Many urban centres have struggled with vacant land and abandoned buildings. High vacancy rates can be the result of many converging forces – post-war migration to the suburbs, abandoned urban renewal programs,  incomplete civic infrastructure projects, or sweeping tax foreclosures. Inactivity at a large scale can perpetuate a cycle of uncertainty and disinvestment.

Over the last decade, many urban centres have become subject to intensive urban regeneration efforts. Voids in the city fabric have been rebranded as areas of opportunity. And greening strategies, like urban gardens, have been implemented with great success, transforming unproductive parcels of land into lush green spaces for urban farming. Now, with industry slowly returning to many cities, the focus is on rebuilding the City’s social capital. As with any urban renewal project, fears of gentrification and the erasure of local culture exist. There is an imperative, therefore, to regenerate the housing stock to accommodate a diverse community of citizens. But while there is a significant amount of vacant land to be had, most of it is apportioned into small lots intended for single family homes. Assembling these lots into larger properties has proven difficult in recent years. Naturally, this creates an added challenge in redeveloping for a range of incomes.

Montgomery Sisam has been working with a developer to design and test a prototype for a new kind of single-family home. The prototype draws on an economy of means to produce a practical response to the need for high caliber, middle-income infill housing. It is a two-storey, 1,300 sq. ft. volumetric modular construction with a compact footprint, well-suited to the typical lot size here. It is made to sit lightly on any site, above potentially existing foundation systems, to prevent the need for costly remediation. The design comprises four wood frame modules clad in standing seam metal. Modules are stacked two by two on either side of a central, glazed stair, creating three distinct volumes. These volumes are gently offset to reduce the visual scale of the structure. A split-level plan creates opportunities for sheltered parking on one side and a roof terrace on the other. Inside, the prototype features all the attributes of a modern, healthy home. It is designed to be net-zero emissions with all electric systems. Modules are highly adaptable elements, able to accommodate different family needs. The stair serves as the singular connecting element, supporting a very lean plan. Its delicate, transparent quality offers a strong visual counterpoint to the otherwise utilitarian expression of the home.


Completion Date:


Project Type:

Housing & Senior Living

Building Size:

1,300 sq. ft.