NextHome Calgary chats with Allan Klassen, senior vice-president, Brookfield Residential, Calgary, about the “missing middle,” passive housing and more.
NextHome: An easy one to start: How’s business in Calgary? It seems the economy and housing market are starting to turn the corner.
Allan Klassen: The market has been pretty steady for the first half of the year, considerably stronger than 2016. Construction permits are up 30 per cent, and though listings on MLS have increased dramatically, it’s showing a balanced market. So, overall, very good in most segments.
NH: The so-called “missing middle” is something we’re hearing more and more about, especially in large, expensive markets such as Toronto. How much of an issue – and opportunity – is it in Calgary?
AK: I don’t see this as an issue as much as an opportunity. The “missing middle” is a term used to describe a housing product that will provide a mixed-use application to a larger site – 20 to 30 acres – introducing a variety of housing types. From walkup towns, semi-detached, apartments and condo, owned and rental, all supported by some retail component. Primarily in brownfield development, but also in greenfield suburban development, usually near a Transit Oriented Development, whereby a neighborhood within a neighborhood is created. Focused on the two largest demographics – downsizing Baby Boomers and the up and coming Millennials.
NH: What areas of Calgary are prime candidates?
AK: Any neighborhoods that are close to transit, have large sites, such as underutilized shopping malls, schools or new communities that have a 20- to 30-acre site.
NH: How much is Brookfield focused on the “missing middle”? What projects do you have underway?
AK: I don’t believe we are as focused on the “missing middle” as we are on understanding the overall market demand of the consumer for choice both in our suburban communities such as Livingston, as well as the inner city and other brownfield opportunities.
NH: Brookfield is also involved in something called “passive housing.” What exactly is that, and how is it going?
AK: The Symon’s Gate Passiv Haus is a community showcase for sustainability and advanced energy efficiency. It will be one of the most energy efficient homes ever built in Alberta – using 90 per cent less energy than a typical new home. We’re having a year-long open house before we sell it.
It’s our hope that this home will spark important conversations about energy efficiency and home design among homebuyers, neighbours and industry and government.
The base theory of the Passive House design and construction can be summed up as: Maximize gains and minimize losses.
The home was designed, engineered and pre-fabricated in Germany, the acknowledged world leader in passive house construction, and then shipped to Calgary for construction by Brookfield’s master builders.
It is a living, working demonstration of sustainability and Brookfield Residential ’s commitment to innovation. As a pilot project, this house will be a “one-off” in this community, but it will provide our employee and trades teams with new experiences and understanding to help prepare for anticipated future code improvements.
Homeowners of these kinds of homes will enjoy an incredibly quiet and comfortable home with excellent air quality. Thanks to the super-insulated walls and roof, air-tight construction and ultra-efficient windows, the home is draft-free.
There isn’t even a furnace! The sun and warmth generated during the daytime eliminate the need, and heating and operating costs will be lower thanks to the significant energy savings and the use of high quality components such as PV solar array to provide electricity, and concrete and cross-laminated timber to help the home withstand extreme weather.
Since this is a pilot project, we haven’t made a commitment to build more passive homes in Alberta. We will evaluate the interest from buyers and incorporate learnings into future designs.
NH: What is the future of passive housing in Calgary? Are buyers ready to embrace it?
AK: It’s a little too early to say, as we have not completed the home, and we still have a lot of work to do to understand the customer response.