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Standing beside the newly poured concrete lap pool with my back to the spreading city parcelled in grids below, I don't need to squint at David Daniels's new home to see it. Clearly, it is a mini-Maple Leaf Gardens.

Built in 1935 on a promontory in the neighbourhood of South Hill, the 8,000-square-foot house was designed by Toronto architect Mackenzie Waters for major-general Donald M. Hogarth, an MPP who later became a mining executive.

Four years before, Mr. Waters had worked as associate architect with the Montreal firm of Ross & Macdonald on the much-beloved hockey shrine, and it's obvious that he took something away from that experience.

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Pointing to the restrained but rhythmic facade and buff brick banding that smacks of its cousin on Carlton Street, Mr. Daniels remarks: "I call this whole project 'The echo of deco.' "

"Is that 'echo' with an 'h'?" asks architect Paul Dowsett cheekily, referring to the extensive list of eco-friendly and sustainable technologies his firm, Scott Morris Architects, is incorporating into the renovation and expansion of this historic mansion.

There is a duality to the project. Firstly, Mr. Daniels's team - which, in addition to Mr. Dowsett, includes project manager Nick Egizii, landscape architect Ron Holbrook, interior designer Phillip Moody and Simon Boone of Generation Solar - will be restoring as many of the home's art deco features as possible. They include the domed foyer ceiling, the sweeping terrazzo staircase and the amazing sprung-floor ballroom in the basement.

"I'm fanatically devoted to Toronto and to preserving what we can of the housing stock," explains Mr. Daniels, a self-confessed heritage lover. Reconsidering, he corrects himself: "Preserving is not the right word because this is not a preservation, this is a reimagining of something but trying to respect as much of what the original building has to offer."

Since the home's deco features seem to stop somewhere past the foyer (perhaps because the original owner got a case of cold feet), Mr. Daniels is "reimagining" what might have been and installing deco trim, moulding and other finishes throughout.

Secondly, as many sustainable features as eco-expert Mr. Dowsett can dream up are being incorporated into the home, which currently sits stripped down to the studs on the inside and, on the outside, is shamelessly flashing its raw steel skeleton at the next door neighbours to the east.

As we walk the perimeter on a sunny November Sunday, most obvious are the new double-glazed, low-E aluminum windows with their accompanying shades, designed to prevent overheating interiors in summer yet allow light from the low-flying winter sun to enter unimpeded.

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On the inside, "light shelves" will reflect the sun's rays onto the ceiling, Mr. Dowsett says, so that natural light will penetrate as far into the house as possible, reducing the need to turn on electric lights.

Mr. Daniels adds: "What I like about this [technology]is that it's completely low-tech - it's just a matter of doing your calculations."

Rather than sending the old, inefficient single-pane windows to landfill, they'll be given a new life as interior design elements in the form of cabinet or closet doors.

"If we can recycle it ... we'll reuse it on this site; if we can reuse it on a neighbour's property, we'll do that," Mr. Dowsett explains, pointing to the pool house, which is being framed with wood salvaged from the demolition of the original third floor.

And speaking of the third floor, where there was once an inset, mansard-roofed servant's quarters, there now sits a sparkling new Miesian triple-glazed box that will eventually be surrounded by a green roof.

The third floor has a "high albedo" roof: Highly reflective white paint deflects sunlight and reduces the need for cooling in summer.

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Another original structure, a potter's shed, has been removed from the top of the porte cochère, and will eventually be replaced by a similar glass box that will be connected to the house by a bridge. The addition on the east side will soon be ready for its glass enclosure.

Like the aluminum windows, these additions are meant to stand in stark contrast to the original dwelling in an effort to distinguish what's old from what's new.

There are plenty of new things that can't be seen with the naked eye, however. The concrete being used, for instance, contains 50 per cent less cement, which has been replaced with two industrial waste products, fly ash and slag. This is good because for each measure of regular cement replaced with a supplementary bonding material, CO{-2} emissions are reduced by the same amount.

Much of the home's original wood floors are being preserved, but where new flooring is required, a product that simulates the look of terrazzo is being used. It's locally produced by Granular Hardwood Technologies Ltd. using waste walnut shells as aggregate.

"It was one of the neatest products that turned up in our research," Mr. Daniels says.

As we walk from bare room to bare room, stepping over construction equipment or manoeuvring around his yet-to-be installed heat pumps, I ask him why he's committed to "green" technologies. He answers, simply, that it's something he's "carried around for a very long time.

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"I tried to do [eco-friendly renovations]twice before and it was completely unaffordable, and the technology was so rudimentary I just couldn't get there."

It seems that the third time's a charm: With geothermal heating, rainwater collection and solar initiatives, he's getting there big time.

Mr. Daniels is going out of his way to save a significant piece of Toronto's architectural heritage. Perhaps that's because he grew up surrounded by people who had a love of architecture, His father, John Daniels, chairman of Daniels Corp., is a legendary figure who is responsible for much of what is good, architecturally, about this city. "Any sensibility I have about this stuff came from my family," he confirms.

Combining restoration, cutting-edge environmental technologies and an amazing collaboration between architect and client (Mr. Dowsett is an avowed art deco fan and has been watching 1930s movies for inspiration), this is an exciting project, so much so that I've asked Mr. Daniels if I can return a few more times to see the progress, and he has agreed.

"I can't wait to see it when it's done," I tell him.

"You're not the only one," he says with a laugh.

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-Solar hot water panels reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

-Provision for future roof-mounted solar electric panels will reduce the load on the municipal power grid.


-Highly reflective white roof reduced summer solar heat gain, which also reduces reliance on the municipal power grid for cooling.

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-South facing sun shades reduce summer solar heat gain.


-Increase natural daylight penetration into the house, especially in the winter, reducing reliance on the municipal power grid.


-Existing windows replaced with high efficiency operable windows for natural cross-ventilation. Features include: Low-E argon-filled, double pane, non-glare glass.


-Reused existing brick, wood studs, joists, and flooring diverts waste from landfills and saves energy that would go into transporting waste and manufacturing and delivering new construction products.


-Rain water collected from the roof and terraces into cisterns and reused for irrigation of site landscape, reducing stormwater runoff and demand on municipal water supply.


-Restoration and renovation of historic 1835 Art Deco home in established urban neighbourhood.

-Existing light and plumbing fixtures were salvaged and either sold or donated to Habitat for Humanity for reuse off site: the original steel window frames will be reused in the interior.

-Fly ash and slag, industrial waste materials, replace 50% of the cement content in concrete foundations and retaining walls.

-Plywood subfloor material is urea-formaldehyde tree, and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified.

-Energy-Star rated kitchen and laundry appliances.

-Energy-efficient interior and exterior lighting includes LED, metal-halide, xenon, and compact fluorescent fixtures.

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