Meet our Energy Trailblazer: Will Gonell

Afaf Azzouz

Will Gonell

Owner, Gonell Homes Inc.

Toronto, ON

Will Gonell’s journey into the construction industry is a tale of reinvention and passion. Today, he owns Gonell Homes, a Toronto-based company specializing in custom home building and renovations, focusing on energy efficiency, green building, and historic restorations. His path to this point was far from straightforward.

Gonell’s early career was rooted in public service; he served as a United States Marine for over eight years, followed by nine years as an officer with the New York Police Department. His life took a significant turn when he met his future wife, leading him to move to Canada in 2008. “I knew very little about Canada. She’s the reason why I’m here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he reflects.

Seeking new beginnings, his shift to construction began with volunteer work, mentoring at-risk youth and promoting their participation in trade programs, sparking his interest in the field.

His construction career started at Authentic Construction, where he quickly rose through the ranks. His hard work and dedication led him to become a project manager, laying the groundwork for his future endeavours. By 2013, he was ready to launch Gonell Homes, which now boasts a small, dedicated team and a reputation for reliability and innovation in Toronto.

Gonell’s commitment to environmentally friendly building practices is not just a part of his business; it’s a part of his identity. This commitment was reinforced during his time at Authentic Construction, where he learned about insulated concrete forms (ICF) construction. His thirst for knowledge took him across Europe, where he learned from pioneers in green and energy-efficient building techniques, a practice he eagerly incorporates into his projects.

“This was all self-guided. I purposely took trips to Europe to learn from the Germans and the Swiss—things schools don’t even do. I purposely sought out the pioneers and learned directly from the source.” 

As a retired New York City Police Officer and United States Marine Sergeant, Gonell has leveraged his attention to precision and detail to elevate climate mitigation strategies in the building industry. Gonell is highly familiar with working in multinational industries, holds a certificate in Global Business from the Harvard Business School, and is fluent in Spanish and English. With every project that Gonell undertakes, he is cognizant that how we consume, produce, and move must get as close to net-zero emissions as possible to support a livable planet. This goal drives Gonell in every aspect of his business and life because of his passion for people, his community, and the world.

When it comes to his clients, Gonell’s approach is not just about building houses; it’s about building relationships. Homes built by Gonell over a decade ago still surpass current building standards. His approach integrates cutting-edge technologies like hydronic heating, hot roof systems, and heat recovery ventilation units with robust construction and striking designs. But it’s not just about technology. Gonell takes the time to walk every client through their options, explaining the long-term benefits and cost efficiencies of unconventional tech and ensuring that their unique needs and preferences are met.

Gonell is passionate about designing regenerative environments that benefit those who live and operate in them. As a professor who researches, collects data and analyzes sustainable building practices, Gonell stays current on industry trends as an active advisor on net-zero and climate mitigation strategies to the City of Toronto, International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and George Brown College.

In 2021, Gonell expanded his expertise stateside with the establishment of Gonell Developments LLC in NYC, a consultancy focusing on building envelopes and collaborations with cleantech companies. Today, Gonell is proud of the high-quality homes and retrofits his company produces and how his career has evolved to help people in a new capacity. “I’m a people person. This happens to be how I help people. To me, building someone’s dream is the biggest gratification I could ever imagine,” he concludes, reflecting on his unique journey from public service to private entrepreneurship in construction.

Will’s Career Journey

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Harvard Business School Online Certification in Global Business.

UofT Rotman School of Management Sustainability Leadership: Innovation for Growth.

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Obtained LEED, WELL AP & Faculty, Net-Zero Renovator and Building Training, and Passive House Certification.

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On-the-Job Experience

Started at Authentic Construction and quickly progressed to Project Manager specializing in ICF.

Founded his construction company Gonell Homes Inc. with a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency.

Currently teaches Business Management & Development at George Brown College.

Advice on entering the energy efficiency sector

As a female and a Black female, there are always going to be obstacles. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t face them head-on. I like a challenge. I welcome it, actually. It motivates me. So for any women out there who are BIPOC or women in general, we are dominating a very male-induced industry.

Ruvi Mugara

Director of Projects, Thinkwell Shift

Where things are trending in workforce development is, upskilling the soft skills that you don’t have. We’ve recognized that it’s not just learning the technical stuff, you have to give them the management skills and the business skills and the stakeholder engagement skills.

Kirk johnson

President, Eco-Efficiency Consulting

The great thing is that with this sector, there is such a need for workers that they are offering courses to everyone. That’s really opening up for people. You don’t need to go back to school necessarily. Go do a degree or diploma. You can take like little courses at a time to upskill yourself and make yourself relevant.

Shannon Giebelhaus

Clean Energy Improvement Program Team Lead, Alberta Municipalities

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