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OCH Carlington Hub

Passive House the most cost effective for seniors housing and health centre

By Stephen Pope and Marc Mainville

This new four-storey development in Ottawa serves as a mixed-use “hub” which combines affordable seniors housing for Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) with the Carlington Community Health Centre (CCHC). Affordable rental housing for seniors includes 42 independent living rental apartment suites on the upper three floors. The project marks the first time the city’s public-housing agency has partnered with a community health centre to build independent-living units for seniors with on-site health services.

Services include a medical clinic, diabetes clinic, community meeting spaces, nutrition consultants, seniors’ cooking, exercise and other classes, and a choir. Residents of this building have a welcoming and supportive environment to learn new things, meet new people, improve their quality of life and have fun.

The existing Community Health Centre, to which this project connects, sits on the eastern end of the site. The four-storey addition extends along the west side of the existing building and has a generous yard providing individual suites with unobstructed views and lots of natural light. 

The long building has been articulated to break down the mass and add visual interest along Coldrey Avenue. The site was designed to maximize the amount of green space on the property: the 64 parking spaces were the minimum number required to comply with local zoning bylaws and new trees have been incorporated throughout the site (specifically in the parking lot to reduce the amount of asphalt). 

Internally, apartment units are designed with an open-concept to maximize the sense of space within a very compact layout. Windows are sized to optimize and balance the need for light and quality of view with energy efficiency demands on heating and cooling.

The large windows have an operating section that gives residents access to the sounds and smells of the neighbourhood. Operable windows are not needed for fresh air as the balanced ventilation system is designed with a capacity for two persons per suite but is run at 0.36 ACH, or 30 m3/h/occupant. Public corridors, stairwells and common laundry rooms all feature large windows to provide natural light and a connection to the exterior throughout the facility.

In accordance with the principles of the WELL Building certification, the design has a strong connection to nature both in the layout and the use of materials. Exposed wood accents are used throughout the building including two mass timber canopies and vestibules at the main entrances. Polished concrete floors are used throughout for durability and cleanliness.

The site had little room for special rain water collection equipment, nor the budget for greywater reuse. The focus of water conservation indoors was on the fixtures, namely, pressure-assisted flush toilets, and low-flow shower heads. The focus outdoors was on reducing demand through appropriate planting and management.

The priority in this project was to implement, for the first time, a Passive House design for affordable senior housing in a mixed-use building. Material consumption is addressed through durable construction and attention to construction and demolition waste diversion from landfill. All specifications called for materials with a high recycled content and all wood was FSC certified. The exterior enclosure is Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) composed of 300 mm EPS insulation. The main interior structure is steel infilled with wood framing for the floor and roof assemblies. All partition walls are wood except at the exit stairs which are required to be noncombustible construction.

Stephen Pope, OAA, BArch, BES, FRAIC, Associate ASHRAE is Sustainability Consultant, and Marc Mainville, MArch is an Intern Architect, both of CSV Architects.

The project is four storeys of independent-living units for seniors with on-site health services – a first for the city. Alumicor supplied the thermally-broken curtain wall, which contributed to the overall energy efficiency of the OCH building envelope.

Foundation wall construction. Quad-Lock’s insulated concrete form homes and buildings can offer exceptional indoor environments, ultra-energy efficiency and higher safety ratings at a lower cost of ownership.


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 132 KWhr/m²/year
  • Reduction in energy intensity = 49%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 39,384 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building = 40%


  • Owner/Developer  Ottawa Community Housing
  • Architect  CSV Architects
  • General Contractor  MacDonald Bros Construction
  • Civil Engineer  McIntosh Perry
  • Mechanical / Electrical Engineer  WSP Group Inc.
  • Structural Engineer  Cleland Jardine Engineering
  • Landscape Architect  McIntosh Perry
  • Commissioning Agent  Geo Energie
  • Photos  Krista Jahnke

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