Category Archives: The Team

Q&A with Mark Stables: condo gyms & working out in them

The gym at Minto's 88 at Yonge & Sheppard

Looks like you’re out of excuses. When it comes to condo amenities, the most highly sought after, receiving the highest usage by purchasers has become the gym. Enter Mark Stables. He’s designed many a condo gym, including the ones at minto775 King West, 88 and the new 30 Roehampton. His company, Benchmark, is an integrated health & fitness company that provides personal training, yoga, Pilates and massage therapy in homes or condos. He’s looking to add acupuncture and physiotherapy to the roster soon.

Benchmark’s offshoot, Movement Haus, began in 2010. Movement Haus looks at the architectural and interior design components of fitness amenity design for condominiums.

“We create a functional design for developers, we equip the space with state of the art equipment, then we provide all the services that Benchmark Group offers,”

We caught up with Mark earlier this week for a little Q&A.

How did you make the leap from working out in gyms to designing them?
MS: I was working as a fitness director and personal trainer. After a while it became apparent that some of the members would prefer the convenience of having a trainer come to their homes. That’s when I started my company training clients at home. I moved to Toronto shortly thereafter and started approaching developers about helping them equip their spaces and providing services like yoga, Pilates, massage therapy and nutrition. But in 2003 Toronto just wasn’t ready for it yet.

In 2010 I designed my first condo environment and discovered by passion for architecture & design. By then I had seen really poor example as well as really great examples of condo gyms. I started working with developers at the inception stages of design, working with their in-house architects & designers to design the space, equip it and then provide the services.

You’ve designed three gyms for Minto buildings. What are some of the key differences between them?
MS: Minto775 will have an industrial feel with unfinished concrete ceilings. 88 is a little more refined. It has high ceilings, lots of natural light and exposed glass facing north with direct access to the courtyard. Yoga, Pilates and TRX classes will share a dedicated private studio space. When Benchmark classes aren’t in session,  the area can also be used for personal training and stretching. The main gym will house the latest in true-to-form functional strength and cardio equipment. Lastly, the spinning section will be equipped with Keiser M3 spin bikes.

The cardio equipment will have iPod docking stations with internet-ready screens. Whatever you download on your iPod can be played on your very own screen, or you can browse online during your workout. Classes on offer will include Yoga, Pilates and TRX, as well as spinning. All of these will be supported by personal training, nutrition coaching and massage therapy to further optimize the exercise facilities at 88, ensuring they are used to their best potential as opposed to providing spaces with no follow-through on intended usage.

30 Roe is currently at the design stage, so it’s too early to tell.

Developers have been using marketing jargon like “state of the art 5 star fitness amenities” for years, and benchmark is really about defining what that is.

Obviously you have to choose the equipment and decide where to put it, but what are some of the more subtle things that figure into the design?
MS: We want to create more of a studio environment. It’s been getting better over the last few years, but I’ve seen enough facilities that are just using leftover square footage and throwing in a multigym, a treadmill and a rowing machine and calling it a five star fitness amenity. We talk about the equipment placement from the beginning so you don’t have cords everywhere. We look at the architectural drawings to make sure the space works. Sometime columns have to be moved.

After looking at the physical space, we look at the lighting, flooring, window placement and wall treatments; anything to make the space more inviting. We want it to be comfortable, with wifi so people can come down and hang out. At 30 Roehampton they’ll have a chillout room where people can lounge and meet friends during and after a workout.

What are some of the stereotypes people have of personal trainers? Which ones are true?
MS: My favourite is that all personal trainers are health-obsessed and will accept nothing less than the pinnacle of health. Some might be like that, but we’re people, too. I baked cookies this morning. I go out to restaurants and eat pasta. I love wine. When I was cycling in Italy and France [for the better part of a month last summer] I was riding really hard, and then I would go to wineries afterwards and do some tasting.

How much does one really need to work out?
MS: I think 3 times per week for about 30-45 mins is a good answer. I always encourage people to walk. The key is to find something you love doing. The treadmill might burn more calories, but it doesn’t matter if you like the eliptical and are actually going to use it.

What’s the best way to start working out if you’ve never tried before?
MS: Again it’s going to be simply finding what you enjoy doing. Have a game plan and set some goals. This is where having a personal trainer really becomes effective. Start be examining what you’re currently doing. What’s been working for you and what hasn’t? Then set some goals for yourself and figure out what you need to do to get there.

What percentage of gym memberships do you estimate go unused?
MS: I would say 80%. It’s been a while since I checked the stats. But if you look at the [big chains], every January you’ve got this huge mass of people joining up, but after 4-6 weeks, I think about 80% have lost their gusto and motivation and stopped working out. It has to do with old behaviours and old habits. This is where condo-based amenities could add a lot of value for people.

Ever feel like there’s someone up there? It might be Paul Casselman

Paul at work at 30 Roehampton

We had a chance to chat with Paul Casselman, aerial photographer extraordinaire and a good friend of Minto’s. From a part-time job at a construction site to the customary slew of weddings and bar mitzvahs to soaring over Niagara Falls, Paul gave some insight into life as an aerial photographer.

His photography career began when he was an art student at OCAD. He got a part-time job as a security guard on a construction site and was asked to take some photos. From there he did some newspaper shooting but didn’t like feeling like a spectator. However, the newspaper work helped him get his foot in the door with the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Natural Resources.

Niagara Falls
Georgian Bay

That’s when he first got a chance to do aerial work from different types of aircraft and ultimately work on a book with Pierre Berton about Niagra Falls. His career really took off from there (no pun intended). Paul first got involved with Minto by photographing the concrete pour ceremony at Minto Midtown at Yonge and Eglinton.

Minto Midtown shot from a helicopter

“The fundamental opportunity,” he told us, “is how you get the camera in the right place to describe to people what that space is like.” It’s a commitment to being in the right place at the right time. With a crane shot, you have to rely on the weather forecast and have some luck. Paul often finds himself on standby and always keeps a ladder in his truck.

Full frame fisheye lens capturing the cityscape from the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville
Naturally, we asked for some harrowing tales of walking the fine line between life and death.

There weren’t any. Paul has never had an accident, but one of his cameras has. Although it was only a two foot drop, the camera did not survive. He now goes up on ladders and cranes with three or four cameras strapped to him so he never has to change a lens. Live and learn.

A night shot taken from a helicopter
The most common question he gets asked at parties? People want to know if they can come along on a shoot. The answer, in case you ever meet Paul, is no. He has enough to think about without having to worry about someone else.
Shot from a tower crane

Also, on a shoot that could last three hours, there are no loo breaks. That means no coffee breaks, either. It takes about fifteen minutes to bring the crane up or down. So if the crane is $800 per hour, that’s a $400 pee. Yikes.

Thanks to Paul for those great insights into a career that, to be honest, most people probably haven’t thought about before. Now that you know a bit more, do we have any takers?

Minto named OHBA Green Builder of the year for the second year running

From left: Serge Desjardins, Alison Minato, Jessica Huddleston, Adrian Wang, Kyle Rainbow, Derek Hickson

We at Minto are extremely proud to announce that for the second year in a row, and three times in total, we have been recognized as Ontario’s Green Builder of the Year by the Ontario Home Builders Association.
Alison Minato, VP of sustainability, was quite delighted with the win. “It means so much to be recognized by the OHBA for our green initiatives. We’re one of few developers that have a dedicated in-house green team and it’s terrific to know that our strategies are paying off.

“We’ve been working hard for over a decade now and we’ve made huge strides in quality and sustainability. With strategies like individual suite meters and “all-off” switches being just some of the initiatives we’ve rolled out,” she explained. It’s great to win this award for the third time, and it just shows that our dedication to green pays off. It allows us to discover more opportunities and we have the processes in place to make these improvements happen.”

So what does Alison see happening to the green condo scene over the next few years? Right now, for example, they’re researching the potential of LED lighting. It’s more efficient than fluorescent lighting and it produces significantly less heat than halogen lights. Plus, the team is looking at wireless thermostat & lighting control. It has potential in the area of home automation and remote monitoring, which is something you’re likely to see more of in the future. Super-insulated windows are another great feature. “This is a very exciting time to be developing new, green condominiums,” Alison says.

Do you have a green question for our team? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages and we promise you’ll get an answer!