HHF's next affordable housing build to use sustainable approach

Heartland Housing Foundation released preliminary design for its 83-unit four-storey affordable housing facility to be constructed out of 120 shipping containers Ñ a first in Alberta. The facility is aimed to be opened in the first half of 2021 in Fort Saskatchewan. Graphic Supplied

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Heartland Housing Foundation’s next build in Fort Saskatchewan will mark a first in Alberta.

Planned to be erected next to the modern Dr. Turner Lodge in the Fort, HHF will build a four-storey affordable housing facility with 83 separate units. Currently, in the planning and design phase, with Fort Saskatchewan-based design firm Voschell Architecture and Design, the structure will be built out of 200 recycled shipping containers. If plans go through, it will be the largest development of its kind to be built in Alberta. The closest comparison would be the Studio 6 Hotel in Bruderheim that opened in December 2016, which was constructed from 120 shipping containers to make 63 units.

The regional housing nonprofit teased to the design during the latest Fort Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Oct. 2.

“Right now we are just trying to prove that that is economical and an efficient model to build under,” explained Nancy Simmonds, Heartland Housing Foundation CEO. “But we’re looking at using over 200 shipping containers to build the 83 units. We want to develop under a sustainable model and be able to use the recycled shipping containers. It’s a more green model. We’re building in a modular method. So we’re building offsite and using as many of the scraps that we can in order to be efficient with the resources that we’re using.”

With anticipated below-market rents of 10 to 20 per cent, the facility will offer a range of one, two and three-bedroom units to house lower-income seniors, Robin Hood Association clients.

We’re looking for individuals who are on the lower-income spectrum, so there are income criteria,” noted Simmonds.

In February, HHF received $6 million from the provincial government for the project, however, the housing non-profit is finalizing construction costs.

“Right now we’re working on the modular build. When you’re dealing with modular builds, it is about creating as few unique modulars as we can. Since we’re going four-storeys tall we’re trying to create some consistency so maybe we only have four or five different templates to have to work off of. The architect and general contractor are working right now on trying to reduce that number and come up with a price,” explained Simmonds. “We’re looking at what the industry is saying is an average price per unit to build right now and seeing if its comparable with using shipping containers.”

Full design is expected to be completed by mid-December, with shovels in the ground by spring of 2020. If all deadlines are met, the facility would open in the first half of 2021.

The non-profit housing management body receives funding through a partnership between the City of Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County in order to provide 11 facilities spanning seniors’ lodges, apartment buildings and an affordable family housing complex.

— With files from James Bonnell