ERA Architects
A drone photograph of the Ken Soble Tower with Hamilton harbour in the background

Ken Soble Tower

The Ken Soble Tower Transformation is a ground-breaking project rehabilitating a post-war apartment tower in Hamilton, Ontario to a Passive House standard – reducing greenhouse gases emissions by a staggering 94% and laying the groundwork for industry-wide, ultra-low energy retrofits needed to maintain thousands of apartments across Canada before they are lost.

“Ultra-low energy retrofits that maintain affordability are not only possible, but critical to preserving and enhancing housing across the country. ” –Graeme Stewart, ERA Architects

Built in 1967, the Ken Soble Tower is the oldest high-rise multi-residential building in CityHousing Hamilton ’s portfolio and has been in decline for several years. After considering several options including sale, rebuild, capital repair, and rehabilitation, CityHousing opted to retrofit the building, making significant improvements at a fraction of the cost of new build. One of the first such retrofits in North America, at 18 storeys and more than 80,000 sqft, the Ken Soble Tower will be one of the largest EnerPHit certified projects in the world. The building’s rehabilitation will modernize 146 units of affordable seniors’ housing, while reinvigorating community spaces and outdoor gathering areas, planning for aging-in-place and barrier-free living, and a changing climate. Slated for completion in 2020, the project will provide residents with improved comfort and control of their indoor environments and with the ability to withstand extreme climate events into the future.

Project overview: Envelope (R38 Overcladding; Passive House Windows; Juliette Balconies); Systems (Centralized HVAC with Cooling; Riser Replacements for Most Systems; Full Building Sprinklering); and Modernization (Accessibility Upgrades; New Community Room and Solarium; Interior Upgrades).

Ken Soble Tower view from ground level

The Ken Soble Tower will be one of the most ambitious social housing transformations in the country, paving the way for the nation’s aging housing supply to secure a healthy, resilient future for millions of Canadians. It will also lead Hamilton’s West Harbour revitalization, shifting the conversation from affordable housing as a liability to affordable housing as a district landmark.

View of the lower portion of Ken Soble Tower

Quick Facts:

  • Located at 500 MacNab Street North, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • 146 units of modernized affordable seniors’ housing
  • Completion in 2020
  • Ultra-low energy use:
    – 94% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the existing building
    – At its peak, the total energy needed to heat or cool each unit will be equal to the energy needed to run 3 incandescent light bulbs (100W).
  • Designed for a changing climate: Using 2050 temperature projections to test thermal comfort in all seasons.
  • The building demonstrates passive resilience to extreme conditions: In case of failure of active systems, the building will stay warm in winter for up to two days (compared to 2 hours in a typical building) and below dangerous heat levels in summer for up to four days (compared to half a day in a typical building).
  • More than 20% of units will be barrier free. All common areas, outdoor gathering spaces, and circulation routes will be accessible and designed for aging in place.

Ken Soble information packet main page

Download the information packet on the Ken Soble Tower.

Ken Soble Tower including ground level entrance

Project Team:

  • Owner: CityHousing Hamilton
  • Architect: ERA Architects Inc.
  • Landscape Architect: ERA Architects Inc.
  • Mechanical Engineer: Reinbold Engineering Group
  • Building Envelope and Structural Engineers: Entuitive Corporation
  • Passive House Consultant: JMV Consulting
  • Electrical Engineer: Nemetz (S/A) and Associates Ltd.