Tomo: our developer with a concept – sustainability, affordability and community
In 2017 Our Urban Village began a partnership with innovative developers from Take Root to build a cohousing community using a model that hadn’t been tried before in North America.
OUV’s founders were struggling to find a way to build cohousing in one of North America’s priciest housing markets. When the cost of a 33’ X 150” lot hit 3 million dollars, we struggled to find families to pay 6-10 million dollars just for the land for our project. Could we partner with a trusted developer who already had land and a vision to create a new kind of community in Vancouver?
In the meantime, quite independently, Take Root was looking for a way to add a community aspect to a project they were envisioning on 2 small lots on Vancouver’s vibrant Main Street. They were building their business model around the concept that sustainability, affordability, and community should be the basis of multi-family housing projects. They already knew how to incorporate building practices to address sustainability and affordability. But they were struggling how to make their project feel like a community.
When urban research guru Charles Mongomery, author of the bestselling book Happy City, introduced OUV to Take Root’s young visionaries Mark and Leslie Shieh, we knew from the first meeting that we had a match that could work.
Mark and Leslie proposed we call our building Tomo House. Tomo stands for “together more” which they thought captured what we were trying to achieve. As our project went forward, Tomo began to hire exceptional professionals as additional partners to make our project a success.
Along the way, cohousing lite and Tomo house have become a project of note. We’ve been featured in fifteen articles, including four in the Globe and Mail. We were highlighted as an innovative project in the 2018 United Nations Report on Happiness. Cohousing lite has been debated as a feasible approach for making cohousing more accessible in urban communities at national and international cohousing conferences and has spawned other cohousing lite communities including one in New Zealand.
“At the heart of Ma+HG Architects is a desire to help Vancouverites live better. Partners Marianne Amodio and Harley Grusko have earned a reputation around town for bold, artful spaces that combine whimsy and function while housing multiple residents, couples and families under one roof.”
This focus on beautiful, multi-brood buildings earned the studio the Architectural Institute of BC emerging-firm award in 2016, carving a place for affordability-centred architecture in Vancouver’s design space.
Happy City Labs: Liveability research
Urban researchers from Happy City help governments, city builders and city dwellers create places that are better for everyone. The way buildings, neighbourhoods and cities are designed has profound effects on health and happiness. Drawing on a decade of research, Happy City offers evidence and examples to inspire designers, decision makers and city dwellers to embrace happy design.
From the onset, Happy City has been helping shape the look and feel of Tomo House. Tomo incorporated nearly all the suggestions in Happy City’s multifamily design Tool Kit to maximize sociability in our building and on our grounds.
Happy City has received government funding to study the OUV community for one year after we move in to determine the effects of design on social connections among our members and in the community at large.
LaneFab: Passive House Consultants
Lanefab is an award winning building firm that has made its reputation on quality & energy efficiency as core values. Their projects are consistently rated among Canada’s most energy efficient. One of their projects was profiled in the New York Times.
The design team is led by LEED accredited designer Bryn Davidson, whose passion is creating sustainable buildings. LaneFab consulted with Tomo and our architects to design our building for stringent passive house standards.
Listen to Bryn Davidson’s TED talk on passive house.