Innovative energy-saving solution built into Ottawa affordable housing complex

04/27/2012 The environmentally-friendly Beaver Barracks Redevelopment Project uses cutting edge thermal break elements in construction - Schöck Isokorb®

Beaver Barracks, a rental housing project currently under construction, is gaining attention as one of the top sustainable housing sites in Ottawa.  Eco-friendly products and innovative technologies, like Schöck Isokorb®, have been included in the project's construction to improve energy efficiency and create longer-lasting structures.  Schöck Isokorb® is a load-bearing thermal insulation element for the connection of cantilevered reinforced concrete components. The project plans include Schöck Isokorb® in its balconies as a thermal insulating, load-bearing element.

Beaver Barracks is an affordable housing complex being built in downtown Ottawa by Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC), a private, volunteer-directed, non-profit housing organization.  The complex was designed by Barry J. Hobin & Associates Architects Inc., engineered by Halsall Associates Ltd., and built by ZW PMI.

The 254-unit redevelopment, valued at $65 million in total, received half its funding through an agreement between all three levels of government. It carries the name of the former military barracks that existed on the site.

Construction started in 2009, with the first phase completed in December 2010.

CCOC's Beaver Barracks development includes a mix of bachelor, one-bedroom, two- and three-bedroom apartments and townhouses providing housing for singles, families and a diverse range of households and incomes, including those who require accessibility.

Prioritizing sustainable design and energy efficiency

The project designers placed an emphasis on energy conservation when drawing up plans for the project.  Thus, a variety of sustainable design techniques and components,  such as geothermal heating and cooling, high efficiency building envelopes, low VOC materials throughout, green roofs with planter boxes, a community garden, composting and recycling stations, secure bicycle parking, access to VRTUcar car-sharing services, low-flow water fixtures, Energy Star appliances and energy efficient lighting systems, were used in this development,.

Schöck Isokorb®, a thermal break element from Schöck Canada, is being used in the concrete balconies of the Phase 2 Catherine Street. The building is seven-stories, consisting of 76 units, with apartments and ground-level townhouses, along with a row of commercial space on the ground floor.

Saving future repair costs

As a developer and manager of rental apartment buildings for over 35 years, CCOC was aware of challenges associated with continuous concrete balconies.  One of the primary concerns with traditional concrete construction methods is thermal-bridging which occurs within 25 years of construction, and warrants major repairs. Thermal bridging issues are also known to cause poor indoor air quality and mould.  CCOC viewed Schöck Isokorb® as an opportunity to offer energy savings to their tenants, who pay their own utilities, as well as provide a higher quality of life for the occupants  The team took on the challenge of using a product, which is new to Canada, and installed the structural thermal break elements, Schöck Isokorb® as part of the sustainable design.

"Our objectives were to avoid future costs associated with balcony repairs, help protect the environment, and reduce our energy costs," said Kim Menard, Manager of CCOC's Development Department. "We believe these objectives were met with the installation of a concrete balcony connection made with Schöck Isokorb®, which provided the assurance the team sought in order to obtain a higher quality of life for the occupants and reduce long term capital repair costs."

"We also wanted to make sure our building is built with cold Canadian winters in mind," said Thady Murray, Project Manager with ZW Group.  "Insulating our structures as best we can is always a top priority. The long term benefits are obvious with Schöck Isokorb thermal break element."

A progressive and proactive solution

CCOC anticipates the finished buildings will use 40% less energy than previously constructed housing .  This is all part of the design team's commitment to make the building one of the most environmentally-friendly and sustainable housing developments.

"We brought Schöck Isokorb® to ZW PMI for reducing energy loss and climate challenges our country faces, as well as avoiding building damages.  Due to extreme temperatures and the effect of freeze/thaw on the concrete slabs, balconies are susceptible to premature failure  in Canada and may not last as long as those built in Europe which has higher energy savings standards than North America," said Menard. "The reputation and results of Schöck and Schöck Isokorb factored significantly into our decision to use the product."

Beaver Barracks r was designed by a team of industry experts to meet thermal comfort and sustainable design initiatives. Using Schöck Isokorb®, this project is truly an example of progressive thinking in construction.

"This type of cutting-edge technology puts us at the forefront of the industry," Menard continued.  "If a small non-profit like us can incorporate Schöck Isokorb into the design without any noticeable cost impact, then larger condominium and commercial developers should be able to do this as well."

"Our experience with Schöck has been great.  They are very helpful, always ready to explain things and answer our questions – and we had many. We would definitely use Schöck Isokorb again," Thady Murray agreed.

To find out more about the Schöck Isokorb® product line, visit: or call +1 519 896 2100.


Project: Beaver Barracks

Architect: Barry J. Hobin and Associates

Structural Engineer: Halsall Associates Ltd.

Construction Company: ZW PMI

Products: Schöck Isokorb® for the connection of cantilevered concrete components

Start of construction: 2009

End of construction: 2012