2011 SAB Award Winning Project - Affordable Housing Bellechasse

This is a multi-family social housing development located close to downtown Montreal. It incorporates an abandoned utility building that served previously as a hospital. The overall development included the restoration of this building together with new structures, and totals 9,497m2 in 91 residential units.

Jury Comment: The project is a fine example of transforming an abandoned building and adding new space to re-densify an urban lot by providing 91 social housing units. The re-vitalisation of an existing building is always a challenge and should be encouraged. Various strategies are incorporated to bring significant water and energy savings and contribute to  the LEED for Homes certification. The refurbished building adopts the fabric of the surrounding housing. The addition of the new building creates an intimate courtyard and is detailed at grade level so that it invigorates connection to the community.

The project embraces principles of sustainable design on multiple levels:
• Preservation and rehabilitation of a large existing building had both economic and environmental benefits, but also resulted in the delivery of residential units of higher qualitative standard than might otherwise have been possible within the budget.
• Environmental sustainability is expressed by employing a variety of strategies such as water conserving features, grey water heat recovery, a high-performance building envelope and a variety of innovative architectural design ideas.
• Social aspects were given close attention – members of the local community took part in the planning process, through design charettes where a variety of concerns were addressed such as building height, technical solutions and daily operating  costs. A permanent community focus group was initiated as a means to address the future concerns of all adjoining neighbours.

With the construction of a new three-storey building on an existing parking lot, the project manages to surpass the density of its existing urban context, while achieving a natural hierarchy of privacy in exterior spaces. To this end, public areas give way to semi-private alleyways serving split level family units accessed by private front yards.
To minimize the impact of parking, and to maximize the flexibility of exterior public space, the design team negotiated a centralized tandem parking configuration with the city authorities which reduced overall footprint, encouraged the implementation of co-op arrangements, and created a space suitable for community special events.

In the existing building, typical units are located along the exterior wall rather than perpendicular to it which allows for generous provision of operable windows, even though it is potentially less energy efficient. This approach was also used in the new building where glazing size exceeds standards by approximately 50%. In both cases, high-efficiency windows and frames were specified.
Most of the ground and garden level family units were designed to stretch between the opposite facades of the building allowing for enhanced natural, cross ventilation, a strategy that eliminated the need for any mechanical cooling. Water conservation was accomplished through the use of dual flush, toilets and high-efficiency water fixtures throughout.

Units assigned to single parent families and elderly occupants on the upper floors share a common laundry room. This decision allowed for purchase and installation of high-efficiency appliances while creating an opportunity for communal interaction and exchange. Waste water heat recovery systems installed throughout allowed for energy use reduction and downsizing of individual water tanks. Both the existing and new buildings were designed with high-efficiency envelopes including low-e glazing, no thermal bridges and high ventilation rates.  All units have been equipped with heat recovery ventilation systems and Power Pipes which, by retrieving heat from grey water, allow for 70% reduction in demand for energy used for domestic water heating.

The basement and ground floor of the existing building were assigned to two-level family units. A new slab was constructed 900mm above the original one, raising the floor level relative to the existing window openings. This made the basement suitable for use as habitable space, and meant that no modifications needed to be made to the existing openings.
The strategy of preserving existing windows resulted in opening ratios largely exceeding code standards, while maintaining high energy performance and offering abundant natural light and spectacular exterior views rarely available in social housing units.
More than 20 units were specifically designed with a high level of adaptability for families with a member suffering from multiple sclerosis. The two-level layout is designed for future installation of an elevator, and to ensure that MS sufferers can remain at home for the longest possible time.

The success of this project has resulted in the adoption of new green building standards by both the Association de Locateurs and GRT [Groupe de Recherché Technique], who are very active in promoting social housing, in Quebec.


  • Architect Aedifica Inc, Montreal
  • Owner Develope r  Habitations Communautaire LOGGIA, Montreal
  • General Contractor Construgep, Montreal
  • Civil Engineer Vinci Consultants, Montreal
  • Electrical Engineer Martin Roy & Associés, Quebec
  • Mechanical Engineer Martin Roy & Associés, Quebec
  • Structural Engineer Pasquin St-Jean, Montreal
  • Photos Daniel Kudish Photographer


  • - Energy intensity: 442 MJ/m2/year [Includes both base building and process energy]
  • - Local materials by value: 80%
  • - Recycled materials content by value: 50%
  • - Water consumption from municipal source: 43,435 litres/occupant/year [Includes both base building and process energy]

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