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Sarcee Meadows Housing Co‑operative

Good Practices in Capital and Maintenance Planning

Who We Are

Sarcee Meadows was first occupied in 1971. It is a 380-unit housing co‑operative in Calgary, Alberta. All of the units are townhouses, occupying a 35-acre site.

Our Story

Housing charges at Sarcee Meadows include, among other things, utilities, and the co‑op provides stoves, refrigerators and driers in each unit. The co‑op employs 12 full-time office and maintenance staff, three permanent part-time staff, and seasonal workers. The co‑op maintains all the services on the site, including sewer and water lines and nearly 40 kilometers of sidewalks.

Members are expected to report any problems in their units and, while maintenance staff are dealing with the reported issue, they will proceed with any other noted repair requirements. If specific problems with items are identified, staff will check the item in other units, and repair or replace if necessary.

In addition to responding to member concerns, the co‑op is involved in ongoing inspections, repairs and replacements. The Property Standards Committee is actively involved in planning, reviewing the options, and making decisions with the advice of the maintenance staff. As with all committees, the job of the Property Standards Committee is to research and discuss issues, and then take recommendations to the Board for approval. Each committee has a Board Liaison – a Board member who is also an active committee member. The Board Liaison can give further detail on the issue when the Board is considering a recommendation.

The journeymen employees keep on top of current building codes and help with the planning for replacements. The co‑op has a trained locksmith, and other staff are trained in plumbing/gas fitting, carpentry, electrical, and appliance repair. For example, when the co‑op replaces the furnaces, they will move to higher efficiency ones. The venting for these furnaces will be different due to revised building codes, requiring the replacement of water heaters at the same time. Detailed planning for the change will help give a better understanding of the costs.

Energy efficiency is always a consideration. We replaced 711 14-litre toilets with 6.3 liter ones and saved $6,000 in annual water costs.

The co‑op has developed a 20-year replacement plan, which is updated regularly. The plan includes annual budgets for the replacement of certain items and a schedule for the replacement of those items. For example, the schedule will show which units are due to have the windows replaced and staff can do the work without further consultation with the Board.

Longer term, the co‑op would like to develop an apartment building with units that would be more appropriate for older members than the current townhouses with stairs.

Capital Replacement Reserve Balance

Year Per Unit
2009: $4,145
2010: $3,319
2011: $3,445
2012: $4,069
2013: $4,603

How Could We have Done Better?

We typically do all our replacements at one time, as we are able to get a better price by buying in volume. We’ve had two instances recently, though, when we might have done better to test our purchases on a smaller scale. In 2008, we replaced all the stoves. However, members have not been satisfied with the quality of stoves that were selected. It might have been valuable to test a few stoves before replacing all of them with that model. Also, we replaced the roofs with metal ones that have a 50-year warranty. Even though the work was done over two years, we didn’t realize until after the work was completed that they have caused problems with dangerous blocks of built-up snow and ice falling off. We have been able to mitigate the problem, but we might have chosen different roofing material, if we had done a trial on some units before replacing all the roofs.

What Others Can Learn from the Sarcee Meadows Story

Experience in maintenance is crucial. While Sarcee Meadows is large enough to employ our own maintenance staff, including journeymen, smaller co‑ops can gain access to expertise by establishing ongoing relationships with qualified tradespeople. Their experience can be helpful in planning and will save you money in the long run.


Co‑op name: Sarcee Meadows
Location: Calgary, AB
Program: Section 95
Number of Units: 380
Unit Type: Townhouses
Date of Occupancy: 1971
Management Model: Staff