of announcing an exciting new vision of such an evolutionary jump in the concept of what a village is; and the diverse village of individuals, businesses and organizations who will make it what it should be—a vehicle for all to achieve common, shared goals.

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

It Takes A Village...
Part 1: It Takes A Village To Build A Building
Part 2: It Takes A Village To Build A Village

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

It Takes A Village...

It takes a village to build a building, collage by
Collage: It Takes a Village!

It Takes A Village...: Part 1

It Takes A Village To Build A Building

Everyone knows the saying "It takes a village to raise a child". In other words a community is required to raise a child well. A joint effort to instill knowledge, skills and values.

But how about a village to build a building? Or even a village to build a village?

Out of interest I looked up the history of forming villages. It has been suggested that the first villages were formed about 12,000 years ago in the Near East by people who started agriculture rather than relying on hunting and gathering. People who had a common interest settled down, likely for a combination of efficient farming, security, and shared social factors. These early settlements over time became communities with social and cultural structures and professional specializations.

A community is defined by sharing of common values and the help the members give each other rather than just acting out of self interest. A community also has an identity that forms the "glue" that keeps it together. German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies called it the presence of a "unity of will". He also argued that there is a collective sense of loyalty and strong personal relationships between members.

Ok, fast forward to today's world. We have achieved the ultimate in specialization through technology, but technology has also insulated us from each other. In our ability to converse with people throughout the globe, we have less personal contact with each other, we may even be less aware of our neighbours. We may be in a global village (the metaphor of how technology has increased our ability of receiving communication and information from everywhere, increasing our ability to interact with people throughout the world who have similar interests, ideas and concerns), but the backbone of society — the local village — is suffering.

Back to the question: How about a village to build a building? The principle is the same as for raising a child. A community is required to build a building well, a collection of people who have a common goal in mind that is higher than self interest. Bringing together the different trades, experts and economic factors who have shared values and interests in the building that go beyond a financial gain is key to ensure a successful project. With a vested interest in shared social and environmental values (in addition to economic value), everyone will be well motivated to give do their best; give it their all.

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

Stay tuned for part two It Takes A Village...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Some of the Challenges with Providing a Second Bathroom in a Commercial Space

Commercial renovation in progress, photos by
Photos: Wo-Built’s Commercial Building Renovation Project in Progress
2012 @
On our last project constructing a second bathroom in a commercial building was an interesting challenge

Most space renovations in large commercial building are generally straight forward as long as you don't mess with the structure. Then it becomes complicated. On our last project constructing a second bathroom was an interesting challenge.

Due to the slab configuration and the element within we could not core the slab for the toilet drain. Luckily we had a "spare hole" (previous drilling) in the vicinity, but, of course not in line for any of the bathroom fixtures. The amount of hoops we had to jump through to get the plumbing to code was phenomenal. But we persevered and we made it work.

On a general note the main issues in commercial spaces are the services, HVAC, electrical, fire/smoke alarms, sprinklers and plumbing are the main ones, because many are centrally controlled and can have system-wide implications. Even installing localized fans can be a problem, because you may have to puncture the outside envelope.

Even though these issues are often difficult, at Wo-Built we look for solutions, however out-side the box thinking we have to do.

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

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Is There Even One Straight Line in Nature? So Why Design & Build Civilization with Them?

Biomimetic Analysis of Lines in Nature, image mosaic by Wo-Built
Image Mosaic by Wo-Built: Biomimetic Analysis of Lines in Nature
Image Credits: MS Office ClipArt: Close-up of Green Leaf, Close-up of Fire,
"Nature does not proceed in a straight line, it is rather a sprawling development." 
~ Robert Smithson, American sculptor and painter

Suffice it to say, we at Wo-Built and Peapod Life feel Mr. Smithson was onto something. And while his words express nature’s apparent preference for nonlinearity simply enough, his artwork bespeaks the essence of this truism on a scale more befitting of Mother Nature herself. Robert Smithson - Spiral Jetty (Excerpts)
Uploaded by MtCenis on Mar 18, 2009
YouTube Video: Excerpts from the short film “Spiral Jetty,” featuring Robert Smithson’s 1970 earthwork sculpture of the same name. “Built on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point in Utah entirely of mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks and water, Spiral Jetty forms a 1,500-foot-long (460 m), 15-foot-wide (4.6 m) counterclockwise coil jutting from the shore of the lake.”

This begs the question: what is humanity’s obsession with the straight line? I am not referring to geometry as such. There are countless examinations and discussions of sacred geometry, for instance — the geometry found repeatedly in nature.

I am speaking specifically about the line itself, and that most peculiar and frankly unnatural quality of linearity. Let’s explore this line of thought, shall we?

No matter what our line of work, we line up, draw the line, line dance, hold the line, walk the line, hang-up the line, go down the line, cross the line, end up in the firing line, maybe fall back in-line, often in the line of duty, possibly in the theatre where we learn our lines and worry about sightlines, in the hopes the audience falls for our performance hook line and sinker, so that someday down the line things align for us and looking back we see that somewhere along the line we were thinking along similar lines.

Okay, all cheekiness aside, where does this come from!? I mean, is it simply a question of efficiency? After all, geometry 101 states the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? And while that may be true in theory, in reality, every “line” in nature eventually leads to its origin (it returns). Even light travels on a curve. So, there is ultimately no distance between any two points in the grand scheme of things (an infinite timeline; or, conversely, if time doesn’t exist at all, but is only an illusion of the intellect).

In that sense, then, efficiency is not one of nature’s cardinal rules of thumb. Humanity is obsessed with efficiency (whose origins can be found in a combination of laziness and greed) and thus linearity. Why is linearity very difficult to find in nature?

Nature is cyclic. Nature is built not on an intellectual theory about the distance between two points, but on the actual foundations of reality — that time and space are illusions of the intellect — and that all points are, in reality, all interconnected. And that in a very practical, meaningful and ultimately scientific way, all interconnectivity between nodes are transient movements and passing interrelationships on the gentle cyclic rhythm of life — points simply expanding and contracting.

The big bang will one day lead to the big crunch and the whole cosmic dance will begin again. That, my friends, is called a circle, a cycle, a wave, an “anything but a straight line.” And so it’s on the experiential knowledge of this objectively observable cosmic wisdom that Wo-Built proceeds with its Peapod Life Building Ecosystems and Technology initiative.

Yes, we take biomimicry this seriously. This is the depth of appreciation for the foundation of nature which must be considered, comprehended and embraced if we are to successfully construct a new building paradigm for the 21st Century — one that has resiliency and sustainability at its core.

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

links: Where Does One Get Good Ideas from for Innovative Design? Organics make List of Best New Restaurant Designs Combining Old and New Technology - The New Paradigm for Building? A New Construction Paradigm for Buildings

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Daylighting - Why Are We Regulating?

 Development of a Second Floor Addition Project by Wo-Built Design and Build Construction Company, TorontoWo-Built's Second Floor Addition Project
"...we could brighten the staircase with two large and spectacular side by side skylights."
Photo © Wo-Built Inc.

Daylighting - Why Are We Regulating Even Limiting One of the Best Resources in Buildings

Yesterday I attended the IES Toronto Chapter technical session on Daylight Harvesting since daylight is such an important part of PeapodLife, our holistic approach to Energy, Shelter and Food.

The session covered good daylighting design, it's importance in the space, the current codes and standards and some basic calculation methods; all in all a welcome refresher course for me, since my MSc thesis many, many years ago was in daylighting.

We, at Wo-Built, are passionate proponent for daylight in spaces and all our designs in the past have used skylights where possible. As the presenter (Sandra Stashik) mentioned studies have shown that daylight can increase sales, have students learn faster and bring about a better work performance. But for us daylight is more than just statistics, it brings a quality of life to the space that cannot be measured. It energizes us.

But the light alone is not enough in our opinion. Diffuse daylight is the most boring light quality that there is. That's why people like to switch on the light fixtures during the day, even though there is enough light quantity coming from the windows and skylights. The artificial lights give the impression of quality. What makes daylighting interesting is the sun aspect, the element that is most maligned in building design. It causes contrast on computer screens and work surfaces (shocking), heat gains (positively horrible) and heaven's forbid, since the sun is allowed to come through clear glass, you the user has a view to the outside.

I am not advocating that sun and daylight should not be controlled; on the contrary, a good lighting design should always use the proper shading devices, dimmers, orientation and keep in mind the use of the space. But one should not design interest out of a space. Unless there are safety factors where contrast is a visibility issue or where small manufacturing tolerances are required, the human eye and body often are happy to accommodate light and heat variances within reason. We also have the free will to change our seating position and work environment to suit.

The reason for the rant is that I feel that the current codes and standards are again bringing with them a benign big brother approach and are in danger of stifling creativity. It is great to mandate that daylight is required in buildings over a certain size, but does it have to go into details of fenestration sizes etc. Why can't it be left to the designers and architects to decide what is the best for the building use? All I am asking is that we have a little bit of common sense and not stifle creativity and innovation.

A lot of the decisions are made due to energy saving considerations not space quality ones, but just imagine you could have a building with mostly glass, still have large R values to offset heat loss, more choices in variable shading of the glass giving a dynamic environment, enough light to grow food in the space, enjoy the sunshine safely, maximize the daylight and produce energy at the same time. An outward looking dynamic building system, that encourages innovation and creativity. This is what PeapodLife is about.

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

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Women & Philanthropy: Come together for a Great Cause!

Women and Philanthropy, Fundraiser Toronto, poster by Plan Canada
Featuring Rosemary McCarney as this year’s Chief Guest and Keynote Speaker
Credit: Plan Canada

Women & Philanthropy
85 Broads - Toronto Annual Fundraiser

When: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Time: 6:00pm until 8:00pm in EST

Venue: La Maquette
Address: 111 King Street EastToronto, Ontario M5C 1G6

Price: $30 in advance and $35 at the door
Special 85 Broads member advance price of $25.
Group rate of 10 tickets for $200.

Rosemary McCarney as this year’s annual fundraiser's Chief Guest and Keynote Speaker.

As President & CEO, Plan Canada, Rosemary will speak about her journey to success and share tips with the audience. She will also talk about the evolving relationship between women and philanthropy as women are becoming more financially independent. If you’re curious about philanthropy and want to learn more, this is the event for you!

This event is being held in partnership with Plan Canada and proceeds from the event will go to Banji and Misbah, two little girls our chapter is sponsoring through Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl initiative.

Held at La Maquette, the Upscale French Restaurant at 111 King Street East.

Followed by optional Maquelicious gourmet dinner with speaker at La Maquette for $40 (special discount from the $50 prix fixe) with $2 for each dinner going to support Banji and Misbah.

This event is open to both men and women.

For more information contact:
web: Canada - Toronto Chapter
facebook: 85 Broads - Toronto Chapter
twitter: @85BroadsToronto

links: Empowered Girls Become Empowered Women
"By investing in girls- -- and by that I mean focusing our collective will, attention, and resources on their survival and development -- we can we support a generation of empowered women, mothers, workers and leaders who will improve the lives of everyone around them."
by Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO, Plan International Canada Inc.

Posted: 04/20/2012

linkedin: Women and Philanthropy

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Home Owner: Save Money On Your Construction Process with Management Services

Construction Manager's Job Is Never Done! photo-collage by wobuilt.comPhoto-collage: Rain? Construction Manager's Job Is Never Done!
Less Glamorous Work for a Construction Manager
2012 © Wo-Built Inc.

We are now offering construction management services for home owners that save money during the construction process.

We are managing contractors, which means we mark up all of our consultants' and sub-contractors' work by 15%.

We can, however, offer the same management services for less (10% + agreed scale for change notices) if we act as construction managers only. On a $200,000 project the difference is approximately $10,000 (cost of a typical bathroom renovation).

The difference is that we do not hire the trades directly, you, our client, does. You act as the General Contractor yourself.

This does not mean more work for you or less protection, we still manage the process, get you all the necessary documentations from the trades, such as insurance, warranties, commitments and negotiate the contract terms for you, but we would not handle the money. You would pay the trades directly on our recommendation as per work done.

We still make sure you have a quality and safe build, no different than we do if we are the general contractor.

One of the other advantages for you, the client, is that you are more involved on who works on your project.

We get several quotes from the sub-trades, evaluate them, bring them all to the same level so that we compare apples to apples so to speak, and make recommendations to you. Then the choice of hire is yours. However, we retain the right to be able to fire them or adjust their pay if they don't perform.

During the warranty periods we will act as your representative (for a fee) to ensure that any repairs are properly executed by the party responsible.

In short, we are still your advocates and quality control, but more cost effective for you.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us on 416-402-2679!

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build
links: Wo-Built’s Site Supervision Is Really Construction Management Your Home Renovation Begins TODAY
Fall is the best time to start looking at a major building or home improvement project. As with most things in life, it’s best not to procrastinate. And getting a jump on everyone else in terms of planning has many advantages. Construction management
Design and build contracts: There are two main advantages to using a design-build contract. First, the construction team is motivated to work with the design team to develop a design with constructibility in mind. In that way, it is possible for the team to creatively find ways to reduce construction costs without reducing the function of the final product. The owner can expect a reduced price due to the increased constructibility of the design.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Building for Sustainability?

Envisioning a sustainable rebuild of the world, collage by Wo-Built
Collage by Wo-Built: “Envisioning a Sustainable Rebuild of the World via PeapodLife”
Image Credit: MS Office ClipArt: Building Global Business Metaphor

Top 5 Things You Need for Your Green Building Project 
& the Top 3 Things We Need for Our Planet

Here are the top 5 things to consider when building your new house, addition, extension for sustainability:
  • 1. Intelligent green design.
  • 2. Strong, efficient, resilient foundation.
  • 3. Quality advanced materials.
  • 4. Cutting-edge systems and technologies.
  • 5. Superior workmanship.
Simple, right? Well, it certainly sounds simple, but execution is everything.  You want to choose an experienced green design & build contractor who shares your values for building a better world. After all, you’ve chosen sustainability on your major home renovation (or new build) for a reason, right?

Yes, you will save money in the long run with a more efficient house, but energy efficiency (and/or renewable power like solar, wind or geothermal) is just the beginning of sustainable construction, be it residential or commercial.

Every authentically green project (i.e. not green washing), is like a healthy cell of the larger organism known as humanity.  Each and every time someone renovates an existing residential or commercial property to be more sustainable, the humanity’s home improves ever so slightly.

That brings us to the top 3 things to consider when renovating the house humanity built: 
  • 1. Biomimetic Foundations of Design and Integration into the local/broader Environment.
  • 2. Biomimetic Materials, Systems and Technologies.
  • 3. Naturally-inspired Cooperation in Workmanship.
Based on the above two lists, it should come as no surprise that Wo-Built’s PeapodLife Building EcoSystems and Technology is the cornerstone of your sustainable building: home or office, new build, addition, kitchen, or renovation.
Add an ecosystem to your world; the world breathes a little easier.

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

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Green Dragons Breathe Life into Toronto Social Entrepreneurship

Toronto Greenhouse Screenshot
Image: Toronto Greenhouse Website Screenshot

Toronto Greenhouse: Green Dragons 5

When: Oct 30, 2012 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Where: Haworth Showroom
55 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5J 2H7

Join Toronto Greenhouse for the 5th edition of Green Dragons, one of our most popular events! Green Entrepreneurs get a chance to make their case to real investors.


Matthew Leibowitz, Partner at Plazacorp Ventures

Marnie Walker, Founding Member - Maple Leaf Angels / Owner - 401 Bay Centre

Tim Stoate, Vice President, Impact Investing at The Toronto Atmospheric Fund


Yield Energy, Detailing Knights,Pudiku Kids and Plantrees Inc.

Interested in pitching?

Contact Randy Tyrrell at

Green Dragons Breathe Life into Toronto Social Entrepreneurship

On Tuesday Wo-Built attended Greenhouse Green Dragons 5 event in downtown Toronto.

The Dragons listened to four pitches which included everything from a high-quality environmentally friendly all-natural rubber teething toy with lots of marketing potential to spotless waterless auto-detailing business, Detailing Knights.

Wo-Built made many good contacts during the evening and look forward to touching base with some of these to share more information with them about Peapod Life.

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