Passive House Case Study

Salus Clementine Housing, Ottawa

The Salus Corporation is a Canadian charity that provides housing and support services for clients with mental health needs. The Corporation has more than 100 dwelling units in several buildings in Ottawa. The recently completed Salus Clementine project is a 42-unit residence for people suffering from mental illness.

By Anthony Leaning


The recently completed Salus Clementine project is a 42-unit residence for people suffering from mental illness.  The residence was constructed in an established inner suburb of Ottawa, near public transport and local shopping.  The project is ground breaking because it is a community-based initiative to provide “housing first” to people who would otherwise be homeless and on the street. As New York ‘Times journalist Malcolm Gladwell illustrated in his essay “Million Dollar Murray”, it has been proven that the most cost-effective way to solve homelessness is to provide safe, low-cost housing…first. This stabilizes the person’s life so that underlying causes of homelessness can be addressed, and the long-term cost of support services reduced.

Extending this logic to the construction of the building itself, Ottawa Salus understood that funding was available for capital projects but that operating expenses are chronically underfunded. It therefore made good business sense to build an energy efficient, healthy and durable building, paying slightly more for the initial construction, in order to reduce ongoing operating costs dramatically. Even with the incremental cost of financing the increased expenditure required to attain the higher standard, the cost of operating the building over its lifetime is lower than it would be for conventional construction. These savings begin to accrue from day one.
The building was designed to reduce energy consumption related to heating by up to 66% compared to the 2012 Ontario Building Code that was in effect at the time of design. To achieve the required energy savings, extraordinary efforts were taken to simplify the exterior form, provide high insulation values, achieve airtightness, reduce thermal bridging and to provide the highest possible standard of indoor air quality.

Each apartment operates both winter and summer on an extremely low energy budget, while providing a comfortable living space with natural light and views. The residents share community meeting space on the ground floor and a communal garden in the back yard.

GEO Passive Slab for difficult soils

Legalett provided a unique GEO Passive Slab solution for the Salus Clementine project which had extreme soil conditions including the slab being 8” from the water table on a soil bearing capacity of 65 kPa with an elevator pit, integral to the slab design, which went below the water table. The GEO Passive Slab both insulates the underside of the concrete to isolate it from the surrounding earth avoiding moisture issues, and it spreads the bearing load across the surface allowing the slab to also act as a footing.

Read the one-page case study on the use of the Legalett slab in this project.

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