Dicaire: Ottawa’s affordable housing can be a model of sustainability

Friday is Earth Day. There’s never been a better time than now to think about the future of affordable housing, thanks to significant innovations in green building technologies.

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Affordability is not limited to rent. Using energy-efficient building systems and sustainable design practices can pass savings on to the tenant and reinvest money back into the community.

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It is no coincidence that over the past five years the City of Ottawa has declared both a housing and homelessness emergency and a climate change emergency. They are intertwined, and affordable housing providers such as Ottawa Community Housing are at the forefront of tackling both. We can look beyond the simple cost of monthly rent and take a long-term approach to promoting innovative and sustainable practices that contribute to overall savings, benefiting those who live in our communities for future generations.

There’s never been a better time than now to think about the future of affordable housing, thanks to significant innovations in green building technologies. Taking advantage of advances in solar panels, more efficient mechanical systems and LED lighting can ensure long-term accessibility for all. These savings are immediately reinvested in the communities they serve. This type of strategy has never been more evident than in the development of new affordable housing in Ottawa.

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As part of the City of Ottawa’s Climate Change Master Plan, housing providers are given a roadmap to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This means that we can rethink the way we build new buildings and plan to retrofit existing buildings to increase energy consumption. efficiency and preserve our existing housing stock.

Take, for example, a house built more than 20 years ago. Yes, you can offset the upfront expense by choosing cost-effective methods, but if you don’t also invest in improving the energy efficiency of homes, the energy costs could outweigh the affordability of building them first. place. That’s why OCHC invested in the Presland Net-Zero Deep Energy Retrofit (PEER) project, a block of four aging two-storey townhouses in Overbrook that was at the end of its life cycle.

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Ottawa Community Housing's sustainable housing project at 203 Presland Road.
Ottawa Community Housing’s sustainable housing project at 203 Presland Road. .jpg

By converting homes to net zero, they have been given new life. We built a highly insulated and airtight shell and placed it over the existing roof and walls of the house, down to the foundation. We replaced heating and cooling systems with electric heat pumps to eliminate carbon emissions. In addition, the doors, windows and roof have been replaced to improve tenant comfort and preserve heat. Finally, an array of solar panels has been installed on the south-facing roof of the four townhouses, which will generate enough electricity each year to offset the consumption of the four houses, bringing them net to zero.

Another example is OCHC’s new development at 811 Gladstone Ave., which will provide 140 new affordable housing units. It is built according to passive housing standards. The impact on tenants will be significant.

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With innovative building solutions such as those used on Presland Road in Overbrook, energy and heating bills will stay below $100 per year for every tenant in every home. This represents the future of affordable housing in Ottawa: both affordable and sustainable.

When you realize that up to 85% of a building’s total cost of ownership will come from operating and utility costs over the next 50 to 75 years, investing in energy efficiency from day one makes perfect sense. logical fact. Keeping operating and utility costs low is another way to ensure that the homes we build remain affordable for everyone over the long term.

Ultimately, projects like the ones you just read benefit both affordable housing communities, their tenants, and planet Earth. And it’s a win-win for all of us.

ALSO: Earth Day 2022: Watching over the Ottawa River — Kichi Sibi

Dan Dicaire is an award-winning energy engineer who is the Conservation and Sustainability Manager at Ottawa Community Housing. Twitter: @OCH_LCO.

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