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March 6, 2010

Green by design

The scent of lavender wafts into Dean Goodman and Janna Levitt’s cozy bedroom as early morning sunlight signals the start of a new day. Outside their second-floor window, birds sing and squirrels scamper along the roof, which is seeded with eight lavender plants, as well as shade-loving hostas and bergenias.

Yes, you read that right. This 4 1/2-year-old home sports the city’s first purpose-built green roof on a single family dwelling. Camouflaged by trees, the home is barely noticeable unless you’re looking for it.

Which is fine with the couple, a pair of Toronto architects who wanted to build a contemporary house that would be sustainable, leaving as small a footprint as they could while housing a family of four.

“We wanted to see how small we could actually build a house,” Goodman says.

A one-storey cottage on a 20-foot-wide lot originally inhabited the site, but the structure was unsuitable for renovation, so they tore it down. In its place sits a 1,500-square-foot open-concept house, bathed in light from east, west and above.

The front entryway functions as a mud room, though it isn’t really a room but a long hallway, with closets flanking the south wall. At its end is a Lilliputian washroom, about the size of an airplane loo.