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Developer of Port Coquitlam's newest apartment building asked to consider air conditioning

Is it better to build using passive design for comfortable cooling and heating, or require builders to install air conditioning units? Council considered these issues as it approved a new rental apartment.
This 40-unit rental building for Port Coquitlam will be constructed on the corner of Mary Hill Road and Hawthorne Avenue.

Port Coquitlam approved a development application for a 40-unit rental housing building Tuesday (Nov. 22), but not before raising questions about the need for conditioning in apartment buildings to combat warmer weather.

The project, by Billard Architecture Inc., will be built at the corner of Mary Hill Road and Hawthorne Avenue, within walking distance of the city's new Port Coquitlam Community Centre.

It will replace three older homes at 2195 and 2193 Hawthorne Ave. and 2324 and 2328 Mary Hill Rd. while providing rental accommodation in a mix of studios, one bedrooms, two-bedrooms plus den and three three-bedroom homes varying in size from 421 to 894 sq. ft.

The building is designed to incorporate brick and elements of the city's historic downtown, and will include a prominent cornice and pedestrian entrance on Mary Hill Road, according to a staff report

Is air conditioning necessary?

But despite the project adding to the city's housing stock, Port Coquitlam councillors had some questions about the building, including whether it should have air conditioning.

Air-conditioning is extremely important, said Coun. Steve Darling, who pointed out warming weather trends and the impact on residents living in apartments without air conditioning.

He queried whether Port Coquitlam should make air conditioning units mandatory in new buildings during the rezoning process.

"I think it’s important, it’s only getting hotter, it's something we should start looking at," said Darling.

Coun. Dean Washington acknowledged the importance of having air conditioning, noting that his own suite has an air conditioning unit that cost the original owner $7,500 to install.

But he questioned whether developers should be put on hook for the additional costs.

The cost of adding air conditioning

"That’s my caution, it’s great intentions [and] the things we always talk about is affordable housing, but we keep adding layer upon layer and it gets passed down to the consumer," Washington noted.

However, adding air conditioning to the new building will be dependent on cost and and the the city's energy efficiency requirements, building architect Robert Billard told council.

Billard also suggested that buildings could be made cooler through passive design and suggested cities require better building design rather than air conditioning units, that require costly energy.

"When I started, if you need a machine to fix your problem, then you've done it incorrectly," Billard said. 

Coun. Darling responded saying air conditioners should be made mandatory and probably will be "down the road."

"I understand what you’re saying [but] you can put in as many design aspects as you like but in the end the world is hotter, temperatures are more than we’ve seen before and it’s just going to become hotter within buildings."

Wiring for air conditioners suggested

Coun. Darrell Penner, meanwhile, suggested developers put in "conduit" for future air conditioners, and asked if that was something that could be considered.

Staff suggested the city's new climate action plan could look into the issue of air conditioning and the "urban heat effect" on city buildings.

The city's newest councillor, Piage Petriw, also raised concerns about the number of secure bike lockers for the apartment, noting that there is one for each unit.

"If certain units are family friendly and you’ve got a family off three, and have three bikes per unit, that could potentially be an issue," Petriw said.

Petriw suggested the city look into requiring more bike lockers in future developments.

The Mary Hill Multifamily Building rental apartment will generate $35,000 for the city's housing reserve and amenity fund.

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