By Gabriella Kalapos, Executive Director/Clean Air Partnership

Advancing the energy efficiency of existing buildings is a critical part of any community’s climate action plan and social housing retrofits presents an ideal opportunity to accelerate that effort. City Housing Hamilton has adopted a Passive House standard to help provide their residents with high quality housing while also improving their financial, environmental and social sustainability. Advancing the energy efficiency in social housing can achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions, and also reduce vulnerability to energy and carbon price increases over time.

The North End’s Ken Soble Tower at the foot of Macnab Street is an 18-storey building built in 1967. It is a senior residence and is the first of nine retrofits planned by City Housing Hamilton.

Achieving the Passive House retrofit standards for Ken Soble will improve thermal comfort and health of residents, and will achieve a 94% reduction in GHG emissions.

Passive House focuses on improvements to the building envelope to ensure that the need for heating and cooling energy is reduced and much as possible. It also serves as a resilience measure as it enables residents to shelter in place longer in the event of energy disruption. For example, once completed, residents of Ken Soble Tower will be able to remain in their units 4 – 5 days (as opposed to 4 – 5 hours) in the event of a power outage. With its focus on improvements to the building envelope, the building was also able to switch from natural gas to electric heating through the installation of air source heat pumps while keeping electricity costs below their pre-retrofit levels.

Residents were relocated during the retrofit as the building faced a deteriorating envelope, lack of insulation, inadequate ventilation, mold, and end of life of mechanical systems. In addition to energy efficiency gains, the retrofit also incorporates significant accessibility improvements. Common areas were enlarged and made more accessible, and 21% of the units achieve barrier free standards to enable residents to age in place.

Social housing retrofits are a great opportunity to advance energy efficiency retrofits. Improving tenant comfort and health, and the building’s state of good repair is an approach that advances the North End’s economic, social and environmental goals.

For more information visit Passive House’s website at Ken Soble Tower | Passive House Buildings. Photo credits attributed to ERA Architects.