220 sq. ft. L41 Laneway Home at IDSWest: Green design?

L41 Laneway House Affordable and sustainable housing is a big issue in Vancouver proper. The City of Vancouver wants to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. I myself live in 472 sq. ft. and would love to move out of my rent controlled apartment but increasing size in today's market means a monthly rental that is equivalent of a sizable mortgage. For the average Vancouver home owner with a garage adding an income property for someone like me would be ideal but most of the laneway rentals are often expensive and, frankly, over designed carriage houses. Too rich for my simple tastes.

The L41 is designed by Architect Michael Katz and artist/designer Jane Corne and proves that small and simple are beautiful. The unique qualities of L41 are relatively easy to install - in theory. Remember, adding a laneway house to a traditional garage footprint means running services to the pad - water supply, sewage, and electricity - which can be upwards of a several thousands of dollars and damaging to the landscape. But I have a few other concerns with this project that make me question the greenness factor.

L41 Laneway House - Interior

I quickly noticed a few glaring space planning and functional concerns immediately:

  • Kitchen is oversized for 220 sq. ft. and is in-efficient
  • Too much cabinetry for a small space, better used elsewhere
  • Kitchen sink is too small. How does one wash the single meal?
  • 24" dishwasher is oversized. A single drawer beneath the kitchen sink is a better option.
  • Balcony is not required, but air circulation is a bonus
  • Shower doesn't fit the average human-sized 32-inch disc
  • A few too many windows for any clothing optional, semi-private, lifestyle.

L41 Laneway House - Kitchen

When wasted space and in-efficiencies are so glaringly obvious, and done so at a particular promotional sponsorship request, at what cost does it come? I can't even bear to wonder what the long line-up of folks waiting to get inside the home at IDSWest were thinking. Is not efficient space planning and daily traffic patterns a part of sustainable design? It's all fine and wonderful to say you have a sustainable product but how end-consumer know if it is all fluffed up and made to be something it's not?

Some features, benefits, and points to look at if this is green design:

  • Conservation of resources in a home proves to be sustainable design, but not totally
  • Constructed with Cross-laminated Timber (CLT) but there is no mention of the adhesives that are used in the beetle timber - will they off-gas the carcinogenic formaldehyde? If it doesn't say, it isn't true.
  • 220 sq. ft. Studio, there also is a 290 sq. ft. 1-Bed and a 360 sq. ft. 2-Bedroom unit options - pretty dense, good stuff.
  • Eggersmann Kitchens for cabinetry is not a sustainable choice. There are cabinet manufacturers in Vancouver that are green
  • Fantini Rubinetti plumbing fixtures equilly asthetically pleasing, but Italian and certianly not made in Canada.
  • Plumbing fixtures by Duravit is a nice aesthetic selection but, again, there are local business that should have benefited
  • Roller shades by Cascadia Design Products helps control daylighting and direct solar gain but is this product Greenguard? If it doesn't say, it isn't true.
  • Ceasarstone is a nice material but is made off-shore - all that carbon waste...
I spotted  these 8 points in under 10 minutes alone, and there are many more unanswered questions. Clearly I could go on forever but 8 unanswered questions on the sustainability factor is enough to convince anyone that this particular laneway house is not sustainable in any form what-so-ever. It is nothing more than a pre-packaged product for the ready-to-wear market.

More information: Michael Katz Architecture,

More info on laneway housing: Laneway Housing, City of Vancouver