Dedicated to sustainable,
high performance building

Technical Award

The Putman Family YWCA, Hamilton, ON

Jury Comment: “This precast concrete structure is a great example of an industry adapting to the challenges it faces in regard to sustainability. Creating a high performance building that is quick to construct and has a long service life is in itself commendable; that the building also serves the most vulnerable sectors of our community makes its contribution all the more valuable.”

This project is Hamilton’s first affordable housing residence for women and children, prioritizing those from Indigenous and marginalized groups. The six-storey building comprises five floors of apartments above a ground floor podium. The podium, flanked by a community garden, includes a gathering space, an Innovation Centr and health and wellness programming for seniors.

Architecturally, the intent was to reflect the tradition of Hamilton as a Steel Town and to use local materials and manufacturers where possible. The brick clad podium reflects the scale and materiality of the neighbourhood, connecting the community programming with the street.

The pursuit of Passive House certification is consistent with supportive housing projects across the country, as it significantly reduces operating costs, while providing a high level of indoor environmental quality for residents. These attributes align with the YWCA’s core mission to provide comfortable, healthy, secure, resilient, and safe housing for women.

Construction Approach

In taking on PH design standards, the client wished to pursue a factory-built solution to reduce the uncertainties still associated with a high-performance building. At this scale, the project team was most comfortable with a modular precast concrete solution.

Analysis concluded that a factory-built concrete building could significantly reduce embodied carbon when compared with that of conventional cast-in-place. Hollowcore prestressed floor elements reduced the depth to span ratio, minimizing the volume (and hence weight) of concrete per unit of floor area.   All precast concrete and steel elements were manufactured in Hamilton.

The building uses a total precast system with a sandwich panel forming the Passive House compliant thermal, air-tight, structural, weathering, and aesthetic façade in one factory-built component.  Using locally manufactured precast concrete reduced the use of traditional formwork, auxiliary elements, and waste.

In turn, factory prefabrication reduced erection times and required only a single crane and a flat bed truck. As a result, truck idling, traffic congestion, construction site emissions and site lighting requirements were all reduced; as were noise, pollution and other environmental impacts on the surrounding community.

The building is a prefabricated total precast concrete construction, including the exterior finishes as seen with the “corduroy” dark slate textured precast concrete finish on the north and west elevations. SIGA membranes and tapes contribute to the integrity of the air barrier.

Project Credits

  • Owner/Developer  YWCA Hamilton
  • Architect  Kearns Mancini Architects Inc.
  • General contractor  Schilthuis Construction Inc.
  • Civil engineer  RJC Engineers
  • Structural Engineer  RJC Engineers
  • Precast Concrete  Coreslab Structures Photos Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. & Co.

Project Performance

  • Energy Intensity 95 KWhr/m2/year
  • The building is Passive House certified
  • Construction materials diverted from landfill  70%
  • Recycled materials content by value  4.75 %
  • Regional materials by value  60%