Located in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood, the Hubbard Park Apartments enjoys one of the most sought after views of Lake Ontario in the city. Toronto Community Housing, the largest social housing provider in Canada, has owned the building for more than 30 years.
By Terence Van Elslander
Community housing renovation starts at building shell
The three-storey red brick structure was completed in 1927 and in 2009 an investigation revealed serious issues with structural deterioration, moisture infiltration and failing building performance. The building was deemed unfit for habitation and all residents had to be relocated during the extensive renovation that followed.
Demolition vs. renovation
While conducting work under a three-year Toronto Community Housing Unit Refurbishment Program that focused on replacement of kitchens and bathrooms, unforeseen repair conditions were found inside exterior wall cavities.
Work was stopped and a detailed engineering survey was undertaken to assess the cost of all required repairs.
The survey identified $1.4 million of work that needed to be completed over a five-year period. Three options were considered, which took into account the obligation for Toronto Community Housing to replace the full number of rental units:
• Construction of a new building on the site, or
• Redevelopment of the existing structure with new rental units
Demolition of the building was considered, however, municipal by-laws would not have permitted a new building of the same use, size and location.
Renovation was found to be cost effective when compared to new construction. It was recognized that the building shell had considerable value in supporting the existing neighbourhood context and community.
The project proceeded with an as of right renovation preserving as much of the original building as possible. Sustainable design solutions were applied to resolve deteriorating building conditions and increase overall energy efficiency. These included the preservation of the existing brick building shell, the careful upgrade of the building envelope, and a new mechanical system that maximizes efficiency by incorporating variable frequency drives and high- efficiency boilers.
In addition, a green roof and large photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof. Finally, energy-efficient lighting and appliances further improve the building’s energy performance.
In conjunction with new sustainable technologies to increase energy efficiency, the preservation of the building envelope resulted in significant material re-use, waste diversion and cost savings.
Redeveloping the existing structure also provided an opportunity to improve accessibility for residents with the installation of an elevator, new units, and an amenity space and laundry room on the roof. The entire brick envelope, except for the construction access opening, was maintained. Careful detailing resulted in a vapour-tight building envelope using organic spray insulation and durable fiberglass windows with low thermal conductivity and high R-value. The resulting energy efficiency prolongs the life of the building while increasing occupant health and comfort.
Existing wood joists were refinished and used as wall cladding for the amenity space. The demolished wood not used for finishing was reused during construction as shoring, formwork, blocking and bridging. The reuse of materials resulted in associated cost savings and substantial embodied energy conservation through waste diversion and the elimination of the associated transportation. These efforts encouraged neighbourhood support for the project by minimizing impact and protecting value.
Energy Modelling [RET screening] was employed early in design development to establish envelope performance [and the benefits associated with increased insulation and new windows]. The goal was to reach the optimal balance between capital cost and long-term operational savings on energy consumption.
In addition to the upgrades to the original envelope, a number of other energy-saving measures were included to reduce the building’s overall energy consumption as follows:
• An extensive green roof provides insulation while reducing the building’s heat absorption and cooling needs.
• Photovoltaic panels offset the energy consumption of the building while providing revenue through Ontario’s Feed-In-Tariff [FIT] program. The panels are installed as a rooftop patio awning which shades the roof and further reduces the building’s heat absorption.
• The mechanical system incorporates high-efficiency boilers and variable frequency drives to maximize HVAC efficiencies.
• 100% of the occupied floor area of units is within 7 metres of an operable window which reduces the electrical load of the building. Built-in window shades reduce the overheating of units during warm months. Further to this, the thermostat controls are linked to window sensors, thus preventing wasted energy and an over- worked heating system when windows are open.
The result is energy efficiency 27% better than the reference building under NMECB.
The rehabilitation of the Hubbard Apartments realizes Toronto Community Housing’s vision to respect the historical structure and its value to the community, while at the same time meeting their long-term needs. As such, the project demonstrates to the public Toronto Community Housing’s commitment to sustainable community, design quality and fiscal and social accountability.
- Owner Toronto Community Housing Corporation Architect: Van Elsander Carter Architects
- Design team Terence Van Elslander, David Gianforcaro, Christina Carydis
- CiviL Engineer John Towle Associates Ltd.
- Electrical/ Mechanical Engineer Lam & Associates Ltd.
- Structural Engineer Brown & Company Engineering Ltd.
- General Contractor Lisgar Construction Company
- Photos Terence Van Elsander
- Energy intensity [building and process energy] = 57.6 kwh/m2/year
- Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under NMECB = 27%
- Regional material [800 km radius] by value = 40%
- Reclaimed and recycled materials by value = 25%
- Original shell preserved with new steel and concrete floors, combination of spray, batt and rigid insulation, partially vegetated roof, fiberglass frame windows by Inline Fiberglass Inc. ; acoustic tile ceiling, Marmoleum sheet flooring by Forbo ; photovoltaic panels, boilers for heating supply.
Terence Van Elslander M.Arch., OAA., MRAIC., OBEC is a principal at VanElslander Carter Architects Incorporated.