Much more than green

Much more than green

Our Cool Blue Architects think outside the box of sustainable design

by Greg McMillan

No workday is ever the same for Tom and Laura Kolbasenko. The co-founders of Our Cool Blue Architects could be looking after clients at a recent project for a multi-national company in Bogotá Colombia, consulting on LEEDTM Gold and Silver projects in Bermuda, visiting project sites in Alberta and Nova Scotia – or tracking dozens of other local Southern Ontario undertakings of various sizes and themes, but at the heart of each and every venture, this couple try to always make a difference through the work they do while applying their company mantra “dedicated to global cooling.”

Both Tom, principal at Our Cool Blue, and Laura, director of design, combine their efforts to create architecture, which reduces the environmental impact of each and every project. Based in Milton, Ontario, Our Cool Blue Architects has been up and running since 2007, stressing the need to consider climate change issues in building design. The company’s passion has extended to many likeminded clients who are seeking what Our Cool Blue Architects has to offer.

“We take on all kinds of projects, big and small,” Tom says. “We work with big corporate clients, with large portfolios of buildings, as well as smaller, one-off projects. But above all, our strong commitment to sustainable design sets us apart from others.”

With every new project, Our Cool Blue Architects tries to exceed local codes and apply more stringent design standards such as LEEDTM (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Tom says they are currently working on a variety of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional projects, both domestically and internationally. Among their clients are companies such as Scotiabank, First Capital Realty Corporation, HSBC, Region of Halton, Medtronic, City of Toronto, Canada Green Building Council, Bermuda Hospital Board and Toronto Parking Authority – who all follow the highest environmental standards with their corporate stewardship.
Commercial projects are only one side of Our Cool Blue Architects. Alternately, the firm also goes “beyond green” and is constantly exploring “living buildings and regenerative issues,” such as straw bale. A technology that has been used for centuries but is not commonly practised in Canada, it utilizes bales of straw as the main thermal material in a wall assembly creating more natural building envelopes.
One such venture, for client Matt Gilgan, son of billionaire homebuilder Peter Gilgan, of Mattamy Homes, allowed Our Cool Blue Architects to help turn a time-worn Oakville heritage home into a truly sustainable building. Featuring many of the oldest sustainable architectural principles – such as paying attention to the sun and using straw bale – the house has radiant floors, recycled materials, a green roof, rainwater harvesting, a geothermal system and passive solar heating among other great environmentally-friendly features.
“Overall, we often consider sustainable design in terms of ‘shades of green,’” says Tom. “Depending on the client’s ambitions, site constraints and opportunities, our team adapts to each level of passive, as well as active design elements and technologies.

“Each customized design would suit the desired, or possible, ‘shade of green.’ Some projects, then, would end up as a ‘lighter green’ while the Gilgan house would be categorized as a ‘deep green.’ No matter the project’s scope, we feel a responsibility to educate and work in collaboration with our clients to reduce their environmental footprint, addressing these issues and proposing solutions that respect the natural environment while also meeting their needs.

A mid-size design and green consulting firm, Our Cool Blue Architects offers full architectural services to the public and private sectors, ranging from the design of individual environments to the master planning of large-scale developments and project management. As the principal of Our Cool Blue Architects, Tom Kolbasenko is a Canada Green Building Council LEED-NC faculty and also a part-time instructor at Ryerson University.


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