Last year, Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation (CHC) in Ontario took a big, bold step in its quest to provide affordable, comfortable housing for its buildings’ occupants. CHC undertook the first EnerPHit step-by-step retrofit of a tall multifamily building in North America. 

Built in 1974, CHC’s brick-clad tower, known as the Raymond Desmarais Manor, stands 20 stories high. This very recognizable building type dominates urban landscapes across North America, providing much-needed housing. And yet most of these structures are not aging gracefully. CHC is leading the charge in a transformation that needs to be replicated many times over. Find out how the project team is dealing with the tricky details at Passive House 2020: Choose Your Future.

The building’s original construction basics are familiar: a concrete structure with an exterior wall construction of through-the-wall brick masonry, interior EPS insulation, and parging for air-and-vapor control. Its windows were aluminum frame with single-pane glazing.  The 300-unit tower is remaining occupied during the renovation process, an unavoidable complication in an already challenging process.

“The EnerPHit step-by-step process is excellent, because it synchronizes asset management and energy management on a project basis,” says CHC’s Chief Development and Regeneration Officer Hans Kogel. Kogel is managing the agency’s 15-year master regeneration planning process that includes assessments of the conditions of its 732 buildings and concurrent energy audits. 

The step-by-step EnerPHit process brings the advantage of scheduling renovations to coincide with replacing building components that are near the end of their useful life anyway. Phase one for this building included replacing ground-floor windows and patio doors that were no longer functioning optimally. “The timing was perfect,” notes Kogel. The other rationale for the stepwise approach is that funding for the renovations is flowing in a similarly step-by-step manner, with some of the capital outlays being covered by provincial government funding that is tied to energy use improvements. 

More than a decade ago Kogel had become impressed with the Passive House standard while traveling in Germany, and he is excited about bringing this level of performance to CHC properties, whose average age is 48 years. “From the standpoint of buildings that have good bones but need enhanced retrofit and revitalization,” says Kogel, “that’s where the EnerPHit standard is very helpful.”

Kogel will be presenting on the lessons learned by CHC during this process, along with Jennifer Hogan of Pretium, the consulting engineers, and Andrew Peel of Peel Passive House Consulting, the certification consultant. Get the full scoop on the team’s goals, decisions, and the process of transforming this prototypical urban building at Passive House 2020: Choose Your Future.