Thoughtful Neighbourhoods

Years ago my mom owned a house cleaning company.  During the summers, I’d often work as her assistant.   One area of the city where she had numerous clients was Wildwood Park.  I was always intrigued by the back lane entrances and the way the fronts of the homes faced each other, all connected by wide open green spaces.  The houses were unique and canopied by mature trees.  It felt like being in cottage country and I often thought I’d like to live there.

Fast forward 30 years and I continue to be fascinated with Wildwood Park.  It’s still a charming, desirable place to live (apparently residents will “swap” houses when they require something larger or smaller, rather than seeking a home outside of the neighbourhood).

So why am I writing a blog about this Winnipeg neighbourhood?  Recently, S3 completed a renovation design plan for a home in Wildwood Park and construction has just begun.  As the skeleton of the house is revealed layer by layer, it’s fascinating to learn the secrets that lie behind the walls. (And trust me, there have been some doozies! Remember how in my previous blogs I talked about the reality phase and contingency planning?)

Front yard green space

Demolition begins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildwood was built based on an urban development plan called the Garden Movement created in 1898 by a British Urban Planner.  The goal with the Garden Movement was to separate residential and industrial areas so that residents could live in slum-less, smokeless environments.  After WWI, this plan type was pursued in the United States and a community called Radburn, New Jersey was built.  Radburn was based on the following design goals:

  • separate automobile and pedestrian traffic
  • introduction of cul-de-sacs
  • interior parks

Radburn created wide spread interest in the Garden Movement and caused it to be recognized as an innovative and influential urban plan type. Three neighbourhoods in Winnipeg were designed on its principles.  Wildwood Park, Norwood Flats and Gaboury Place.

The original plan for Wildwood, submitted to the R.M. in 1908, was called the Wildewood plan.  It was proposed by developers Colonel R.M. Thomson and Mr. Ralph Connor and was comprised of internal lots and riverbank acreages, similar to Wellington Crescent.

 

After Colonel Thomson died in WWI, a number of lots along, what is now South Drive, were sold but few homes were actually constructed.  From 1916-1945 the land was reclaimed by the R.M. of Ft. Garry and then transferred to the City of Winnipeg with the intention of building a city park.  However, due to flooding and budget constraints, the City transferred the property back to the R.M.  After WWII, owner of Bird Construction, Hubert J. Bird (resident of South Drive and expert at mass construction production), discovered the Radburn development during a flight over New Jersey.  Understanding the post-war housing shortage, Bird purchased the land from the R.M. and hired architectural firm, Green, Blankstein and Russell (GBR) to develop a plan.  The design principles established by Bird and the architects were:

  • Children could go to school free of conflict with cars
  • Residents could find their daily needs of food, services and recreation within walking distance.

For the houses, pre-fabrication and assembly line innovation was the name of the game.  The five basic plans were:

  • 1 storey bungalow without basement, 4 rooms
  • 1 storey bungalow with basement 5 rooms
  • 1 ½ storey 6 rooms
  • 2 storey 6 rooms
  • 2 storey with den 7 rooms

 

Between 1946-1948, Bird built 307 houses which conformed to the five designs. The custom perimeter houses were built later.

Community amenities included:

  • The Wildwood Shopping Mall (Built in 1947, but burned down in 1981)
  • Community Centre
  • Schools
  • Churches
  • Tennis Courts

 

 

Wildwood Park is a thoughtfully laid out gem within our city.  The homes today look anything but assembly line homes.  They’ve been given unique personalities by their loving home owners.  Wildwood is one of those neighbourhoods where people stay. And if they leave, their children often return.  It has become a showcase for urban researchers from all over the world.  The thought put into the lives of its inhabitants and creation of community has paid off.  It goes to show that thoughtful neighbourhoods are lasting neighbourhoods!

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference: Background Study on the Wildwood Park Community Prepared by Wildwood into Tomorrow Committee 2013

Realities of Renovating- Part 2 : DIY vs. Bring in the Professionals

A few weeks ago I started a blog series titled: ‘Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV’.   My goal is to share with you years of experience in the design / building industry and to offer some insight on how to best prepare for the realities of renovating.  Let’s dig into step 1 of 3:

Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.

D.I.Y. has been a popular acronym for the past 20 years or so.  (Actually according to Wikipedia, it was introduced in 1912 and came in to common usage in the 1950’s, but it really took hold once the world wide web and HGTV came along.) D.I.Y. primarily exists in the residential realm where homeowners plug into websites like Pinterest, Houzz, and You Tube where endless creative ideas exist.  Do-It-Yourself is meant for simple projects where weekend warriors can roll up their sleeves, put in some time and elbow grease, save some money and feel proud about the fruits of their labour.  IKEA was born out of the D.I.Y. movement. (A favourite place of mine, I’m not going to lie.)

 

 

 

 

 

‘It’s lovely. Have you actually built a flat-pack kitchen before?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when does a project go from D.I.Y. to “bring in the professionals”?  Here’s a top 5 list that indicates you should start hiring:

  1. Your renovation requires a permit and the stamp of a design professional.
  2. Your renovation requires structural, mechanical and / or electrical alterations.
  3. You have no design experience and don’t want to waste money on costly mistakes.
  4. You’ve never picked up a tool in your life and can’t decipher which end is up. Especially if the tools are sharp.
  5. Your time and energies are better spent focusing on what you’re good at so that you can pay a professional to do what they’re good at.

Once you’ve decided that your project is not a D.I.Y.er, what types of professionals should you be calling?  Here’s a list of options and the types of work they do:

Architect:  A licensed professional responsible for planning, designing, and reviewing the construction of buildings.  They create total environments, focusing heavily on the building shell. Architects often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on major building / renovating projects, especially commercially.

Interior Designer:  A professional responsible for designing functional and creative design solutions for interior environments. They work within the building shell to design for the health, safety and well-being of occupants. Interior Designers often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on interior focused commercial or residential projects.

Architectural Lighting Designer: A professional responsible for the design of lighting systems, including  the control of natural light, electric light, or both, to enhance and strengthen design and to  serve human needs. They work closely with Architects, Interior Designers and Electrical Engineers.

Structural Engineer: A professional responsible for ensuring that structures to withstand stresses and pressures imposed through environmental conditions and human use. They make sure the building doesn’t fall down.

Mechanical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Mechanical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of mechanical systems.  This often focuses on heating, cooling, fire protection, plumbing and air quality systems.

Electrical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Electrical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of electrical devices.  This often focuses on calculating & distributing electrical loads, wiring, communication & building controls and specifying electrical systems.

General Contractor:  A general contractor, or G.C., is hired to take the plans created by the professionals and bring them to reality.  He or she will orchestrate the comings and goings of the trades, order mate­rials, inspect the work done and coordinate an ever-changing schedule.

So now that you know when a project has gone beyond D.I.Y and the range of professionals available for hire, where do you go from here?

 

Start by talking with design professionals who specialize in the area most appropriate for your project (see definitions above).  Have phone conversations and / or face to face meetings with a few until you find someone you feel has the expertise you require and understands your needs. You’ll be working closely with this person / team, so don’t underestimate the importance of finding someone you mesh with.

In my next blog post we’ll dig deeper into how to establish clear goals and objectives. This will help you to focus yourself and the design professional(s) you select.

Until then, I wish you success in your D.I.Y. or in your search for the right team of professionals!

 

Tracy

tracy dyck photo

Smart Sustainable Structures

Structures? Yes, I said structures. There’s yet another ‘S’ to our story. At S3 we don’t like being bored, so we’re constantly adding to our repertoire of services. In our last blog post, Elaina introduced our Lighting Design Department. Today I’ll be unveiling S3 Design Build.

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Smart & sustainable is our mantra at S3. However, our ideas and designs are only relevant if they actually come to fruition. Finding sustainably focused builders can prove to be challenging. It’s at the junction where ideas meet reality that projects can fall off the rails, or take a different turn.

So our team began the journey of seeking out like-minded builders and trades of all sorts. I’m happy to say we’ve found a number of kindred spirits. And wouldn’t you know it, one individual in particular became a regular face around the S3 office. He’s a burly, bearded character with an excitement about sustainable structures that’s comparable to a kid on Christmas morning. Let me introduce Sean. Sean has been in the building industry for 15 years and currently works as a site superintendent for a large commercial construction company. For the past 18 months we’ve been strategizing, planning and dreaming about what a sustainable design / build / development company could look like and I’m thrilled to say it looks pretty awesome.

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What will be our focus?

You guessed it… Smart, Sustainable Structures.

What does that mean?

  • Looking at alternative building materials and how they can be used in practical, energy efficient and cost effective ways.
  • Working with conventional materials in new ways to achieve greater energy efficiency.
  • Designing with climate, site orientation, practicality and aesthetic interest at the forefront, not as an afterthought.
  • Not trying to compete in the conventional market, but creating a new market.

Why does this get us excited?

Because all of us at S3 dream about living, working and playing in environments that are unique, smart and cool… and we believe that there are people beyond us who share this dream also.

What’s up and coming?

Shipping containers anyone???

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Stay tuned for an upcoming blog to find out more.

Tracy

Tracy Signature Photo