Few projects will see either a team of client representatives as devoted as those at Rosemont, Benny Farm and Bâtiment 7. Reflecting on the next wave of community housing projects across Canada, where future residents may be less able to play such an active role, it is important to adopt a design approach that is less focused on active technology, constant maintenance, or heroic efforts by the client. Projects will have to be designed with more passive design considerations, emphasizing built-in means to achieve energy efficiency – such as appropriate window technologies, solar exposure, and emphasis on a well-insulated and air-tight building envelope. This approach calls for a significant investment from the outset. In return, the overall management and operations by housing groups would be simpler, and long-term replacement costs would be reduced or postponed. This approach also ensures better thermal comfort over the building’s lifetime, an important consideration for a wide range of client groups.
Five years ago, it would not have been possible to imagine the application of this approach in the community housing sector in North America. High-quality building envelope components were scarce, and cost premiums were high. Today, there are more and more high-performing, reasonably priced products available on the market. However, although the costs of these materials have decreased, they remain above the modest capital cost budgets of most affordable housing projects. Adopting a passive approach in the affordable housing sector required “pilot project” status for the Bois Ellen Cooperative Residence. In the end, the construction costs were higher than conventional social housing budgets, but lower than the ten percent funding allotted by the provincial housing agency for energy efficient affordable housing. As well, the long term savings, whether in replacement costs, maintenance, or operations, will more than compensate for the initial capital investment required from a lifecycle costing perspective. Most importantly, the passive approach includes a degree of resilience that is rarely seen in affordable housing.
Most importantly, all four projects benefited from a robust risk approach to their design. The risks associated with aging or less capable client groups; the risks of complexity; the risks of over- (or under-) investment; market risks; procurement risks; capital and operating cost risks; comfort risks. The Benny Farm, Rosemont, Bois Ellen and Bâtiment 7 projects demonstrate the evolution of our sustainable building strategies and risk approach, using materials and technologies that move towards the highest energy standards, within the means of the client in question. It is an approach that uses an integrated design process that empowers communities to appropriate their projects and become the long-term stewards that successful building environments require.
For more information, visit the Curry Stone Design Prize website here.
Read about Benny Farm here.
Read about Rosemont here.
Read about Bois Ellen here.
Read about Bâtiment 7 – Building 7 here.