There are hundreds of condominiums in Toronto, and each is unique. Few people realize the complexity of designing the exterior and interior of a condominium to make the most of its location and the floor plate the site allows for. Once the planning stages are complete, the builder can design what will fit on that piece of land, and what will accommodate the requirements set out by the city.


Think of it like designing 3-D building blocks. You have a floor plate that has to be divided into pieces. Before the architects can consider the suites, the developer has to figure out where elevators, electrical closets, air shafts, stairwells, hallways and garbage disposal tri-sorters will go.


In carving up the interior space, we also have to determine which suites have which orientations. Typically, those facing in the prime directions for sunlight and views are larger, but buyers who choose to live in more compact suites should also have the opportunity for great views. The condo team spends a lot of time determining the best balance of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites, how many will have dens, which way they will face, and more.


In developing the suites’ layouts, we involve mechanical, electrical and structural engineers. The heating and cooling systems and plumbing stacks need to line up vertically, and structurally the walls have to withstand the weight they will bear. This may mean including standalone columns, or perhaps building the structure into the exterior wall, which eats up window space. And, of course, everyone wants as much window space as possible, particularly in a lakeside condo.

There are also aesthetics to consider. Each suite needs a bulkhead for heating and air conditioning vents, but we try to minimize where these are located. Plus, we need to consider whether there are enough fan coil units in a suite which are the systems required to heat and cool the suites. In the case of a penthouse with floor-to-ceiling windows and a western exposure, we will need more than one for the air conditioning.

Designing the condominium is a big job, and can take anywhere from eight to 10 months before sales can be launched. Remember, the builder/developer is limited by the city’s bylaws and setbacks. If you notice something awkward in the design, it’s most likely the only way that item could be completed to satisfy requirements. Perfection may be elusive in condo design, but in Toronto, we have some of the most beautiful, efficient condominiums in North America.

Linda Mitchell is vice-president of Marketing, High-Rise for Monarch Corporation. In 2005, Linda was presented with the coveted OHBA SAMMY (Sales and Marketing Member of the Year) award. In 2003, she received the Riley Brethour Award acknowledging outstanding and consistent professional achievement in residential sales and marketing.