Run-down rooming house finds redemption as Passivhaus social housing

Parkdale Landing exterior
© Invisij Architects/ George Qua Enoo

Indwell and Invizij Architects are doing incredible work, raising the bar for housing people in need.
George and Mary's Tavern and Rooming House in Hamilton, Ontario was, to put it very mildly, a dump. Some of the "before" pictures make it look beyond redemption. But Indwell, a local charity is seriously into redemption; they build housing as "a Christian response to deinstitutionalization". They are also seriously into Passivhaus, as we have seen before.

George and mary© Invisij Archtects

Now they have taken George and Mary's and gutted it, and rebuilt it as affordable housing. It's now Parkdale Landing, composed of 57 apartments, along with support functions like nursing and medical care and counselling.

Parkdale landing detail© Invisij Architects/ George Qua Enoo

Jeff Mahony of the Hamilton Spectator visited it and writes:

"Our strategic plan is to see lives transformed," said Jeffrey Neven. He's executive director of Indwell, the Christian charity that is energizing a needed push for more affordable housing stock in this city, as part of the antidote to cyclical poverty and co-related issues of mental health, substance abuse, homelessness and isolation. They're actually putting up the buildings, for those most in need.

wall section© Invisij Architects

Emma Cubitt of Invizij Architects essentially wrapped it in a thick blanket of insulation, then attached corrugated steel siding to the exterior using our beloved Cascadia Clips.

air tightness© Invisij Architects/ George Qua Enoo

They beat the EnerPHit (renovation standard) required air tightness easily, which actually gets easier as buildings get larger. They also met all the component targets for the walls, roof, and underslab. Primary energy targets are harder to hit on multi-unit residential buildings. In this case, the units are really small and each has a stove and fridge. There is also a commercial kitchen, and two large walk-in coolers for the kitchen and convenience store. This put them over the primary energy target for EnerPHit.

Parkdale Landing closeup© Invisij Architects/ George Qua Enoo

The project was done on an incredibly tight budget and came in just over C$200 per square foot – and the windows are small, which doesn't make it easy. However, they have broken up the mass with bright colours and the sunshades give it some action.

typical room inside© invisij Architects/ George Qua Enoo

Building social housing to passivhaus standards makes a lot of sense. It has much lower operating costs and better air quality. Over the long term, maintenance costs should be lower too. But it is also more comfortable, with warmer walls and windows. Annie, a commenter to our past post, made some very good points:

Passivhaus makes so much sense for social housing. People who need social housing are least able to pay large utility bills and often in worse health than most of us, either because illness has eroded their ability to earn, poor living conditions have made them sick, or both. Ultimately public health spending and public housing spending come out of the same purse, and if spending a little more on housing can save a lot on health care, such action should be standard.

I have done my share of Hamilton-bashing over the years, but lately, some remarkable things have been happening to The Hammer. The work of Indwell and Invizij is perhaps the most inspiring. As Jeffrey Neven tells the Spec, "We're only as good as the least of us."

Run-down rooming house finds redemption as Passivhaus social housing
Indwell and Invizij Architects are doing incredible work, raising the bar for housing people in need.

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