Niagara Construction News staff writer
Habitat for Humanity Niagara continues its efforts to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting home ownership through a partnership with PCL Toronto, constructing homes for two St. Catharines families.
Habitat’s chief executive officer Alastair Davis says the partnership experience with PCL has been exceptional. “This is our first time working with PCL, who just constructed one million sq. ft. of hospital space in St. Catharines. We knew they had a great reputation in Canada and have been first class to work with.”
PCL provided a $100,000 home sponsorship donation, plus engineering, construction and finishing services.
Davis says the semi-detached house will provide homes for two families, including seven children, and will be completed in record time thanks to PCL’s modular model. “Normally a build like this takes three to four months,” he said. “PCL built their modular units at their plant in Mississauga and we’re anticipating they’ll only need to be on site for four to five weeks. To see the two complete units put together in two days was amazing.”
The plan included 15 modules (four to form the ground floor, six for the second level and five for the roof), constructed off-site while excavation and foundation work was taking place on site.
The building has been designed to achieve LEED Silver standards. Energy efficiency will reduce ongoing costs. “The modular units are constructed of pinkwood, which creates additional benefits in terms of fire and mold prevention, Davis said. Several of the children have asthma so this is also a very healthy and supportive environment for them.”
The 1,800 sq. ft structure has a 95 per cent efficient combination domestic hot water-space heating system, hydronic radiant systems for heat, tight building envelopes with R22 walls, R20 basements and R50 roofs, rain water harvesting for landscaping and double glazed windows. A heat recovery ventilator will also harness waste heat from stale, exhausted air and pre-condition incoming fresh outdoor air.
Davis says he has been inspired by PCL’s commitment and cultural attention to detail.
“From top to bottom everyone involved on this project is pumped up, ready and willing to be here and do whatever they could,” he said. “There is a commitment to the safety of their staff and volunteers and an alignment of values between Habitat and PCL that has been wonderful to experience.”
Habitat owns five lots in the area, one of which was previously developed with help from the local Mennonite community, and Davis says the new construction is a big signal for continued revitalization. “The families who will buy and own these homes when they are all constructed have been selected, have met and have already formed their own bonds and community. We’re now looking for other construction partners to continue our work in bringing this community to completion.”
These are not giveaway homes. “Homeowners buy these properties at fair market value and we hold the mortgages at zero percent interest, based on payment plans geared to the family’s income. They are responsible for all utilities, taxes and repayment of the mortgage.”
Homeowners also agree to providing 500 hours of volunteer service in their communities as part of a ‘sweat equity’ requirement. Davis adds that monies paid back go into a fund to support the purchase of land for future projects. Habitat for Humanity’s administrative and overhead costs are covered by revenue generated from the organization’s ReStore division.
PCL Toronto’s sponsorship is part of a larger, two-year $1 million commitment to support more than 20 Habitat builds throughout the U.S. and Canada. “PCL is committed to creating strong and sustainable communities, especially where our employees work and live. This partnership with Habitat for Humanity is a natural extension of our values,” says PCL’s executive vice-president Chris Gower.
Eighty PCL volunteers contributed to the project in the first eight weeks of the schedule on the modular construction, and 100 volunteers have worked the on-site construction phase. PCL also has engaged 40 subtrade partners. The homes will be dedicated June 25 in a special ceremony.