Some designs are disruptive. They immediately change the way things are done and expectations for the future. Edison’s light bulb is a good example. It put many candle makers out of business, reduced the risk of fire in homes, reduced crime on the streets and opened up the night for recreation and entertainment.
Salus House is disruptive in two ways.
Salus Clementine provides housing to people with psychiatric illness who would otherwise be homeless and living on the street. Rather than blaming the person for his situation, and moralizing about entitlement, Salus provides the person with a safe, clean, healthy apartment. Salus has found that providing housing, first, provides the platform to address the person’s other problems. The cost of providing a safe home is more than offset by the the cost of expensive police, emergency and health care services associated with homelessness. Outcomes are improved for the residents themselves and society is improved by effectively addressing compelling social need.
Salus, as a client, deliberatively set out to create a groundbreaking building. By adopting the Passive House standard, Salus stipulated that the building be exceptionally energy efficient, durable and healthy. Rather than driving the design to minimize initial capital costs, the design team made decisions based on life cycle operating costs. Existing technology was leveraged in new ways to achieve high levels of insulation, airtightness and ventilation. The cost of making the building ultra energy efficient, amortized over the life of the building, resulted in a building that is cheaper to operate - from day one. The result is a 42 unit apartment building that uses less energy to heat than the average Canadian single family residence. Reducing the operating costs means that Salus House can direct more resources to its program, stretching funding farther and delivering more service.
Going forward, the Passive House Standard can be applied to other building types, such as schools and office buildings, community centres and libraries. The result will be buildings that greatly reduce the production of greenhouse gasses and go a long way to addressing the threat of global warming.
Salus House is disruptive because it puts housing first for some of society’s most vulnerable people and because it is a prototype for sustainable architecture in Canada.