Setting a new standard

Setting a new standard at Ken Soble Tower

Achieving a 94% reduction in GHG emissions with high-efficiency retrofits
Thursday, January 9, 2020

Like many post-war rental apartment towers across Canada, Hamilton’s Ken Soble Tower provides much-needed affordable housing for vulnerable people. But with mechanical systems nearing end of life, inadequate ventilation and other issues, the 50-year old building was in critical need of an upgrade.

So CityHousing Hamilton (the non-profit agency that oversees Hamilton’s affordable housing) commissioned a feasibility study in 2016 to weigh their upgrade options: sell, rebuild, capital repair and rehabilitation or retrofit.

Support and financial incentives
The study revealed that the building was structurally solid but the envelope and HVAC systems were severely distressed. According to the report, the municipality could revitalize the tower for about half the cost of building new. Based on these findings, the project was given the green light in 2018.

As part of the retrofit, the project team leveraged free technical assistance and financial incentives offered by Enbridge Gas’s Savings by Design program. The program is designed to guide, assist and reward project teams to improve energy and environmental performance of buildings in new construction and major renovation projects.

Up to $60,000 value
Savings by Design starts by covering all the costs of an Integrated Design Process (a $30,000 value), bringing together architects, engineers and other decision-makers early in the design stage to explore opportunities to save energy, model energy usage and finalize recommendations for implementation.

Buildings that meet their specific energy performance target are later eligible for performance incentives up to $30,000.

For the Ken Soble Tower, the project team was able to improve on a model than surpassed building code requirements. Among the many improvements they came up with: modernizing the ventilation system with new air handling units and ductwork, installing a centralized HVAC system and adding new overcladding with rock wool insulation, energy-efficient windows and a high-performance rain screen system.

Better comfort and control
Residents of the refurbished tower will enjoy improved comfort and control of their indoor environments, plus dramatically improved building resilience (the ability to withstand extreme climate events).

The project team used 2050 temperature projections to test thermal comfort in all seasons, and in case of system failure, the building will have the capacity to stay warm in winter for up to two days (compared to two hours in a conventional building) and stay cool in summer for up to four days (compared to half a day in a conventional building).

From lackluster to landmark
When complete in 2020, the tower will become a landmark building in Hamilton’s West Harbour waterfront redevelopment, a vibrant new community hub.

And it won’t be a lone example of ultra-low energy use for long: CityHousing Hamilton is also planning to redevelop two 91-unit townhouse complexes and five new buildings to the same ultra-low energy standard.

For more information, visit Enbridge’s website:

Project highlights
94% GHG reduction
23.8 kWh/m2/year heating savings
2.4 kWh/m2/year cooling savings
$30,000 design assistance

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