Ken Soble TowerEn Français >
The Ken Soble Tower Transformation is a ground-breaking project rehabilitating a post-war apartment tower in Hamilton, Ontario. The achieved goal meets Passive House standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering 94% and lays the groundwork for industry-wide, ultra-low energy retrofits needed to maintain and upgrade thousands of apartments across Canada.
“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 a new build. One of the first of its kind in North America, at 18 storeys and more than 80,000 square feet, the Ken Soble Tower is the largest EnerPHit certified residential retrofit project in the world. The building’s rehabilitation has modernized 146 units of affordable seniors’ housing while both reinvigorating community spaces and outdoor gathering areas and planning for aging-in-place, barrier-free living, and a changing climate.
The Ken Soble Tower is 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.
- 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.
- EnerPHit certified! Read the press release for more details.
- Owner: CityHousing Hamilton
- Lead Architect: ERA Architects Inc.
- Landscape Architect: ERA Architects Inc.
- Mechanical Engineer: Reinbold Engineering Group
- Building Envelope and Structural Engineers: Entuitive Corporation
- Passive House Consultant: Transsolar, JMV Consulting
- Electrical Engineer: Nemetz (S/A) and Associates Ltd.
- General Contractor: PCL Construction
Download the information packet on the Ken Soble Tower.
- City of Hamilton
- Reinbold Engineering Group (mechanical engineer), Entuitive Corporation (structural engineer)
- Transsolar & JMV Consulting (passive house), Nemetz (S/A) and Associates (electrical engineer)
- Adaptive Reuse, Accessibility & Additions/Energy Retrofits & Sustainable Design/Tower Renewal
- Housing/Institutional/Multi-Unit Residential
- Graeme Stewart/Ya’el Santopinto
- Hamilton Urban Design Awards: Civic Achievement, 2021
- Toronto Construction Association (TCA): Best of Best Awards: Project Achievement, 2022
- EIFS Council of Canada (ECC): Architectural Design Awards Grand Prize, 2022
- Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) Awards: Green Building Excellence: Deep Carbon Retrofit, 2022
- Engineering News Record (ENR): Global Best Projects: Best Green Project, 2022
- Urban Land Institute (ULI): Terwilliger Center Award for Innovation in Attainable Housing, 2022
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Sustainable Community Awards: Affordable Housing Retrofit, 2022
- Ontario Heritage Trust: Lieutenant Governor's Award, 2022
- The National Program of Sustainable Architecture & Building Magazine (SAB): Canadian Green Building Awards: Existing Building Upgrade Award, 2023
- Case study: Passive House Accelerator - Ken Soble Tower Modernization
- Ken Soble Tower EnerPHit
- Case study: Raising the bar on community housing retrofits
- Policy Response
- How to Renew Our Old Apartment Buildings
- Pandemic effect: Housing retrofits
- The Ken Soble Tower Transformation
- Globe & Mail: A Hamilton Public-housing Tower Gets a New Life as a Green Building – Alex Bozikovic
- Hamilton's Ken Soble Tower Rebirth: A Passive House First
- City Seeks New Retrofit for Ken Soble Tower on Hamilton Harbour
- The Ken Soble Tower Transformation
- Ken Soble Tower
- Canadian mid-century towers can have a high-performance future
- GLOBE & MAIL— Sixties-era Hamilton tower gets a Passive House refit
- Retrofit Ambitions (Posted with permission of the publisher of NRU Publishing Inc.) Original article first appeared in Novae Res Urbis – Toronto, Vol. 25, No. 29, Friday, July 23, 2021
- Daily Commercial News— Passive House comes to larger, non-residential projects
- AZURE—Never Demolish: Reviving Social Housing Through Preservation
- Ken Soble Tower sets an example for high-rise sustainability
- An Aging, Affordable Residential Tower For Senior is Renovated Into One of The Largest “PASSIVE HOUSE” Retrofits in North America
- The Ken Soble Tower
- "The Urbanist" Tall Stories: Monocle Podcast
- TORONTO STAR— A ‘quantum leap’ for Ken Soble Tower in North End
- Hamilton’s oldest CityHousing high-rise received a major makeover
- Passive House retrofit transforms aging Hamilton residential tower
- Tower retrofits looming large, conference delegates told
- Canadian Architect— Raising the Bar: Ken Soble Tower
- CBC— The social housing high-rise at 500 MacNab is now newer, greener and welcoming back tenants
- Daily Commercial News— Ken Soble Tower Retrofit Sets New Passive House Standards
- CBC The National: Urban Climate Change
- National Housing Strategy (Government of Canada)
- Rockwool: Case Study: Ken Soble Tower
- Dezeen: Ken Soble Tower, Tallest EnerPHit in the World
- DFALD, UofT: George Baird Lecture 2022—Tower Renewal & Overcoming Canada's Retrofit Crisis
- BDC Network: Ken Soble Tower becomes world’s largest residential Passive House retrofit
- Metropolis Magazine, April 2022
- A Little More Conversation with Ben O’Hara-Byrne, May 2022: Lessons from Grenfell
- Architectural Record, June 2022: "Housing and Climate—Two Intersecting Crises"
- Many of Canada's greenest apartments are ultra-affordable. Here's why