Sustainable & Affordable Housing: 2 Case Studies

I subscribe to a few free online magazines sponsored by professional organizations. Catching up on some reading the other night, I came across 2 affordable housing projects focused on sustainability.

Construction Canada’s October online issue (page 6) features Chapelview, a 15 story, 200 unit affordable housing project in Brampton, Ontario, the first such building to reach LEED Platinum. It features low-VOC coatings, paints and glues, FSC-certified wood, wheat-based doors, recycled bottles and soya for sprayed, polyurethane foam, and 100% recycled drywall. Despite the fact that the fan runs all the time to improve air flow, the building boasts a 50% energy savings in addition to the 46% indoor water savings compared to a conventional residential unit of this type. It also contains 6 levels of parking, for residents and the city. For floor plans and elevations, see the Peel Region website.

It’s nice to see the City of Brampton tackle affordable housing for seniors, singles and people with disabilities, and make it sustainable. I would like to see more social programming that brings the city into the complex itself, either for the residents to engage people or for showcasing the building to the community.

The second project comes from page 42 of Cascadia’s fall issue of their online magazine Trim Tab. Lopez Island formed the Lopez Community Land Trust (LCLT), and created the community Common Ground on 6.5 acres near Lopez Village.

While the design team didn’t follow official sustainable programs (LEED, Living Building Challenge, PassivHaus), they and LCLT pursued the following guidelines: net-zero energy consumption, community collaboration, create a resource room demonstrating sustainability, promote measurable self-sufficient sustainability while preserving rural character of the site, improve natural diversity of site and surrounding areas. With on-site water storage, straw bale insulation, passive solar heating and Habitat for Humanity styled guidelines (each home owner had to put in man-hours building the development), this project easily could have gone for Living Building Certification.

I’m pretty impressed with the project. It looks like the group enjoyed the communal side of building, getting to know each other while they participated in construction, and several owners expressed excitement about knowing how to fix something if it goes wrong.

I hope more communities develop projects like these, and I hope they inspire future communities.

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