The rehabilitation of Benny Farm as sustainable subsidized urban housing puts forth a new model for neighborhood development with strong community integration in the design process.
Pioneer of sustainable urban renewal
This urban, landscape and architectural project is the world's first government-subsidized, community-driven neighborhood rehabilitation project that combines affordability, green building technology, and preservation, rehabilitation and new construction. Preservation of the social mission (affordability, social quality, green public spaces) of the original development, environmentally sensitive renovation and construction (material reuse, waste minimization, energy efficiency, emissions reduction) of the housing units, establishment of a nonprofit, community-run utility company to manage the new district geothermal heating system, and incorporation of many stakeholder groups throughout the design process are four fundamental merits of the project.
Model for residential refurbishment
Combining these diverse objectives addresses the full range of sustainability challenges: social, ethical, technical, environmental and economic. The project demonstrates that the entire agenda can be mastered simultaneously. Thus, Benny Farm is a vignette of a sustainable future. The buildings themselves are not a prototype for replication, but the values, intentions and the process by which they were developed represent a new model for community-driven sustainability that can be applied universally. Given the vastness of the global stock of aging residential buildings and inequitable distribution of wealth, such a model is an urgent necessity.
Decades of pressing for change
The Benny Farm rehab project originated in 1992, at a time when the notion of sustainable construction was still quite young, and Montreal was not yet ready for such radical thinking. Throughout the project, at virtually every front, the architects and stakeholders had to press hard to change attitudes, rules, and ways of thinking and working – knowing full well that it is not so much new technology that is needed to achieve sustainability, but rather new mindsets, behavior and practices. Due to the complexities of funding, ownership, politics, public debate, legislation, approval processes and the sheer scope of the Benny Farm site (785 homes on 7 hectares), L'OEUF ultimately managed to realize only a part of its grand vision for the entire development.
Gaining, applying and disseminating knowledge
Nevertheless, the team's work strongly influenced the master plan for the entire complex, well beyond the seven buildings that L'OEUF directly worked on. The character and social attributes of the larger neighborhood remain intact today. L'OEUF has already applied the lessons learned at Benny Farm to a second similar project, Rosemont, and is beginning to achieve changes in government policy to allow for new sustainable solutions and approaches. The lessons learned through both projects are the subject of a new monograph soon to be published by the Holcim Foundation. This is fully in line with the architects' original intent to break new ground with these projects, learn through them and broadly disseminate the knowledge to support widespread change.
Green buildings – old and new
The design of the buildings at Benny Farm focuses on material reuse, heightened air quality, durable construction and energy-efficient envelopes. Energy systems incorporate geothermal heat exchange, hybrid glycol/electric solar power, radiant heating and cooling and both air- and water-based heat recovery. Water systems include graywater and stormwater reuse. All systems contribute to the sustainable and continued development of Benny Farm, and all systems increase the quality of life for the users. The old and new buildings incorporate both old and new materials. Wood flooring, bricks and radiators were recycled. The old buildings all have upgraded envelopes and ventilation systems. Indoor building materials with potentially toxic gas emissions were eliminated or replaced, and inefficient mechanical ventilation systems were upgraded to improve efficiency and reduce energy costs.
New legal and economic model
Three non-profit housing organizations were formed for the project, and a new legal and economic model was pioneered: Green Energy Benny Farm (GEBF), a non-profit green utility company. Most of the energy provided by GEBF comes from renewable sources, and water use is reduced by more than half, so the partners are substantially protected against increases in energy and water costs. This model of participation among all levels of social organization, grassroots to federal government, is applicable everywhere.
This community-driven initiative is merited for exploring an innovative merger of urban, architectural, and landscape design that serves to foreground the benefits of cost-efficient, sustainable augmentation of infrastructural services. Applauded is the active involvement of stakeholders – owners, tenants, and users – in the planning and execution of the neighborhood upgrade.
The inventive proposal for public and private financing of the overall venture serves to boost the communal economy while empowering residents with stronger managerial leverage over their residential conditions.
A premium is placed on environmental and social sensitivity across a variety of scales, from broad concerns for contextual compatibility of the interventions to the fine-grained detailing of individual structures on the site. The knowledge gained from this integrative strategy is transferable to a large array of different conditions and circumstances.
The project could therefore function as a reference, if not a catalyst, for similar endeavors elsewhere. Also commended is the ambitious vision put forward to cultivate public awareness as to the benefits of such energy saving measures, which simultaneously galvanizes interest concerning the advantages of collective action in rehabilitating the civic realm.
In this way, the project contributes a valuable model for responsible and imaginative joint investment, offering insight to a range of robust technologies as well as material processes that increase building performance beyond conventional standards. Of equal significance is the strong ethical stance expressed in the commitment to long-term maintenance and monitoring of the neighborhood’s vitality.See more
USD 1 million in prize money was awarded to the best sustainable construction projects entered in the first global Holcim Awards competition. Joint winners of the Holcim Awards Gold were an urban integration project in Caracas, Venezuela, and the design for a new main railway station in Stuttgart, Germany.Read more » pour en savoir plus : Les Holcim Awards honorent la construction durable (French) » más información: Los Holcim Awards honran la construcción sostenible (Spanish) » leia mais : Holcim Awards distinguem a construção sustentável (Portuguese) » lesen Sie mehr : Holcim Awards zeichnen beste nachhaltige Bauprojekte aus (German) » per saperne di piú : Holcim Awards in onore dell’edilizia sostenibile (Italian) » อ่านเพิ่มเติม (ไทย) »
Following five regional competitions, 15 Award-winning projects will now compete in the first global Holcim Awards competition for sustainable construction projects. The global phase of the competition showcases the best entries from more than 1500 submissions from 118 countries, and encourages innovative, future-oriented and tangible approaches within the building and construction industry.Read more » pour en savoir plus : Le concours des Holcim Awards s’internationalise pour les projets de construction durable (French) » más información: El concurso Holcim Awards para proyectos de construcción sostenible llega a su fase global (Spanish) » leia mais : Concurso Holcim Awards a nível global para projetos de construção sustentável (Portuguese) » lesen Sie mehr : Holcim Awards Wettbewerb für nachhaltige Bauprojekte geht in die globale Phase (German) » per saperne di piú : Concorso globale di Holcim Awards per progetti di edilizia sostenibile (Italian) » 更多详情: Holcim 大奖赛吸引全球可持续建筑项目 (Chinese) »
This work presents a successful integration of tectonic research and practice related experience. The project is commended for its ambitious effort to establish a common research platform between nations of the European Union, thus emphasizing the urgency of encouraging sustainable construction on a continental scale.
The project is commended for its ambitious effort to establish a common research platform between nations of the European Union, thus emphasizing the urgency of encouraging sustainable construction on a continental scale. Also important is the systematic approach to developing ecologically aware architecture and therefore can be transferred to a wide range of environmental challenges.
Displaying a high degree of technical sophistication, the systems are oriented to yielding optimal air purification and treatment - through the use of inter-programmatic buffers - as well as with energy production - through the use of wind turbines. Both measures are skillfully and intricately integrated into the architectural proposal instead of being applied externally.
The prototype makes an aesthetically convincing contribution to the proposed context while also serving as a daring catalyst for similar future endeavors.See more
USD 220,000 in prize money was presented to the best entries from North America in the first Holcim Awards competition for sustainable construction projects. The competition run by the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction in collaboration with five of the world’s leading technical universities aims to promote sustainable approaches to the built environment.Read full media release from the Holcim Awards 2005 for North America » pour en savoir plus : Prix décernés aux projets de construction durable en Amérique du Nord (French) »
This project is situated within a community in Montreal, Canada. A nonprofit, collectively run company oversees the ownership, management, and investment of the development. At the core of the design was the establishment of participatory models. This social framework was invested in sustainable construction, centered on common energy, water, and waste management.
The authors exercise great care in bringing together the triple-bottomline of ecology, society, and economy through the development of innovative models for implementing sustainable systems, proactive community processes, and cost efficient performance. The project can be understood in an extended sense as sets of protocols that steer a complex array of parameters, all the while respecting the cultural heritage of the context.See more Download project entry poster (PDF, 8.02 MB) »