Welcome to Sustainable.Design

powered by siteTractor*

Sustainable.Design is a unique builder-support service/design office.

We place design/build capabilities in the hands of small contractors and DIY Builder/Owners without the need for substantial up-front investment. Manage your own projects or have us manage them for you. Either way, we provide you with the design tools and services — and/or the management tools and services — you need. What we provide is a full PERFORMANCE-BASED methodology, fully compliant with NET-ZERO and international PASSIVHAUS STANDARDS so you don’t fall into the “margin trap of the unforeseen” or “wasted investments with no return”. What exactly does that mean? We’ll show you below with real numbers. If you are a contractor, DIY owner/builder, or even a home-owner looking to keep a tight reign on your renovation, we can help you bring your project to a whole different level. With 40+ yrs in construction, architecture and education, we can provide you with the necessary design experience and expertise, including designing for energy certification, in the form of performative assembly options and comparative analyses as we generate your construction drawings, project management and correlated energy and detailed assembly information models. But again, the key difference, and what we bring to your team, is a performance-based methodology.

Join me for an introductory tour. I’ll personally show you around and show you everything you can do with Sustainable.Design

I look forward to working with you,

Performance-based Design/Build

A client doesn’t go to a contractor and say “Hey I need you to build me something but could you build it to code? All too often, the last part of that statement (which is — of course — never said as hopefully one can take that much for granted!!) is actually the only validated performative standard demanded of both the design and the construction process.

Since the building code is the absolute minimum standard, beyond that the role of the designer/contractor ends up being prescriptive, which for a home owner or developer, is a lot like spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to put on a blindfold and play piñata. Good design? Good construction? Maybe…. but the client still just bought an expense box of Cracker Jacks with no idea exactly what’s on the inside….

Here is a concrete example: Your contractor or LEED designer told you to spend $10K on a mechanical heat recovery system. So yes, you now have an expensive piece of equipment working really hard to give you 3 complete air changes / hr at 85% efficiency heat recovery. And that’s amazing! The specs from the manufacturer tell you for a running cost of 125 kWh/yr, you are shaving 1500 kWh/yr off your energy bill. Sounds like a fair investment. The only problem is your overall construction – built to code and with every standard detail currently mandated by the industry – leaks 2400 kWh worth of hot air due to no more than a 10 pa pressure differential between inside and outside, at a combined loss of 2400 kWh/yr. But the worst part is, despite throwing the money away, you are still left with cold draughty rooms, chilly in winter, hot in summer and no guarantee that there isn’t moisture condensing in your walls.

You did just take out a stack of 1000$ bills and burn AT LEAST ten of them in one go.

In a nutshell, that is the problem with prescriptive standards. And not just standards like LEED but any design approach where the only validation is the minimum performative standard of the building code — and where there is no rigorous procedure for evaluating the entire project as a whole. Sure, your contractor can have the best intentions and use standard techniques and procedures. That certainly is worth a lot. But the difference between “industry standard” and “high-performance” can, over the life of your mortgage or construction loan, amount to thousands and thousands of dollars when considered in impact over your entire project. And we mean ENTIRE project (check the list of details covered here). This means from the U values of the wall assemblies, every geometric, construction and repeating thermal bridge, tie and wall penetration, every transparent surface, openings from screw holes to windows, mechanical system, and domestic hot water system, to the site location, orientation, shading, elevation and micro-climate, every one of these criteria are logged, measured and calculated. As we said above… you can play piñata with your money, but without taking into account the criteria beyond how much the project costs up front — in other words the complete science-based, energy profile: how much the project actually costs — the loan plus the cost to run it for the next 40 years, will be at best, a very misleading guesstimate. As far as the performance of the construction —and the performance of your investment dollar— unless the criteria is explicitly named, detailed, and externally validated… you may as well be blindfolded, twirling around in circles and swinging a stick in the air.

Our approach: Set the performance standards the project has to meet. We’ll provide the science to achieve it. Look at the examples and see exactly how much money is involved. To Learn More About Performative vs. Prescriptive Design Costs and Benefits, Click Here

Sustainable.Design and its SiteTractor platform are managed services harnessing the power of Building Information Models in conjunction with a stable of energy modeling and evaluative tools and industry-validated standards. For a recognized baseline of performance and criteria we use a combination of the PassivHaus Institute (Darmstadt, Germany), PHIUS and PHC (Passive House US and Canada respectively). SiteTractor is a contractor support app. Sustainable.Design provides design services to enable certifiable PassivHaus-standard performance. Both Sustainable.Design (S.D.) and SiteTractor are equally appropriate and amenable to DIY projects. S.D offers design, energy-modelling, and consulting services to members of either platform. SiteTractor clients have the additional option of rebranding the service as their own sub-domain. In either case we are there as much or as little as you need us. 

Join for free, book your tour and we’ll show you around. 

Pricing. SiteTractor vs. Sustainable.Design

SiteTractor is a subscription. There are 2 tiers: Single Project DIY and Contractor Pro.

  • Per project basis.
  • 30 employee accounts w/ email
  • Unlimited client and supplier accounts
  • Up to 20 active projects and 3TB of archive space.
  • Your own secondary domain: yourDomain.designresearch.ca


Sustainable.Design is a design consulting service. Please see the Terms of Service pages for a complete description of the limits and conditions of what Sustainable•Design provides. In short we provide you with Building Information Models (BIM) of your project. You engage Sustainable•Design as you would any design consultant to develop a project to your specifications, from feasibility study to detailed working drawings. Fees are assessed based on the intended project size. If you are an architect, designer or builder, we offer collaboration sessions along with presentation sessions to accompany the model deliveries. Our models are intended to cover global, site, planning and construction assembly information. All models can deliver specific energy and embodied carbon information as required. Where necessary we will provide the validated results for specific product and assembly details. 2D and 3D thermal bridge analyses are available on request. Please specify “Passive House” should you be interested in pursuing certifiable results. Sustainable.Design offers a complete PassivHaus design package working with you to prepare and submit all PHPP calculations and required documents for certification. Projects includes up to 8 BIM models as required with different thresholds of development: Proposal, Design Development and Construction. The models included with each project are Global, Site, Planning, and Assembly details. Each model is capable of outputting schedules, energy calculations, technical data, quantities, renderings, details, views as required. PHPP Schedules include [@]

Consultation sessions are billed on an hourly basis and models are charged based on built project GFA.

Example Pricing: 1800sq.ft addition *

Fees: (12%). $48k
Construction: $450K

OPTIONConstruction StandardSq. FtFEESConstructionEnergy ConsumptionTotal
Typical (Architect/ Tendered Bid)Typical (NBC)180054K + Permits ~ 450K10000 kWh/yr
Contractor OnlyTypical (NBC)1800Permits only > 475K10000 kWh/yr
Sustainable.Design / Contractor -partneredPassive House 180043K + Permits425K2500 kWh/yr

(To compare the method below with a traditional percentage method, consider the level of detail and production output afforded by the BIM models below comparable in cost to an architect providing 12% of the construction cost in terms of service, but charging you < 9% )

  1. Schematic Design:
    • 3 @ 2 hr. sessions
    • 4 schematic BIM models
    • 2 presentations with dwgs., renderings
    • $8/sq.ft (2 wk. timetable)
  2. Construction Documents:
    • Project mtgs. Consultant coordination mtgs
    • Permit dwgs. Construction dwgs. Material, Hardware, Finish Schedules
    • Fully detailed (1:20). Tile, finished material installation patterns w/ cutouts for electrical, mechanical, plumbing
    • $16/sq.ft ( 2 wk. timetable)
  3. Partnered Construction Management :
    • Provision of Panelised Construction and trusses
    • Provision of Windows and Doors
    • Provision of Mechanical Systems
    • Pressure Tests
    • System Balancing
    • cost + 5%

Passive House

  1. Passive House Certification
    • Design Stream (same as above: schematic $8/sq.ft ; construction docs $16/sq.ft)
    • Certification Stream (10% Construction Cost)
  2. Partnered Construction Management w/provision of Panelised Construction