The S.M. Group International Inc. designs an innovative residential neighbourhood

While the concept of mini-houses is gaining in popularity, most Quebec municipalities still prohibit the construction of these ecological and minimalist homes. However. The Fédération des coopératives d’ habitation de l’ Estrie and the Coopérative des propriétaires have been working for several years on the Petit Quartier, an innovative pocket neighborhood project that includes mini-houses, which The S.M. Group International Inc. joined in 2016.

The Petit Quartier is an urban development in the Fleurimont borough of Sherbrooke, which will have 73 mini-houses of 480 ft2 and is expected to begin construction in the spring of 2018. Founded as a co-operative of owners, the neighbourhood has been designed in such a way as to foster collaboration and community while incorporating eco-responsible construction concepts.

The design principle for this project is the pocket neighborhood, developed by the American architect Ross Chapin. This concept, little known in Quebec, offers an alternative to large-scale agglomerations.

Pocket neighborhoods are composed of a few houses — mini-houses or other — that are arranged in clusters around a courtyard, a garden, or a vegetated alley. The streets within these neighbourhoods are generally private, and the clusters of houses are connected by pedestrian pathways. By grouping the parking lots at the entrance of the neighbourhood, it creates a safer, greener and more welcoming environment which are the three principles that are the cornerstones of this urbanism concept.

The infrastructure, urban planning, landscape architecture and environmental departments of The S.M. Group International Inc. participated in the design of plans for this unusual neighbourhood. The Petit Quartier site is 730,000 ft2 and 60% will be kept as ecological compensation and will be transformed into a nature reserve. The portion of land that will house the neighbourhood’s infrastructures will be developed with this same respect for the environment.

This unique solution, proposed by The Group S.M. International Inc.’s team, makes the natural layout of the site the guideline for urban infrastructure planning.


“Our team proposed to design the clusters of homes based on the uneven land to minimize excavation. In urban planning, topography is not necessarily the main focus in project design, whereas in engineering, this approach is common. Our knowledge of the different disciplines has enabled us to optimise the layout of the site from the very beginning, a unique solution of which we are extremely proud”

Project Manager, Urban Planning

Unlike traditional pocket neighborhoods, the Petit Quartier designed by The S.M. Group International Inc. experts does not have virtually identical clusters. The housing pockets have been developed in such a way as to match the topography of the site. This unique solution, proposed by our team, makes the natural layout of the site the guideline for urban infrastructure planning. This approach, made possible by the global vision conferred to the group by its multidisciplinarity, will facilitate the construction of underground networks, while at the same time giving the neighbourhood an organic and unique character.

The mini-houses that will be built in this neighborhood are far from what most people can imagine. Different from tiny-houses (less than 400 sq. ft.) that are generally mobile, mini-houses (400 to 700 sq. ft.) are built on concrete slabs and meet building code standards. The small size of these homes, which involves adapting one’s lifestyle, allows buyers to be home ownership without sacrificing product quality. By paying between $106,000 and $140,000, you can become the owner of a house and land.

With every mini-houses already sold, co-op members are confident that the neighbourhood will be ready by the fall of 2018. The project’s highly positive response also suggests that the idea of a living environment that is both welcoming and respectful of the environment could become very popular. The S.M. Group International Inc. is proud to be able to contribute to the implementation of new real estate development principles.