Text description provided by the architects. The concept of sustainable design has become more familiar in recent years and though we often hear the term, what does it mean to the development of an urban building project? When the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC) decided to develop the Beaver Barracks project, they were driven by several key elements: sustainability, affordability and accessibility.
Making a commitment to sustainable design meant that the CCOC considered the social, environmental, and economic factors of building – from concept and design through the build and now as the Beaver Barracks is inhabited and becomes a vibrant piece of its community.
CCOC’s mission is to create, maintain and promote affordable housing for low and moderate income residents. The Beaver Barracks provides 254 mixed-rate units of new rental housing for singles, couples, families and seniors – where 25 units are wheelchair accessible and all units are heated (and cooled) using an underground geothermal system.
The mixed-rate philosophy supported at Beaver Barracks means that the units are available at both market and subsidized rates. The diversity creates a blend of residents that enriches the community atmosphere established by the CCOC and eliminates any potential stigma that may be attributed to social housing.
CCOC opted to work with the team at Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects because of their reputation as a team-oriented firm who create innovative, environmentally and socially conscious designs. CCOC and the Hobin team had worked together once before, delivering a similarly green 84-unit complex that also integrated a City-run parking facility, barrier-free accessible apartments, ground level family housing and a green roof-top common area with its rental apartments and townhouses.
The Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects project team, led by Gord Lorimer, designed Beaver Barracks with a focus on sustainability, delivering a concept that uses approximately 40% less energy than similar buildings in the region and, in addition to the geothermal system, offers a number of efficiency systems including: high performance envelopes, thermally broken balcony slabs, high efficiency lighting and appliances and green roof technology.
Projects that embrace sustainable development use less energy and potentially reduce the effect of climate change but often also build more vibrant communities. That is certainly the case at Beaver Barracks which promotes community by encouraging residents of mixed income, age, ability and household type. Residents are within walking distance to all major amenities and, going beyond simple compost, Beaver Barracks residents sign “green commitments” to pledge their support of green initiatives within the community and beyond. To encourage greener living, residents also have access to free compost buckets, energy saving tips, free bike storage, premium VrtuCar parking and the focal point community garden program around which the buildings have been arranged.
These efforts are not lost on Beaver Barracks residents. Mike and Rebecca Adamyk are a newlywed couple living in Beaver Barracks who admit to learning so much from the lifestyle they found there. “The green effort wasn’t the reason we wanted to live here.” Mike explains “We liked the area and we knew that the building would be fantastic. We’ve noticed the difference on our utility bills since we’ve been here and we’ve learned about geothermal systems and the other perks here so it is definitely something that we want to take with us when we eventually buy a house.”
Rebecca adds that for them, the garden was a draw “We always wanted our own garden and so to have one here, steps away, is such a great bonus. We grow vegetables in the garden and some here on our terrace too.” She adds that the gardens “really contribute to a great sense of community”.
Both Mike and Rebecca also agree that the open concept design of their apartment is ideal. Their ground-level unit boasts natural light, a private entrance and plenty space for these newlyweds to begin their life together.