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Dr. Abraham (Avi) Friedman

Location: Montreal, QC

Award: Award of Distinction

Category: Industry

Year: 2000


Designed the Grow Home, a narrow-front rowhouse that has enabled Canadians with low annual incomes to become homeowners, and has become a model for sustainable and affordable housing in North America.

News Release

Compact Design Makes Home Ownership Affordable

Montreal architect's "Grow Home" halves construction costse,October 23, 2000

Calgary, AB - The Grow Home is an energy-efficient, narrow-front row house that has enabled more than 10,000 Canadian families to afford home ownership. Now the Grow Home's designer, Dr. Avi Friedman of Montreal, has received this year's $25,000 Manning Award of Distinction.

Friedman, associate professor at the McGill University School of Architecture, developed the Grow Home so that families with a minimum annual income could buy an attractive, well-built home for half the construction costs of a conventional house.

"People sometimes buy more home than they need. And they commit themselves to a huge mortgage for many years," says Friedman, 48. Born in Israel, he grew up in a small home of less than 350 square feet - typical for the time and place. He now lives with his own family in a duplex.

The Grow Home can be built for $40,000 construction costs in as little as two days. A new home, including lot with a fenced yard, can be purchased for $75,000 in Montreal, for example. The concept makes home ownership a reality for young couples, single-income families and single-parent families.

Friedman has won this year's $25,000 Southam Newspapers Manning Award of Distinction. The annual awards program has recognized leading Canadian innovators since 1982, presenting them with $135,000 in prize money each year.

The Grow Home is a 14-foot wide by 36-foot long, two-storey house on a narrow lot, which reduces land and infrastructure costs. To further cut costs, the basement or the second floor of each home is left as unfinished space. New homeowners can complete it the way they want - hence the name Grow Home. The row house design also reduces energy costs and conserves building materials.

"One can easily say that the Grow Home has revolutionized Quebec's and perhaps Canada's homebuilding industry," says Danny Cleary, president of Habitation St.-Laurent.

The Grow Home has generated a $1-billion investment in homebuilding in Canada and, in a prefabricated package design, has been exported to the United States, Europe and Latin America.

The Manning Innovation Awards Foundation will announce all of this year's recipients, including the $100,000 Manning Principal Award, throughout this month prior to the annual awards dinner on November 6 in Montreal.

* For more information about the award-winning Grow Home, please contact Dr. Avi Friedman at (514)-398-4923, fax (514)-398-7372 or e-mail afried9@po-box.mcgill.ca

* For more information about the Manning Innovation Awards Foundation, please contact Donald Park, Executive Director, at (403)-266-8288 or visit the Foundation's website at www.manningawards.ca

Media Backgrounder

$25,000 Southam Newspapers Manning Award of Distinction: The Grow Home

Montreal, 1990, and the city and surrounding region is in the midst of a housing crisis. Owning a home has become prohibitively expensive for some single-income families. Dr. Avi Friedman, who two years earlier founded the Affordable Homes Program at the McGill University School of Architecture, thinks he has a better idea.

Friedman, working with then-McGill colleague Witold Rybczynski, realized that the major cost of housing is people building big homes on a sprawling lot. Homes that people often can't afford.

"So what we suggested as a strategy would be to build them smaller (homes) at first," says Friedman, associate professor at the McGill University School of Architecture. "And then we recognized that once you build homes smaller, you can also join them together to make a row."

Friedman and Rybczynski designed a two-bedroom home that was 36-foot long by 14-foot wide. Although it was narrow, the two-storey home plus a basement amounted to 1,500 square feet. That's nearly twice the size of the typical Canadian house built in the 1950s.

"In Canada, 1,500 square feet seems to be small. But really, it's not small at all," Friedman says.

Friedman, 48, was born in Israel and spent the first 10 years of his life in a home of less than 350 square feet. "We were not poorer than others," he notes. "This is what everybody had."

Perhaps that early experience shaped Friedman's belief that a person should use only what is needed on this planet. He and his family now live in a duplex in Montreal.

The Grow Home's compact design reduces the cost of land and infrastructure by more than 30 per cent, compared with a conventional house. Three to eight Grow Homes, each on a lot 100-foot long by 50-foot wide, can be built in a row. To further reduce costs, the basement or second floor in each home is left unfinished. Homeowers can "grow" into their new home and finish it how they choose.

The first demonstration Grow Home, a project co-ordinated by research assistant Susan Ross, was built on the McGill School of Architecture campus in 1990. The unique home attracted international attention.

In 1991, Leo Marcotte, president of Construction Leo Marcotte, became the first developer to build 87 Grow Homes on a site he owned in Pointe-aux-Trembles. All 87 units were pre-sold in two weeks; their popularity triggered a mini-building boom by other developers.

"The Grow Home had an unprecedented impact on the housing market," recalls Donald Johnston, senior director of technology and policy for the Canadian Home Builders' Association.

"Through Dr. Friedman's collaboration with builders in the Montreal area, literally thousands of affordable homes were built in communities all over the region and later, in other cities."

Three Grow homes can be built on a conventional 100-foot long by 60-foot wide single-unit lot. The home's 14-foot (4.2 metres) width eliminates the need to use costly and inflexible bearing partitions. The joining of the two-storey units in a row reduces construction and heating costs, since the exterior surface of the middle unit (in a three-home row) is limited to front and rear.

Compared with a conventional house that costs, for example, $70 per square foot, the per-unit cost of the Grow Home is $35 per square foot. The Grow Home has enabled the development of high-density communities that reduce urban sprawl, conserve resources and lower pollution.

Jean-Marie Lavoie and Paul Brassard, architects and developers at Forêt de Marie Victorin in Saint Nicholas, Quebec, say the Grow Home "has thoroughly revolutionized homebuilding in Quebec and Canada and it has had an impact on the homebuilding industry of other countries."

More than 10,000 Grow Homes have been built in Canada and, in a prefabricated package design, the home has been exported to the United States, Europe and Latin America. The concept has generated an investment of $1 billion in homebuilding in Canada and created at least 20,000 annual jobs.

"Canada is a leader in housing technology," Friedman notes.

The Grow Home's numerous accolades include the 1998 United Nations World Habitat Award. Friedman's design work and projects have been cited in books and covered extensively by Canadian and international media. He has received several awards for his design and teaching, including the American Institute of Architects Education Honors.

Friedman has gone on to design the Next Home, a flexible and affording housing type which can be built as a single-family home, a duplex or a triplex, and as a detached house, semi-detached or as part of a row.

As for the duplex where he has lived since 1990, Friedman says with a laugh: "I believe that what I have is wonderful! I don't plan to move."