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Wo-Built Inc:The Vision Builder

Who are Martina Ernst and Elida Huignard of Wo-Built?

Martina Ernst studied Architecture at London University in London, England, believing that she wanted to be an architect. However, half-way through her courses she became passionate about lighting design and the possibilities of transforming spaces through the use of light.

After working a few years in England as a lighting designer, she came to Canada in the early 90s and joined a firm of project managers where she managed a team of eight engineers to develop energy performance improvements in 178 buildings for a major Canadian School Board. The work included design as much as project and contract administration.

In 1996 she had the opportunity to work in Singapore on the team that designed and built the new line of the Singapore subway system, a total of 16 new stations. She envisaged and led the new countrywide transportation image and manual for the Singapore Land Transport Authority and resolved complex coordination and contract problems of complementary architectural contracts.

A long-term ambition to do an MBA brought Martina back to Canada and after completing her degree in Strategic Management at the University of British Columbia in 2002, she started her own consulting firm which specialized in helping not-for-profit organisations make money, a choice that resulted from her wish to help the community.

However, never forgetting her roots in design, she jumped at the chance to become involved in mentoring women in construction. Thus as co-founder and CEO of Wo-Built she strives to achieve a balance between hard business realities such as profitability and client satisfaction and the social dimension, the mentoring of women in construction.

ELIDA HUIGNARD – President 2006-2010, Lead Consultant
Elida Huignard is a Graduate Architect from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who started her work in Toronto in 1977. She worked for Kelton Architects and Pellow Architects in several roles that included: interior design, preparing working drawings, project presentations, contract administration and construction supervision.

In 1982 she started working for HN Construction as a project manager. She was in charge of the estimating and project supervision of numerous government projects like: schools, office renovations, court houses, immigration offices, and several private offices.

In 1985 she founded her own company, Builtron Ltd with her husband. As Vice President of the company for more than 20 years, she continued to develop her strengths. Elida developed her ability to successfully coordinate difficult projects and achieve their completion in time and on budget. The nature of the work was: analyzing and responding to tenders, negotiating contracts, supervising construction, administering contracts, coordinating job sites and conducting project reviews and inspections with clients and government officials.

Recognizing that women have great talents that are well suited for the construction industry she became a strong advocate for helping women to enter the construction trades. As co-founder and President of Wo-Built this continues to be one of her main focuses.

As Head of Operations for Wo-Built she contributes her top level organizational and team management skills to coordinate the work of an impressive mainly female construction team, to drive customer satisfaction and project completion in time, on budget and beyond expectations.

What is Wo-Built?

As a female-led design and build company, Wo-Built began five years ago with a vision: “to be the leading quality building company that is sought for its innovative design and construction and one that is recognized for using our projects as a means to helping women, the community and the environment.” We have expanded our social mission twofold. Firstly we want to mentor women to succeed in the building trades and secondly we aspire to be involved in affordable housing in the community.

Our other social interests include providing affordable housing on a larger scale, but with something special – innovative design that enables community building. We would like to explore this with financial partners who want to make housing a better place to live.

Last, but certainly not least, Wo-Built is innovating a new approach to environmental living, an initiative we introduced at the 2012 Home Show.

What does Wo-Built specialize in?

Wo-Built designs and builds residential and commercial properties in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We specialize in:

Additions – 2nd floor additions, front and back (rear) extensions, other
Major Renovations – complete interior remodelling, demolition and reconstruction
Custom Homes – demolition and rebuilds, new builds

Medical Spaces – offices, naturopathic clinics, research facilities
Construction, additions, demolition and rebuilds, complete interior remodelling, design consulting

What does Wo-Built love about their work?

We love being general contractors with a difference. There’s satisfaction in building something truly special, made more so by the knowledge we’ve done so with minimum stress and maximum enjoyment.

There is nothing that compares with the feeling of delivering an extraordinary new home (or office, etc.) to a client—a design inspired by their needs and tastes made into bricks n’ mortar (and wood and glass etc…) with quality and care. To do right by our clients, we listen to them; we understand where they’re coming from.

With Wo-Built, that moment is made even sweeter with positive memories of an adventure we took together, at the end of which we want our customers to proudly say, “I built it. Wo-Built just made it happen.”

Showcase: Second Storey Addition

Wo-Built was hired to be part of a second storey addition and renovation. For this project we gutted the main floor to create an open concept space. With the second storey addition we were able to include two large side by side skylights that brightened up the staircase.

As a designer/contractor we also had to balance design with practicalities, such as making sure that the heat loss from the windows is kept low and acceptable. We had to consider the effectiveness of only one skylight, would it have been enough to light the staircase? No doubt it would have brought some daylight down, but it would not have had the WOW effect that was achieved with the installation of 2 skylights. Comfort is not just providing energy efficient solutions, but also providing light, lightness and visual stimulation.

The client also wanted energy efficient measures in their home. Higher R-Values (a measure of thermal resistance used in building construction) were a must. Our favorite feature was the heat recovery unit for the waste water. Warm water from the drains heats up the water supply that flows through the water heater, this means that less energy is required to heat water to a desired temperature.

To learn more about this project visit Wo-Built’s Blog; Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Have you used Wo-Built? Tell us about your experience here!

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