Office to Housing Conversion Event Hosted by Cahdco and the Alliance to End Homelessness
In early December, Cahdco and the Alliance to end homelessness co-hosted an event to discuss the ever more prevalent topic of office to housing conversions. This event brought together two guest speakers, Jennifer Barrett the managing director of the Canadian Urban Institute and Darryl Hood a Principal at CSV Architects. Jennifer spoke on the research that she and her team conducted about office to housing conversion for Canadian downtown areas as was recently published in their report “The Case for Conversions: understanding opportunities for conversions of office space to housing in Canadian downtowns”. Darryl brought his direct experience with conversion projects in the Ottawa context to the chat.
One of the key ideas that Jennifer made sure to highlight was that, although the topic of office to housing conversion in now a trending idea, it isn’t a new one. The work that the Canadian Urban institute has pulled together identifies several cities that have undergone targeted efforts to revitalize their downtown areas through the conversion of existing buildings to housing. The report also identifies four key conditions that lend to a successful project. These include the building type, location of the building, local policy and regulatory context, and the market conditions.
Darryl also pointed out that the building would ideally be in the right condition with a good sound structure, but in need of major repairs since many of the features of the building will need to be replaced in the conversion anyway. Windows, hydro infrastructure, and ventilation and being three of the major changes required for residential use.
While they both identified that conversions could be cheaper on a per unit basis than new construction, it would only be under ideal circumstances. With many of the case studies that Jennifer looked at being conducted by smaller development groups who had the ability to take on the challenges of conversion with creative solutions.
If you are interested in reading more about the conversion research and the recommendations from the Canadian Urban Institute, you can find the report here. Or to learn more about CSV architects and the projects that they have undertaken, you can visit their website here.