Inspiration and function at work
By Rajitha Sivakumaran
Of the many architectural and interior design firms across Atlantic Canada, TOSS Solutions stands out. Based in Saint John, New Brunswick, the company has been described by multiple high-end clients as creative, professional and knowledgeable. Client testimonials frequently include statements such as “The quality and integrity of their services is exceptional.”, “It looks fantastic!”, and “We would like extend our sincere appreciation for the excellent work that TOSS Solutions has provided.”
TOSS is a relatively young firm, having started in 2004. Its founders agree that their entrepreneurial journey has been one of substantial growth and success to the order of approximately 2,500,000-square-feet of built flexible, effective workspaces for their clientele, including distinguished organizations like TD Canada Trust, Genesys, Bell Aliant, and Cox & Palmer to name a few. Additionally, TOSS’s work includes many confidential commercial and industrial projects.
How did the company reach such an esteemed status in only 13 years? “By recreating re-imagined, insightful work environments that delight and inspire the people who use them is what we strive for every day,” said Brendan Bates, Partner and Project Manager at TOSS.
When the company first emerged, it consisted of a single team of four founding partners. It quickly grew to employ 13 people, making TOSS a large practice for an architectural and interior design firm in Atlantic Canada. Furthermore, business hasn’t been restricted to the home base; the company has completed projects in Canada, from Toronto to Newfoundland, as well as in various cities in the United States including Boston, Portland, San Francisco and Miami.
Karen Slade, the Principal founding partner says, “Because the founders offered a wide range of experience in architecture and interior design, we felt that we could offer the Atlantic region something that really wasn’t available at that point, a broader service offering with a distinct focus on people and their individual needs.” By shifting the focus on the people within the space, rather than typically providing space for the people, the firm was allowed to develop a niche market, which still today differentiates the solutions provided by TOSS.
Throughout its 13 years, the TOSS team has included project managers, interior designers, a furniture expert, and architects, offering services from strategic planning to interior design and architecture, to development of strategic facility standards and move management. The team uses a variety of tools, including 3D renderings and animation, to communicate with clients before the ideas on paper manifest in reality. As far as customized solutions go, TOSS is an expert at repurposing space, planning high tech work environments, furniture specifications heritage integration and crafting industrial solutions.
Jennifer Greene has been a designer with TOSS for eight years and says sustainable design plays a big part in her job. “We approach every project, and the way we run our office, with sustainability in mind,” she says. A key goal in every project is enhancing occupant health and indoor environmental quality, as well as minimizing its carbon footprint, and with LEED-accredited professionals on the team, they have a comprehensive understanding of how to achieve those goals.
Like many companies, TOSS has had its fair share of ups and downs, but the founders smartly saw opportunity where others would have seen limitation. “In the Saint John area, there was a period of enthusiasm and potential for mega projects,” explained Slade. “TOSS grew and were a part of this excitement and when that quickly dissolved, we had to readily adapt to a changed market.”
Bates adds, “We had to evolve our practices and services to respond to a new market. Very quickly after the mega projects began to wind down, and ceased to exist in some cases, we found that capital expenditures became very low. It became difficult to compete for projects.”
Slade and the other team members noticed the shift in the market within the Atlantic Canada region saw people now repurposing and reusing space more frequently than engaging in new building construction. But it wasn’t all bad. In fact, this change of environment allowed TOSS to monopolize its experience and expertise to focus on commercial interiors more so than architecture. In recent years, TOSS has devolved primary architectural services out of its core service offering, utilizing strategic partnerships within the architectural community when projects require building envelope or specialized support.
The company’s success continues from this change in focus, but also from its repeat clientele. “Everything we do continues to be based on people,” says Bates. “Relationships are the most important thing to us. We foster ongoing communications and contact with our clients, working with them to successfully realize their objectives. This has resulted in a wonderful array of long-standing clients.”
Innovation plays a large part of the company’s success too. “We have a reputation for being a little bit edgy because we’ve brought products to the marketplace that are new,” Slade said, adding that trends and goods typically take longer to reach Atlantic Canada, although with the evolution of the online resources, it is easier for TOSS to stay current.
TOSS’s trade is transformation of space, from current state or from inception, all while being cognisant of work that would benefit social and economic concerns within the community. “We were very successful early on. One of the things that we realized with that success was that we wanted to give back to the community,” Bates said.
Because many of TOSS’s projects were confidential in nature, the firm took community involvement as an opportunity to share their abilities and knowledge. with the business community, at large. One example of this was the emergence of Saint John’s Safe Harbour Youth Facility, a conversion of an abandoned church to a 6,000-square-foot home for transitional youth. TOSS is also engaged in economic strategic projects like ConnexionWorks, partnering on the development of Saint John’s first co-working environment within the Uptown business core of Saint John, providing a 10,000-square-foot professional, shared, resource-based workspace for small businesses and start-ups to grow and thrive.
TOSS continues to look forward, enhancing individual and firm skillsets, mentoring young designers within the firm to encourage their fresh ideas. By working closely with manufacturers, and industry leaders to understand forward-looking trends and strategies, new and innovative products, and current and upcoming technologies, TOSS continues to provide clients with flexible, creative and fully integrated design solutions.