Overheating in affordable housing is becoming an increasingly serious issue. Nelson CARES Society Executive Director Jenny Robinson and the residents at Ward Street Place were feeling this acutely over the last few summers.
“With increasing high summer temperatures in the Kootenays, folks were becoming more and more worried about health and safety concerns for the tenants at Ward Street Place, especially those with chronic health conditions,” said Robinson.
Nelson CARES Society has been diligently providing incremental upgrades to the two-storey heritage building, which provides affordable and supported living to the 45 single adults who call Ward Street Place home.
Walking through the hallways of the 100-year-old building in July, you could feel the stiflingly hot air, which was even worse in the south- and west-facing suites. Living through the Kootenay summers without air conditioning was posing a significant challenge for tenants’ thermal comfort.
Thankfully, Nelson CARES Society received a $100,000 grant from the Columbia Basin Trust’s Energy Retrofit Program for a solution. The society worked with BCNPHA to hire an energy engineer who proposed a heat pump system, which not only provides cooling but also efficient heat during the winter, reducing heating costs and replacing inefficient electric baseboards.
The engineer sized and specified the system and set a tender to select a reputable, qualified contractor at a fair price. The engineer worked with the contractor to answer questions and performed final inspections to ensure Ward Street Place had an optimized system ready for their heating and cooling needs.
“Keeping the operating cost low helps us to preserve affordability over the long-term; the significant savings we made through this project will do just that and provide safety and comfort for the tenants,” Robinson said.
Ward Street is self-funded through its rental income and receives no government subsidy to assist with costs of operation, which makes grants like Columbia Basin Trust’s Energy Retrofit Program and the energy savings it provides a crucial solution for the building’s operations.
“Creating affordability is a community effort and this building is a shining example,” Robinson said. “It was in really bad shape when the society purchased it. It took years to raise the money to make the building safe and livable. Contributions from funders like the [Columbia Basin] Trust have extended the life of this asset and drastically improved safety and comfort for our tenants.”