'Infill designs brings value to mature neighbourhoods'

Award-winning infill builders talk about what it takes to make a home that fits just right.

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Edmonton is setting the gold standard when it comes to infill housing in Alberta.

This year Edmonton not only won both infill categories at the recent BILD Alberta Awards, it also secured all six finalist spots — three per category — in the Building Industry and Land Development Alberta Association event held in Banff last month. The organization represents more than 1,300 industry members from eight constituent associations committed to building communities throughout Alberta.

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Last year, Edmonton also won both of BILD’s infill awards and secured five of those six finalist spots.

“In terms of Edmonton’s dominance in the infill scene we are really seeing Edmonton come forward as an infill leader both within Alberta and across the country,” said Paul McGavigan, partner, Alair Central Edmonton, whose company won BILD’s Infill Home Over $1.2 million award for the second year in a row. “There’s an intentional shift in urban development within the City of Edmonton, driven by its mandate to increase urban density through multi-family homes, but there’s also been a shift in homeowners’ perspectives towards infill.”

There’s also Edmonton’s pioneering spirit, said Jesse Soneff, owner and project manager at ArtHouse Residential, which won BILD’s Infill Home Under $750,000 at the mid-September event.

“Edmontonians like to take risks and be pioneers — it’s in our history,” said Soneff. “In the Prairies, where most municipalities are growing outwards, Edmontonians see the writing on the wall that growing outwards is unsustainable in terms of municipal infrastructure costs, detrimental to our social networks and climate goals. Edmontonians want change. And a few builders, like ArtHouse, are answering that call.”

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Fort Knox — Alberta Style

Alair and ArtHouse were the powerhouses in the BILD infill awards. In their respective categories, each competed against itself and one other finalist.

Alair’s Fort Knox — no relation to its better known namesake, home to one of the world’s largest gold reserves — was the winner in the Infill Home Over $1.2 million.

Named Fort Knox, in part due its Fort Saskatchewan location, this home was going to be a reno using the existing structure, said Jason Brown, partner, Alair Sherwood Park. But that meant making sacrifices, so they shifted to tearing the home down and going custom.

“After discussion, we really looked at the seamless integration of nature within the home itself — capitalizing on the openness of the concept; the ability to utilize and see the property in its entirety. It’s a gorgeous acreage and the views are remarkable,” said Brown.

Alair’s other entry, Summit Project, came about as the homeowners wanted a high-end, luxury feel. Alloy Homes’ Glenora Modern was the remaining finalist.

Traditional, Non-Traditional

They were total opposites. One ArtHouse finalist was more traditional, the other totally bold.

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The clients of the winning entry wanted a traditional craftsman home that would suit their growing family, said Soneff. “We designed and built them a traditional craftsman home with modern pops, such as the bright exterior, and paired it with warm, natural and timeless materials. Both clients occasionally work from home, so we designed a flexible loft office space that will transition easily to a playroom or bedroom and back again in the future.”

ArtHouse’s other entry was non-traditional, unique and very client-driven.

“They had beautiful artwork and prints that we took inspiration from,” said Soneff. “They desired a Modernist esthetic that we achieved through bold colours anchored by timeless neutrals and well-considered minimalist details.”

Habitat Studios was the other entry here.

“Odds were that we could win having two nominations in the same category, but we still did not expect it — especially being up against an established and awarded builder like Habitat,” added Soneff.

Awarding Journey

About eight years ago, Alair set a goal to reimagine what infill could look like introducing #BuildingARTyeg to recognize infill as art and to celebrate the craftsmanship of the trades that work on a build.

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“Infill has long been associated with “skinny” homes, and we wanted to shift that perspective by showcasing luxury through architectural presence,” said McGavigan.

Now Alair is collaborating with Infill Development in Edmonton Association, launching the #BuildingARTyeg award for an individual or organization that has positively contributed to the beauty of communities in and around Edmonton.

The award includes $7,500 for the winner’s chosen community-driven initiative. Applications are now closed. The winner will be announced in March.

“Infill is often stigmatized as a negative within community conversations and our aim was to recognize the beauty that infill brings to the surrounding neighbourhoods, whether it’s through design, green space, landscape architecture, or capitalizing on the opportunities presented through the community spaces,” added McGavigan. “Infill designs bring value to mature neighbourhoods by attracting younger families and professionals to contribute to the vibrancy of the community fabric. We want to celebrate that and honour those that are positively contributing to the beauty and vibrancy of our communities.”

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