Rosemont – Le Coteau Vert & Un Toit pour Tous

Project Data

Location : Rosemont - Petite Patrie
Client : Coop Le Coteau Vert | GRT Bâtir son Quartier | OBNL Un Toit pour Tous
Cost of construction : 18000000 $
Mechanical engineer : PMA
Structural engineer : CPF Groupe Conseil | Vinci Consultant
General contractor : Sept Frères Construction
Completed in : 09/2010
Prizes and mentions : Novoclimat Certification foreseen |

Building on our experience from Benny Farm, we adjusted and “retooled”, applying lessons learned and monitoring building performance in the Rosemont affordable housing development. Our intent remained constant: to get at better ways of creating urban affordable housing, to innovate, and to co-learn with our clients throughout the process, and to document and share lessons learned with the public. The resident groups at Rosemont were highly engaged and fully represented from the beginning of the project, which allowed us to again lead an involved integrated design process (IDP). The Rosemont project is a great example of empowering and co-learning with two client groups, designing one environmental system for both, achieving better environmental performance through passive design strategies, future proofing so that deeper green strategies can evolve at the client groups’ own pace, and creating a great design on a social housing budget.


Applying lessons learned: strengthening the core, and innovating again

 As with the Benny Farm, at Rosemont, distinct client groups came together to propose a joint project. Rosemont is two projects on one site with shared infrastructure. The combined client group brought along a strong vision to create one sustainable collective community, and the original board set the green standards very high. We applied lessons learned from our experience at Benny Farm, and new goals were set for Rosemont: the players in the project were selected with more rigour; the project was again designed for residents to take over after completion; technical systems were simplified, to make this easier; design permitted green measures to be added more simply; and technical resilience was provided with simple backups from day 1. We also made a strong commitment to commissioning and performance monitoring, given that so few green affordable projects are built. This is the only way for us to rigorously track the performance of our systems after construction. Especially for innovative projects like Rosemont, monitoring should begin on day one, to collect data to verify design assumptions, prove the actual performance, and fine-tune the operation of the systems.


The context

The Rosemont project is on a site with two distinct client groups: the Coteau Vert cooperative housing and non-profit Un Toit pout Tous. The project is on the former site of the old Rosemont’s municipal workshop site in Petite-Patrie in Montreal – a densely-developed and popular neighbourhood adjacent to the Rosemont metro station. The site had most recently been used as a parking area for municipal snow removal vehicles.

We secured a modest grant from CMHC to look into affordable social housing for the coop Coteau Vert, and shortly thereafter for the non-profit Un Toit pour Tous. As usual, the project budget was very constrained (approximately $100 / sq.ft.), which required rationalizing planning and construction techniques. The Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ) granted an additional 10% funding for the implementation of the environmental improvements. At the time that the project was being developed, a new park, a public library, and an 8-storey private housing development were all set to be built next to the Rosemont site. Our project was designed as eight separate four-storey buildings, closer to the scale of the existing building fabric of Petite-Patrie. The units had to be designed for a variety of household types, and would share a semi-private central courtyard. 


Community Engagement and the Integrated Design Process

We received three government grants to help launch the initial design project: one from the Green Municipal Fund (GMF) to do a pre-design analysis, a second from the City of Montreal, and a third from the CMHC’s Equilibrium program. With these grants, we launched the first design charrette, which was crucial in creating a project vision. We again had very committed stakeholder groups, which permitted a robust IDP process. We then led a six-month process with several of these groups, which enabled the analysis of the much larger context than the immediate site. This established the vision and scale of the project. The dedication of the Rosemont neighbourhood’s technical resource group, many of the stakeholder groups, and the two client groups to have meetings for three or four years (all volunteer hours!) ensured that everyone’s voice was heard and that win-win scenarios could be achieved. IDP in the case of Rosemont also helped solidify our commitment to monitoring, since we relied on coordination with our consultants to decide how to carry out the monitoring work and how to install all the monitoring equipment while disturbing the residents as least as possible. 


Environmental Systems and Transferability

Many of the project sustainability goals were achieved through passive design strategies. Whereas conventional buildings are 18-20 m deep with double-loaded corridors, Rosemont was designed to be 10 m deep and scaled for good solar exposure. This typology, along with the careful control of orientation, fenestration, natural ventilation and shading meant big energy gains at no cost. Southeast and southwest balconies are designed to shade the doors and windows during the summer months. For heating, Rosemont uses a geothermal system with centralized heat recovery ventilators. The courtyard integrates storm water management via a retention basin on site with an active social space with local plants that require minimal watering. Monitoring is also a central component of our environmental strategy at Rosemont and is necessary for benchmarking, using real data rather than relying on suppositions about performance. It is essential for rigorously learning for all parties involved. We have just completed one year of monitoring, and the results are public and met our goals.

The energy system is oversized in both duct capacity and preheating abilities (pretreated makeup air comes in at 25-28 degrees instead of 18 degrees!) and will pay for itself in 20 years – not an aggressive return, but a very reliable one. From the first day, the buildings at Rosemont were about 40% better than energy code. And they only cost about $110/sf.! The groups are considering the creation of a non-profit service company to monitor their interests, manage the project, and guide sustainable reinvestment for their common energy and  water management infrastructure.

A hindrance to advancing energy efficiency measures in affordable housing projects is that virtually all grant programs support measures that deliver immediate energy benefits but that do not support measures that enable the gradual development of green strategies for long-term resilience, flexibility and growth. In order to combat this challenge, our strategy was again to “future-proof” the Rosemont project, and to find a balance between performance, resilience, and cost. Our mantra was “make the solution viable for today and resilient for tomorrow.” The integration of infrastructure for future measures and a “loose fit” design approach was core to Rosemont and its overall sustainability.