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“What is Required to Create Plywood? A Wealth of Blueprints and Sufficient Funds | Breaking:”


Architect Tom Knezic knows multiplexes.

The co-founder of Solares Architecture has designed at least a dozen and even built some himself.

Now that Toronto is ready to allow for their wider adoption in urban neighborhoods, he expects them to become easier to build, with fewer development hurdles to deal with.

“It’s exciting. It makes a big difference,” says Knezic, whose recent work includes a soon-to-be completed quadruple room in Toronto’s Regal Heights neighborhood.

“It overcomes many of the problems we’ve had with this kind of development.”

Last month, Toronto city councilors voted to approve the construction of duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes in neighborhoods across the city, even though the associated amendments are not yet in effect.

An increased supply of multiplexes could provide more housing choices for some Toronto residents, although an increase in affordable housing stock seems unlikely.

Still, building design and development experts say the plywood form could house more people on the same lots, while also providing options to revamp properties accordingly.

“The city needs to do a lot of things to solve the housing problems we’re currently experiencing,” said Graig Uens, director of planning at Toronto’s Batory Management, pointing to setting up a new generation of multiplexes as one such step.

“What it will do is introduce a wider variety of rental properties in areas of the city that are in high demand,” adds Uens, who previously worked as a senior planner for the city.

Here’s a quick look at what’s involved in making a plywood.

Assess what is possible

How does it start?

Michael Piper, an assistant professor of urban planning and architecture at the University of Toronto, said the first step is to figure out what’s allowed — and then what’s possible — on a given lot.

“A lot of times people will contact a builder or an architect to facilitate that,” Piper said.

Now that Torontonians are now allowed to build multiplexes, those questions are shifting to how these homes should be built, rather than whether they can be built.

When it comes to the design side of things, Piper said outside expertise could include a builder, designer or architect, but always someone licensed “to submit code-approved drawings.”

Melanie Melnyk, a project manager in Toronto’s urban planning department, said such projects carry a degree of complexity, even as the city takes steps to make their overall venture more accessible to residents.

“These are houses and we want them to be safe and well built,” she said in an interview.

Planning remains a must

Even with a more supportive climate for development, there’s still a lot of planning that goes into making a multiplex.

LOOK | A look inside a plywood project:

Making a plywood in Toronto

Toronto-based architect Tom Knezic explains the work that went into the creation of a soon-to-be-complete four-story complex on Davenport Road in the city’s western end.

Construction for Knezic’s work on the Regal Heights site has progressed rapidly, but a lot of preparatory work preceded it. And there’s more to do, as approval is still being sought to add an avenue suite to the rear of the property.

Design work began 18 months ago, Knezic said during a recent tour of the fourplex, which was previously a three-unit building.

Knezic expects that these types of projects will be less complex and less costly in the future, just like urban planners.

Philip Parker, a project manager with Toronto’s city planning department, said current changes means that someone who wants to build a multiplex no longer needs to go through a process of repurposing or minor deviation to do so.

“The big change, I think, is the certainty that this building is actually allowed citywide,” Parker said — a “huge difference” for more than two-thirds of the city’s neighborhoods.

Also changes approved by the city council last year means that many people who build multiplexes no longer have to pay expensive development costs.

Parker noted that such costs could have run into “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in the past.

No budget renovation

Reducing costs may be key to boosting development, as turning a home into a multiplex is not a cheap endeavor.

Builder Sebastian Clovis, the host and executive producer of Canada’s HGTV Good jobsays it wouldn’t be surprising to spend $500,000 to convert a single-family home into a multi-unit home.

A photo of Sebastian Clovis, a builder and host of HGTV Canada's Gut Job, posing at a construction site.
Builder Sebastian Clovis, the host of HGTV Canada’s Gut Job, describes the construction of a plywood housing unit as an “encompassing” series of renovations. (HGTV Canada)

Why? There is a lot of work involved, including all the necessary plumbing, electrical, and structural upgrades.

Such projects could involve moving windows, adding separate entrances, and other major adjustments, such as addressing a basement that needs to be lowered, a common problem in Toronto that could cost $80,000 to do the digging, according to Clovis .

“These renovations are really all-encompassing,” Clovis said, echoing comments from fellow professionals about the scope of possible work.

Despite the challenges of building, Piper of the University of Toronto doesn’t want people to feel discouraged.

“I think the more it’s done, the easier it will become,” he said.

Inspiration from the past?

Those who look closely at the homes in Toronto’s neighborhoods will find examples of these types of homes already in place.

A male cyclist rides past two plywood buildings on opposite corners of a T-junction.
Examples of longstanding multiplex housing can be found throughout the city. ERA Architects did a quick study of a number of Toronto neighborhoods, including Parkdale, to see where examples of such small-scale housing could be found. (Nav Rahi/CBC)

This includes duplexes and even walk-up apartments built decades ago.

“There’s a whole vocabulary of building language that goes beyond the tiny single-family home to the high-rise condo-built form we’ve all become so accustomed to,” says Philip Evans, a principal at ERA Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has studied some of these longstanding forms of housing in Toronto.

Beyond historical precedent or possible inspiration, there are practical lessons to be learned from the ways in which similar types of older homes can be adapted.

A research project that Piper has been a part of building a catalog of types of old houses commonly found in the city, and exploring how to convert them into denser forms of housing.

At the city level, there are plans to develop FAQ-style material on plywood construction for the public – although that is still in the works.

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