The Banff YWCA Affordable Residential Development is the very embodiment of sustainability

February 7, 2022

Our colleagues at Arrow, a Division of Englobe were behind the design and execution of the Banff YWCA Affordable Residential Development, a new three-storey multi-family building located within the existing YWCA Banff campus. Both sustainable and accessible, it provides a total of 33 units, five of which are barrier-free and was built using 62 shipping containers, as well as steel construction and wood-frame construction.

“Housing is expensive in Banff and there aren’t a lot of long-term rentals to begin with given tourism is its main industry. So, there was a real need for something like this in the community.” explained Wes Bullock, Senior Project Manager, Electrical at Arrow, a Division of Englobe.

The Government of Alberta contributed $2.6 million toward the project, while the federal government committed to $1.35 million through the National Housing Strategy's Housing Innovation Fund. Part of the
Housing Innovation Fund conditions were that the building was required to be constructed using shipping containers and to be certified NetZero energy.

“Thanks to Arrow, a Division of Englobe’s expertise in mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, this project will meet NetZero energy performance and shadows WELL standards. The NetZero performance was achieved through a combination of a robust building envelope design, efficient mechanical systems that incorporate heat recovery, efficient electrical design (including LED lighting throughout), and integration of photovoltaic panels on the roof.” (Source: Lola Architecture)

Designed with the community in mind


The rentals range from studios to four-bedroom apartments, and tenants have access to programs offered by YWCA Banff. The idea was to provide secure, stable housing for women, families, and people with accessibility needs who face challenges finding suitable housing in the area. Through its design, the project creates a sort of community within a community where people can feel at home. This hits close to home because we always put people and communities first when it comes to our projects.

“Beyond tight budgets, some unique challenges on the project were the stringent requirements imposed by the City of Banff regarding architectural design, so as to reflect the Alpen ski chalet style of the surrounding buildings,” explained Glen Tichkowsky, Sustainability and Energy Modelling Lead and Project Manager, Mechanical for Arrow, a Division of Englobe, “In addition, the fact that the buildings had to be made modular, out of sea cans in an environment not well-suited for that type of construction, meant making sure it was feasible to begin with. This is where energy modelling came in.”

While a portion of the property’s electricity is supplied by PV solar, there needed to be sufficient electrical backup for the variable refrigerant flow heat pumps that were installed, which tend to not function well below minus 25 Celsius – an issue in the dead of winter in Alberta! The heat pumps were also designed to generate domestic hot water, which is not often seen in the industry. The building envelope had to be high-performing, so triple-paned windows were incorporated as well. This optimization of energy throughout is what got the project noticed, not to mention its NetZero certification.

"The YWCA Courtyard project is an opportunity to expand the inventory of affordable rental housing in Banff. Our goal was to create a thriving neighbourhood by offering suitable, affordable housing and relevant
supports that together foster a sense of belonging, security and community pride." Project manager Stephen Crotty says 60 per cent of the people who live in the community make minimum wage. (Source: CBC)

New jobs were also created as a result of this unique construction project.

“This project will raise the quality of life for so many people who work here, and that will benefit all Albertans and Canadians who visit this special place in the mountains.” – Karen Sorenson, Banff Mayor.

Arrow, a Division of Englobe is proud to have contributed to changing the lives of the individuals who live and work in Banff, through the design and execution of this project.

Englobe is recognized as Canada’s leader in the fields of environmental management, engineering, and asset integrity and quality management.