Thick Skinned: Using EnerPHit to Conserve Culture and Carbon for Sustainable Affordable Housing
Canada's existing postwar modern building stock contributes greatly to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions but also represents a large resource of embodied carbon. The Ottawa Community Housing Corporation, the second largest housing provider in Ontario, owns much of this building stock. The buildings in this large portfolio are aging and in need of repairs; the average age of an OCH building is 45 years. Passivhaus provides a retrofit standard (EnerPHit) with which to retrofit
... h to retrofit buildings to the highest practical energy efficiency without discarding the technical and cultural assets they possess. These buildings can be retrofitted to provide or preserve affordable housing with low operating expenses while simultaneously addressing the conservation of embodied carbon and revitalization without gentrification. This thesis hypothesizes that the sustainable route to affordable housing is in creating buildings with long-term cultural and economic value and attempts to propose some measures and strategies for retrofitting a postwar modern building to the EnerPHit standard in Ottawa's cold climate i ii without rendering it vacant for renovation. To this end, the design project is a consideration of possible interventions for an Ottawa Community Housing building intended to lower its total carbon emissions through energy reduction and the conservation of its embodied carbon. The goal of this project is to present interventions that balance high technical achievement in energy reduction with important cultural and social considerations. ii iii Why "thick-skinned" * ? • It is a common assumption that Passivhaus buildings, since they often require high levels of insulation to achieve the standard's envelope performance, have thicker walls than average construction. • The over-cladding of pre-existing concrete and masonry structures results in a deep wall assembly. • There is a lack of esteem and affection for deteriorating postwar modern tower buildings that show no obvious architectural merit despite the abundance of energy they embody. We're lucky they haven't all crumbled under the weight of our criticism and deferred maintenance.