Benny Farm & Green Energy Benny Farm

  • Crédit photo: Audrey Belval

  • Crédit photo: Audrey Belval

  • Crédit photo: Holcim Foundation, Nikkol Rot
  • Crédit photo: Holcim Foundation, Nikkol Rot

  • Crédit photo: Audrey Belval

Project Data

Location : Benny Farm, Montreal, QC
Customer representatives : Bob Butler & Jeanne Mayo founding members of Green Energy Benny Farm (EVBF), the non-profit company which developed the project.
Bio-climatic engineer : Martin Roy et ass.
Civil engineer : SDKLBB
Water treatment engineer : TEKNIKA HBA
Awards : North America Gold Award HOLCIM Foundation for Sustainable Construction [2005]
Awards : Global Bronze Award HOLCIM Foundation for Sustainable Construction [2006]
Pilot project : Environmental infrastructure linking shared 187 housing units spread across three projects.


- Holcim Foundation: Green, social and complex
- CMHC: Innovative Buildings


Totalling 18 acres in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood, Benny Farm was built in 1946 and 1947 to house war veterans. The City of Montreal has been deeply involved in the redevelopment strategy for Benny Farm, both with respect to zoning change requirements and funding of various affordable housing programs (through the “Opération Solidarité 5000 logements”) on the site. The City has prioritized the Benny Farm site as a high profile, mixed profile housing redevelopment with approximately five hundred and fifty new or renovated affordable housing units. L’OEUF’s involvement with the redevelopment of Benny Farm has spanned many years and several projects.

1998 “Community Land Trust Benny Farm” (CLTBF) This alternative project for the redevelopment of Benny Farm was a different vision of the future of the site that is consistent with its historical, cultural and political content. This vision advocated renovation and infill – modification rather than transformation of the existing condition since it assured harmony with the scale and texture of the neighborhood. As a third sector project, the community land trust was an opportunity to develop a housing project for a diverse demographic that was not characterized by market speculation. What was truly revolutionary about this proposal was the attitude that defines housing as a resource rather than a commodity.

1999 A round table discussion was organized by Canada Lands Company (CLC). Parties represented in this discussion included: L’OEUF, Veterans, the CLSC, the YMCA, neighbors, community groups and future residents.

2002 Invited design alternative competition hosted by CLC. L’OEUF in collaboration with landscape architects NIP prepared an urban strategy including: mixed use buildings, mixed revenues, renovation and new construction, densification and affordable / low income housing.


Green Energy Benny Farm is a prototype for community-driven sustainability- housing. It puts forward a model for the stewardship of a social, ethical, technical and financial ecology. 


Major challenges and accomplishments

GEBF’s core innovation is the unique integration of building, sustainable systems, and community process in the low-cost housing sector. Sustainable design knowledge and technology are applied at all scales, from the urban (human community and community infrastructure) to the fine-grain details within each housing project. A major goal for this project is to demonstrate the long term financial viability of a green infrastructure. The project was made possible through the successful application to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM’s) Green Municipality Fund (GMF) which supports investment in innovative municipal infrastructure projects. However, Green Energy Benny Farm (GEBF), a non-profit corporation, will manage itself autonomously over the long 

Community and interest group consultation

Operation and maintenance of the energy and water infrastructures are controlled by the GEBF board, composed of residents, community representatives and technical experts. They will oversee how the revenue from energy savings will be distributed, between management, maintenance, research, expansion of green infrastructure components, passing the savings to residents, and investing in on-going education and dissemination – both to residents and to the community at large. Given the unprecedented scale of the project, and because of its inherent and potential risks, L’OEUF has placed its emphasis on risk management in order to protect the quality of life and the rights of the residents of this demonstration project. For instance risks are reduced through multiple back-up systems and recorded monitoring.

Description of partnership utilized

As the largest of the three non-profit housing projects, and with an experienced board of directors, O.B.N.L. Chez-Soi was the lead applicant of the project. The municipal authority – City of Montreal – and the provincial organization – Société d’Habitation du Québec – have been deeply involved in the initial Benny Farm Redevelopment Plan, both with respect to zoning change requirements and funding of various affordable housing programs – “Opération Solidarité 5000 logements” and “Logement Abordable Québec” – on the site. The two other housing organizations involved in GEBF are COOP ZOO and HCNDG. Although there is a long history of co-development between non-profit housing organizations and both authorities, City of Montreal and Société d’Habitation du Québec , the pilot project Greening the Infrastructure at Benny Farm is the first large scale partnership in the affordable housing sector where long term sustainability issues are front and center. Beyond the innovative partnership between the Lead Applicant O.B.N.L. Chez-soi, the two other housing organizations, COOP ZOO and HCNDG, and the Municipal and Provincial Partners, this project has brought together many different interest groups. The Vendor, the Corporation de développement économique communautaire Notre-Dame-de Grâce, Groupe CDH (a resource group), the Notre-Dame-de Grâce Community Council and the federal organizations CLC and the FCM, have been part of an exemplary model of co-operation between diverse organizations.

Key personnel & their roles

Daniel S. Pearl, is the partner in charge of the GEBF infrastructure demonstration project at Benny Farm, coordinating the application and receipt of a green municipality fund grant on behalf of a non-profit client, and now overseeing the final design and construction of the innovative green infrastructure. Since 2000, Mark Poddubiuk has directed the affordable housing redevelopment of Benny Farm in Montréal on behalf of L’OEUF including the renovation study of existing buildings in 2003 and the construction and renovation of 254 subsidized apartments in 2004-2006. Mark has participated throughout in the consultation process – both with Canada Lands Company (CLC) and with NDG community organizations since 1992. Bernard Olivier has been in charge of the site supervision of Chez-soi a new 91 apartment building at Benny Farm, Montreal where numerous water and energy saving technologies were integrated to the building during construction. Chez-soi is designed to hopefully attain a LEED GOLD rating.

Services provided

Project management for every phase of the project (survey sketch, preliminary drawing, construction drawings and architectural specifications, site supervision). Preliminary design Construction drawings Site supervision Coordination of consultant experts. Coordination of engineers. Coordination of risk management. Coordination of the application and receipt of a green municipality fund grant on behalf of a non-profit client. Coordinating the participation of community, consultant experts and engineers immediately within the conceptual approach phase through IDP (integrated design process).

Schedule and budget

This project was conceived to be modified en route if sufficient funding for greening the infrastructure was attained after the commencement of construction. The project successfully received additional funding six months after the start of renovation, and upgrading of the common infrastructure will continue over the next 12 months.

Scope and value of the project

A non-profit, community-run utility company will oversee the ownership, management and continual re-investment in sustainable construction for this common energy, water and waste infrastructure. Developed by grassroots stakeholders and designed to expand in phases, the project provides a protocol for construction that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, potable water use, the management of waste water, and the production of solid waste through retrofitting, reuse and waste diversion. The project integrates a series of systems, existing and new, both between and within all buildings involved. Building and Facility protocols focus on reuse, heightened air quality, durable construction, and energy efficient envelopes. Energy systems involve geothermal heat exchange, hybrid glycol/electric solar power, radiant heating, and both air- and water-based heat recovery. Water systems involve grey-water and storm-water reuse, wetland treatment and percolation, and sub-grade water-table recharge. These systems are interconnected and mutually dependent. All systems contribute to the sustainable and continued development of Benny Farm, and all systems increase the quality of life for the users. Although developed for affordable housing projects on Benny Farm, this model is designed to be copied. Most energy comes from renewable sources, so partners are significantly protected from increases in energy costs. Water use is reduced by more than half, so partners are shielded from increases to water taxes or meter rates. The economic, social and environmental dividends created by reduced energy and water use are balanced between the partners, system maintenance and monitoring, and future re-investment into new technologies and collective amenities. The model of participation between all levels of social organization, grassroots to federal governments, is applicable everywhere.

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