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Nick Sully and Dwayne Smyth, partners in the Vancouver-based architecture firm Shape, recently completed a five-year project to turn two older Strathcona houses into seven new homes.Eric Scott

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Mr. Sully and Mr. Smyth based their design on principles they call “eco-heritage,” which they suggest could well become a model for future development in transitioning urban areas. ‘We want to regenerate not gentrify,” Mr. Sully says, who was the project architect for the development on Union Street.Eric Scott

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Purchased by a couple in 2007, who wanted to convert the property into both revenue generating units as well as one to house an aging parent, the clients’ mandate was also to create something green and cutting edge, while preserving the heritage grain.Eric Scott

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The architects worked within city heritage guidelines that allowed for up to seven units on the consolidated lot, assisted by a provincial SENC (Super Efficient New Construction) grant given for the renovation and upgrading of existing heritage homes.Eric Scott

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The five-year projects was at first objected to by neighbours, but they were eventually won over by smart design and ongoing community consultation. Concerns about shadows from the building were mitigated by scaling back mass and form, maximizing frontage and achieving a balance between public and private spaces.Eric Scott

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Transparent stairwells that connect the three levels of the three south facing units, anchored by lightwells and accented by skylights, serve to open up the space and amplify the relatively small square footages.Eric Scott

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The minimalist palette of white oak flooring, polished concrete, aluminum grating and steel amplifies the interior space.Eric Scott

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