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Home of the Week: This former bungalow is primed for the future

Asking price: $2,888,800

Taxes: $5,298.66 (2013)

Lot size: 80 by 115 feet

Agent: Karen Millar, Broker, Royal LePage Signature Realty

When Amedeo Barbini designs a home he starts with a simple concept: function.

“Function is so important and from that you can focus on form and beauty,” he said. And when he approached 61 Talwood Dr., he decided he was going to create a modern home in the quiet Don Mills neighbourhood that would function as efficiently as possible.

The back story

Mr. Barbini is the president of Barbini Developments Inc., a luxury design and building firm. When he bought 61 Talwood in August, 2012, a quaint 1950s bungalow stood on the large lot.

“We were looking at tearing it down and building totally new. But the architect we were working with said, ‘Why don’t you think about using the existing footprint but expanding it, so you can create something more contemporary?’”

So instead, his crew pushed out the boundaries but managed to keep more than 50 per cent of the existing walls. As such, the building still echoes the mid-century-modern bungalow aesthetic that is so prevalent in Don Mills: It’s long and low-to-the-ground. But that’s where the similarities end because the new home is packed with energy-saving technologies and future-proofed to accommodate the next round of green tech (such as the electric-car outlet in the garage).

“Every house has what I call the heart and lungs,” Mr. Barbini said.

In this case, the lungs of 61 Talwood consist of high-velocity air handlers, an indirect water heater (meaning the water in the tank is warmed by hot water, not gas), a Power-Pipe, which is a passive heat-recovery system for water, plus a humidifying system and ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator, which is similar to a Heat Recovery Ventilator but doesn’t remove humidity from the air).

The result of this complex mechanical system is that “… the air quality in the home is better than that of outside,” Mr. Barbini said.

The boiler, which is the “heart” in Mr. Barbini’s metaphor, is equally intricate.

Its main job is heating water and it has about a dozen pipes coming in and out of it. They send warm water to heat floors, as well as to the water heaters and the air handlers.

Mr. Barbini invested in all these high-end technologies because of the dividends they provide for the owner in the long run – they function together to create a very energy-efficient home. He said that last month’s gas bill for the 4,600-plus-square-foot home was $34 (granted, no one is living there right now). And John Godden from environmental building-consultant firm Clearsphere has calculated that over 20 years, the homeowner would save about $42,000 in terms of energy costs.

“There are a few benefits to a green home,” broker Karen Millar said. “There are obviously the long-term savings – you get to say ‘no’ to all of the heat you’re wasting and the gas bill.

“But you also get to contribute to the environment. You feel like you’re doing something.”

The best features

Beyond the technology, the home has a lot to offer in terms of its layout. The basement is multilevel, allowing for a distinct space for practical tasks such as laundry that is separate from the large recreation room and fifth bedroom.

The upper level has three generously sized bedrooms, each with an ensuite bathroom and walk-in closet.

“When you’re delivering an environment, you have to think about how it’s going to be used. In today’s world, kids do not do their homework in a common area,” said Mr. Barbini. “They want to be in their bedrooms on their computers. So you need a bigger space for that.”

He also designed the upper floor to be a distinct ecosystem in terms of heating, so that if future owners are parents with kids who are off to university, they can shut down the second floor and just live on the main floor.

That thinking is why Mr. Barbini designed the master suite to sit a few steps up from the main floor. Being off to the side and between levels, it’s distinctly out of the action in the living and dining-room space but it’s also sequestered from the kids’ rooms upstairs.

For Ms. Millar, her favourite room is the kitchen, which is 335 square feet and outfitted with Wolf appliances, multiple sinks, a wine fridge and cabinets everywhere Mr. Barbini could fit them.

“I wouldn’t need the rest of the house,” she joked.

For Mr. Barbini, he loves the entire first floor. And that makes sense, since in its totality, the main level of the home encapsulates the function-form-beauty trinity he strives toward in each of his designs.

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