You are here

Startup: Architect Paul Raff builds his own success

Innovation can set you apart in any industry, and Paul Raff is living proof. Combining his love for fine art with his passion for sustainable energy, Raff's architectural designs should be an inspiration for aspiring architects.Raff's dream of becoming an architect began when he caught a glimpse of the blueprints to a home his friend's parents were having built. I started designing houses myself [after that] on paper, at age 11, I think. I just sort of fell in love with that process, he says. Architecture sort of seemed obvious as a career.That experience propelled Raff into pursuing his dream of becoming an architect, and after graduating from the University of Waterloo with degrees in architecture and environmental studies, Raff worked to create a name for himself as a sought-after Canadian architect. His diverse body of work includes countless projects including the Bluepoint residential resort in Thailand, the Jumeirah Culu Culu Polo Resort in Argentina, and the The Glencairn House renovation in Toronto. Aside from his architectural projects, he has also designed temporary environmental installations and permanent sculptural works, drawing on his art experience. Every project is unique, so it's never boring, he says. I just continue to feel that I have a lot to look forward to.Among all of his projects, however, his favourite is the Cascade House because it was the first house I designed under my own name with my own firm, which he says is very special to him. It's obviously very unique and has a remarkable sculptural quality, but it's also a solar house with an incredibly low carbon footprint.The Cascade House, located in the Forest Hill neighbourhood in Toronto, is a sustainable residence that combines elegant architectural design and the environmentally responsible building strategies Raff so firmly believes in. I think everyone's proud that it costs 75 per cent less than most homes of a similar size to heat in the winter, he says. The other thing is that it has a wonderful quality of light. Cascade House is a favourite of Raff's because its design encompasses his goal to create sustainable living spaces'something that started when he read an astonishing statistic, which is that almost 40 per cent of our world energy consumption is attributable to the building industry'including the construction and operation of buildings. Raff says, That's bigger than the entire transportation sector. When I read that, I suddenly realized the enormous responsibility that I have as an architect to do better than that with my buildings, in terms of energy performance and carbon footprint.In 2001, with no end in sight for his career, Paul Raff became the youngest ever recipient of the Ontario Association of Architects' Allied Arts Award for lifetime achievement, an award that he jokes is really...an issue. To receive such an award at a young age, especially when he has no plans of slowing down, is a really unique honour, according to Raff. You turn 40 in the world of architecture and you're considered young, he says. I'm glad I didn't decide to become a professional athlete or a ballet dancer, because [at his age] my career would be over.For students who are thinking of becoming architects, Raff says, You should really dig in and really figure out what you're getting into, both in terms of an academic education, but also what it means as a profession, especially since they are two very different things.It seems that a lot of his success can be attributed not only to his talents, but to his love for his profession. I think it's wonderful that I can look back on success, but I'm looking for more, and I'm looking to have more impact in more places, for more people, and bringing the experience I have and continually developing creative processes and vision that my team and I bring. We just want to do more. We want more.