What does it take to deliver the largest residential Passive House retrofit in the world?

Ontario Construction News staff writer

What does it take to deliver the largest residential Passive House retrofit in the world? That’s the question the PCL team had to answer when completing the ground-breaking Ken Soble Tower Passive House Renewal project in Hamilton.

With sustainability and building performance as top priorities, PCL was enlisted to revitalize the 50-year-old apartment tower into a Passive House retrofit, the first of its kind in North America.

Originally built in 1967, the 18-e, 146-unit seniors’ housing complex with a three-story annex owned by CityHousing Hamilton officially achieved EnerPHit certification in December 2021, making it the largest residential EnerPHit-certified project in the world.

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“Receiving EnerPHit certification is a major accomplishment with many lessons learned that will guide future Passive House projects across PCL and the construction industry,” said Marc Pascoli, vice president and district manager of PCL Toronto’s office.

“The project’s impact reaches beyond construction. Ken Soble Tower is a sustainable and innovative way to provide livable homes for the community, and we are proud to have been part of this unique project.”​​

Construction started in July 2019, with demolition of exterior windows and doors, balconies and select components of the interior. Modernized building systems and amenities were installed, including new air handling units, insulated mechanical piping, electrical systems, fire alarms and elevators, as well as a new solarium and a restored site landscape.

To ensure the tower provides comfort and high performance, all while using minimal energy – key to Passive House certification – PCL installed a new high-performance building envelope on top of the existing masonry walls, adding a continuous air barrier throughout the envelope, significant amounts of insulation and triple-glazed high-performing windows, while eliminating the thermal bridges from the balconies and all other areas of the envelope.

“Regular testing allowed the team to identify and fix problems right away, avoiding repairs that could be costly and time consuming if problems were discovered later in the build,” said Lori O’Malley, PCL’s in-house building envelope engineering specialist.

The team celebrated success when it conducted and passed the whole building air tightness test in March 2021, well exceeding the established performance.


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