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Christine Lolley of Solares Architecture is talking to us today from their studio in Toronto, Canada. Christine is the co-founder and principal of the practice, alongside her husband Tom Knezic. Their work focuses on sustainable residential design and they have gained a reputation as experts in energy efficiency and building science.

We recently featured their off-grid Manitoulin Island House project, designed for two artists who wanted a connection with the landscape, which provides them with inspiration for their paintings. If you missed the story, you can read about it here.

Thanks for chatting with us today Christine. Could you explain to us about where you get your creative energy from? What is it that inspires the work you do?

Designing homes is my passion. I love creating spaces that will make people feel safe and happy.

Christine Lolley from Solares Architecture

Can you talk us through your creative process? Do you have a particular way of starting off each project?

To me, a good design is one where I can imagine myself living there. I’m very meticulous and want the same level of perfection for my clients that I would want in my own home.

Manitoulin Island off grid sustainable home
Black timber clad eco home

Sustainability is obviously something which is central to all of your projects so how do you integrate sustainability into a project?

All of our projects are sustainable. The level of performance is budget driven, but every project is as sustainable as our clients can afford. Keeping building forms simple and focusing on air tightness and insulation enable top performance without huge cost.

What area of sustainability are you most passionate about?

Building science. Making the envelope as high performance as possible, which includes considering air tightness and insulation.

Timber clad sustainable house

What is one thing you think your industry could do better to move sustainability forward?

Mandate air tightness testing in every new home (both before drywall and at the end). Mandate EnerGuide ratings* on every home being sold.

* An EnerGuide rating is a standard measure of a home’s energy performance, developed by The Office of Energy Efficiency of Natural Resources Canada to help Canadians improve the energy efficiency of their houses. The home’s energy efficiency level is rated on a scale of 0 to 100. A rating of 0 represents a home with major air leakage, no insulation and extremely high energy consumption. A rating of 100 represents a house that is airtight, well insulated, sufficiently ventilated and requires no purchased energy.

Want to read about more inspiring projects? Check out our stories on sustainable architecture.

Sustainable home with waterfront views
Timber clad wall of eco home

What was the biggest design challenge you’ve faced and how did you solve it?

We’ve done a lot of projects for family and friends.  The best approach is to provide the same top-level service all our clients receive.

What is your favourite project designed by you or your practice?

I’m proud of all our work.  I really like our cottage, Kahshe Lake Cottage.  It was finished in spring 2020 and couldn’t have come at the better time with all the covid-restrictions in place.  And our first project, the Gananoque Lake Road house, will always have a special place in my heart.

Certified timber cladding on sustainable home
Woman sitting of floor of library in hallway reading a book

What is your favourite sustainable project by other people and why?

I’m always in awe of Living Building Challenge projects.

How do you predict that the covid pandemic will affect your industry? Has it affected your designs in any way?

We are busier than ever! Everyone wants to renovate or build new. It’s a housing boom!

Woman walking on deck of all timber sustainable home
Timber cladding and window detail of eco house
Metal clad sustainable home

What is your favourite book, website and podcast?

To relax I like reading/watching British murder mysteries.

And finally, our last question is – who inspires you?

My husband, Tom.  He is my business partner and we inspire each to be better every day.

Thanks for chatting with us today Christine. Your passion to design family homes which are high performance, affordable and sustainable is very inspiring. A silver lining to the Covid pandemic means that you’ve been given the opportunity to introduce more and more sustainable homes into your region. We look forward to sharing those homes with our readers in the future!

Woman walking in sustainable kitchen
Vegetable garden at sustainable house
View through lounge and kitchen in timber lined eco home
Boat on sand in front of off-grid eco home
Woman walking onto front entry of timber off-grid sustainable house
Woman standing in window of timber clad sustainable house design
Loungeroom in sustainable house with water view
All timber entryway in eco home
Woman walking outside from off-grid eco retreat
Images courtesy of Solares Architecture. Photography by Nanne Springer

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