New approach provides quick affordable housing

By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor

Hestia Properties was completing the structural building part of Sagecourt on Nov. 22 by lifting and installing the final trusses onto the roof. The structural erection of the building took only three days to complete, thanks to the different modules being pre-fabricated before arriving on site to be assembled with a crane. Golden Triangle roofer, Ryan Sutherland instructed the crane operator to safely place the first large truss onto the roof.
Adelle Ellis Photo
A known-to-Strathmore design-build company is changing its tune and experimenting with a quicker and more efficient technique to build lower-priced apartment units within the town, therefore expanding its local footprint and completing the project in under two months.
While the process itself is nothing new, the Hestia Group chose Strathmore over its primary locations in Calgary, to try its hand at modular construction – a process where a building is constructed off-site in a controlled plant, using the same materials as conventional builds and still adhering to the same codes and standards, but over a much shorter timeframe.
The company put shovels in the ground in the middle of October to pour the foundation, and is expecting to be move-in ready by the first week of January.
Due to the design, where buildings are produced in modules – 18 modules in the case of this 12-unit apartment complex in Sagecourt – the Hestia Group was able to secure the pieces on top of the foundation within three days. As all 18 modules took an estimated six to eight weeks to construct in the facility, the company noticed a quicker turnaround than building on-site.
Generally each module requires two weeks to complete from start to finish, including a finished kitchen, trims, casings, doors, flooring and paint.
“Hestia is always looking for innovative ways to build, grow and look at new products, methods and new theories,” said Ivan Busic, site supervisor for Hestia Construction.
“The design is something completely different from what we’ve done before and for a project like this it works. These modules come out on site, they get lifted onto the foundation by a crane and we basically had our building up and 95 per cent complete in three days. That’s not including the foundation itself.”
The design-build company is no stranger to Strathmore. Much of Hestia Group’s portfolio is comprised of developing senior care facilities for AgeCare, and in Strathmore constructed Sagewood Villas and Sagewood Estates.
The company currently offers 42 affordable homes at Sagecourt for those families and individuals that fall slightly above the low-to-moderate income bracket. The price of a one bedroom unit for affordable housing comes to $754 per month with an annual income below $32,500, or a two bedroom apartment for $887 per month with an annual income below $42,500.
“There seems to be a need from what we are seeing from the affordable housing for high value affordable housing that’s not part of the affordable housing criteria,” said Barb Noad, director of communications and marketing with the Hestia Group and AgeCare Sagewood.
“In the economic times that we’re in, this is a way to say you don’t need to qualify, and this rate it’s just above what we market our affordable housing for. We wanted to bring something to market really quickly, and we wanted to serve those individuals that are looking for something that’s high quality but still attainable and within their budget.”
The current complex offers rates of $910 for a one bedroom and $1,015 for a two bedroom.
Ideally the project was expected to be completed within four weeks. Realistically – due to some unforeseeable weather delays – the company is now looking at a timeline of 45 days.
The project also sparked some excitement among town staff, where the location, quick timeline, and design all ticked the right boxes.
“It’s very positive and we love it,” said Chuck Procter, planner with the Town of Strathmore.
“We are always excited to offer more affordable housing and the biggest thing about this one is location. Their side benefited from having the modular design and the town benefited from having a complete application package with complete drawings. We were able to give a quick turnaround on that one.”
The building is located just off of Thomas Drive, is near Brent Blvd., the schools, hospital, pathways and the downtown.
According to Busic, developing in Strathmore also had its perks for the company.
“It’s a nice change from dealing with people in Calgary,” he said. “The response times here in Strathmore seem to be a lot quicker. It’s great. Especially for somebody like me who’s on site and waiting on these answers, who needs things done. Everybody has been great with us.”
The project has placed the units on the foundation but still has to add the roof, shingles, siding, balconies and stairs. The units are expected to be move-in ready in early 2018.