The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Hamilton aims to transform the lives of marginalized and disadvantaged women. It provides services in the areas of employment support and leadership development while also providing housing options and shelters. Kearns Mancini Architects (KMAI) envisioned synergies between the Passive House requirements and the YWCA’s key organizational and development goals. Of central importance was securing enhanced comfort levels and long-term viability and efficiency. This project has become an ideal showcase of the benefits of Passive House design, most notably demonstrating climatic resilience, occupant health, comfort, reduced energy poverty, and lower operating costs, which are common issues in many current affordable housing facilities.
The YWCA Hamilton has been mapped out over many years through careful analysis of existing community needs and municipal housing policies. Located on a main thoroughfare in Hamilton, the new design will reintroduce the YWCA to the Crown Point neighbourhood, an ideal location for an affordable housing project. Ease of access to services and transit, reduced reliance on cars, and a higher potential for social integration will all aid in fostering social equality and help establish the residents as a key part of society.
The building consists of a variety of community centre spaces within a podium level, designed to respond to the surrounding contextual fabric. This level provides the key connection between the community programming and the street. A five-storey residential component consisting of 50 units of affordable housing sits atop the podium. A balanced approach to the materiality of the envelope has been taken to ensure that optimal energy performance of the building is maintained. Careful consideration has been given to the orientation of the spaces, as well as to the thermal properties of the external walls, allowing consistency through the varying climatic conditions of the Hamilton calendar. The interior spaces are designed with clarity and simplicity, punctuated with moments of colour and texture.
Passive House Metrics
Cooling and dehumidification demand
Primary energy renewable (PER)
0.6 ACH₅₀ (design)
KMAI warned the YWCA of a potential construction cost increase of up to 10%, which was to be offset over time through building marketing opportunities and reduced operating costs. Interestingly, one of the primary reasons for this higher build cost was limited product availability, especially when compared to European markets. However this cost increase was all but mitigated and is currently estimated to be only 0.18%; given the expected 90% reduction in energy usage, this extra cost would be recuperated in just two months.