Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB

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Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. designed The Putman Family YWCA Passive House using science based building solutions, because there’s no place like (a sustainable) home.

When we talk about the changes we need to make to cut our carbon emissions, there’s a tendency to frame the issue in terms of what we must give up, comforts we must learn to go without if we’re to live more sustainably.

It’s easy to forget that waste and energy inefficiency come at a high cost, not merely in dollars, but in quality of life. We pay a price for drafts and dampness, for every time we feel “too cold to concentrate” or “too hot to sleep” and not just while we’re in those poorly insulated rooms, but when we leave them.

That’s a truth The Putman Family YWCA Passive House brings, literally, home.

The Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB – The resident and community entrance.


Designed by Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. for YWCA Hamilton, The Putman Family YWCA Passive House is a mixed-use, six-storey residential building with a community centre. The building will provide fifty safe and affordable units of housing for women and women-led families, while the ground floor and lower level provide support programs to the wider Hamilton community.

Built to the Passive House Standard, the most rigorous building standard in the world, the building achieves lofty sustainability targets while providing exceptional comfort and health. Flanked by trees, greenery, and a community garden, the scale of the design respects the architectural character of its artistic Crown Point neighbourhood site, providing much needed density while maintaining balance with the existing streetscape.

The Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB – Building form and streetscape.


The building also responds to the clients by reflecting the YWCA’s core values of providing permanent, affordable, healthy, resilient, and safe housing for women. By always providing the necessities for life in their home, no matter the weather or crisis, the building provides security to families who would otherwise unduly suffer in extreme situations such as the climate crisis or pandemicquarantine.

The Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB -Aerial of the YWCA building’s surrounding neighbourhood.

The Passive House building is climate and COVID (and other disease) resilient. This resiliency is borne out of a scientific design that combines the building and human needs into a functional design standard, and of the rigorous quality installation of the design on and off site. The “Building”, if operated as designed, will use up to 80% less thermal energy than a conventional building and will emit 36% less greenhouse gases.

The Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB – Site plan and interior layout.


Massively airtight, with triple glazed windows, The Putman Family Passive House utilizes mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, is thermal bridge free and has an optimized floor to wall ratio, ensuring the greatest amount of usable space for the area it occupies.

The Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB – View of double-sided reception for community and residents.

Previous meetings with Housing Corporations and people who lived and grew up in social housing informed the Passive House design. The Kearns Mancini Architects sought to respond to the issues with social housing that were voiced.  Dwellings, they were told, were often underfunded, poorly built, and poorly maintained. Frequently, people were unable to live in the space in winter because of mold, dampness, and condensation.

What the Kearns Mancini Architects built, when they built an environmentally sensible building, is not withholding anything. It’s homes where the kids can go to bed and wake up warm, where people can sit in the windows during winter and watch the snow fall. The Putman Family Passive House is a building where kids can head off to school well-rested and healthy, wearing warm, dry clothes on their back with no concerns that their clothes might smell moldy or damp.

The Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB – Passive House strategies.


Mothers in The Putman Family YWCA Passive House can worry less about the building affecting their children’s health because it is dry, mold and damp-free, and has optimal relative humidity and constant clean fresh air sent directly from the outside to their suite via a hospital grade filter.”

Yes, the Passive House is super energy efficient and that offers incredible savings on the utility bills but, beyond that, it’s not asking residents who can least afford it to pay a very high price.

The Putman Family YWCA Passive House MURB – View from intersection of Ottawa Street North and Dunsmure Road.