Multi-Residential Buildings With an Emphasis on Community and Sustainability

Lépine Apartments

Lépine Apartments specializes in the construction and management of mid-rise and high-rise multi-residential buildings. The company provides rental accommodations for residents looking for high quality housing in the Ottawa region, and offers rental options far beyond the scope of what is generally available in the apartment sector.

In terms of size, comfort, amenities, and more, Lépine Apartments offers a luxurious living experience comparable to a house or a resort.

A second-generation builder, Francis Lépine began his career by following in his father’s footsteps. Renee Lépine founded a construction firm in 1952 that went on to build more than 20,000 residential buildings and a number of well-known Quebec landmarks throughout its existence. By watching his father grow his business to great heights, Lépine learned the value of quality, and to never compromise his vision or his reputation. Francis eventually decided to venture off from the family business to create a new enterprise in a different market area. In 1998, he moved from Montreal to Ottawa and since that time, he has built roughly 40 concrete multi-residential buildings with Lépine Apartments.

The company’s long-term vision prioritizes quality over quantity. Its reputation is built upon the positive feedback it receives about its buildings and the services it provides. As the team gains more experience year after year, its focus on quality only becomes more essential to the way Lépine Apartments manages its business relationships, and this consistency is beneficial for the residents, the company, and the environment.

“Building quality is about building a sound investment and building a long-term reputation. Sometimes it’s more painstaking and more work, but the benefits come from it afterwards,” said Francis Lépine, President of the company. The firm’s commitment to quality has enabled it to build a well-respected reputation in the local market for a luxury living experience.

While provincial and municipal governments often receive the bulk of the credit for quality of life in the cities they represent, construction companies like Lépine Apartments are making decisions and putting in the hours to build those cities. That work ultimately plays a major role in developing community.

“We’re the ones who are building the nation,” explained Francis. “We are in the best country in the world and surely by applying quality to our workmanship, we’ll have a better country in the long run.” Indeed, construction firms that choose to create highly sustainable buildings are improving not only quality of life for residents, but also the nation’s economy.

When buildings are well-constructed with sustainability in mind, they require fewer repairs and last a longer period of time. The old architecture of many European nations has been preserved for centuries as a result of the heavy-duty materials used and the skilled handiwork that went into their construction, and in this vein, Lépine Apartments regularly uses prefabricated concrete for the building envelope to give its buildings the most solid structure possible.

“We build for the Canadian climate, which is four seasons, so we’ve got to combat the heat gains in the summer when we have droughts and we have to combat the freezing temperatures when the winter sets in for the long haul,” explained Francis. When designing a building, Lépine Apartments considers the energy costs of today and anticipates how these costs may change in the decades to come.

If builders alter their mindset to think long-term – as if they were building their own house – sustainable practices naturally come into play. During our discussion, Francis thought back to his parents teaching the classic story of the three little pigs. The message was simple: when building a house for yourself, make sure to use hefty materials like brick instead of flimsy pieces of straw. A good piece of advice for future generations of builders is to only put products on the market that they would choose to use for themselves. The short-term numbers may not look as appealing, but the superior quality will stand out to any potential renter that walks through the door.

“There is a lot of average stuff on the market, and when you can differentiate yourself, it’s worthwhile,” said Francis. “In the long run it will be very beneficial.”

One of the ways Lépine Apartments separates itself in the market is by offering a variety of amenities that are not typically available in rental properties. Within the structure of the building, residents of Lépine Apartments are not limited to the private space behind their doors; shared spaces such as pools, gyms, and lounge areas are considered extensions of residents’ living space – similar to a hotel or resort, save for the fact that other residents in the building become familiar and eventually form a small community. This is a strong advantage in larger cities where it can be difficult for individuals to connect and make new friendships. Beyond beautiful and comfortable living spaces, Lépine Apartments aims to build spaces that encourage communities to form.

Francis explained that part of the fascination about the iconic ‘house with the white picket fence’ is the notion of owning some land around the house to participate in outdoor activities. For this reason, landscaping is a noticeable standout throughout the Lépine Apartment properties. “As we put up these massive houses, I like to put a lot of emphasis on having an intensive, soft, green landscape around our properties.” In an attempt to replicate the atmosphere of a backyard at a larger scale, Lépine Apartments uses accent plants and greenery that set a friendly and welcoming scene. Making the outdoor space greener softens up the entire atmosphere of the building. Humans easily connect with nature and it tends to have a relaxing effect, which is why so many people keep gardens around their home.

“I’m a homebuilder and I just happen to build bigger homes,” said Francis. “I like to put a lot of landscaping so that it fills out that part of the dream of having your own house.” At Lépine Apartments, significant effort is put into finding ways for people to connect with each other and with their environment.

In the past, Lépine Apartments generated most of its business in urban areas within the city of Ottawa, but it has recently made the choice to expand into the surrounding rural communities as well. Approximately 40 percent of the Canadian population lives in rural regions and there is a gap in the market for multi-residential rental properties in these areas. The need is particularly great in central and eastern Canada. Financing can be a challenge because, although the demographic numbers support the decision, the financing industry favours large urban cities for mid- to high-rise multi-residential projects, believing that the risk is lower due to the high population number. In reality, the stability of the market and the incomes of the demographic amount to very little risk, and Lépine Apartments is ready to serve the nearby rural communities when the financing industry catches up.

Earlier this year, the pandemic slowed the majority of business in Canada, and construction was no exception. Lépine Apartments took the opportunity to pause and reflect on its internal functions. The silver lining is that the extra time has given the company a chance to catch up and reflect – valuable since it was growing at a rapid pace. In reviewing its process systems and the organization of its labour force, the company made some changes to its structure. The leadership determined that some staff should be repositioned with new job descriptions, and even hired a few more skilled employees. Rather than investing in poured concrete, the company took the time to invest in its people.

The construction industry in Canada is in need of young, passionate newcomers, particularly in the trades. Now is the right time to promote the trades, as many Canadians have lost their jobs or are unsure of where their careers may lead in the future.

Consistently challenged with ever-increasing costs, Lépine Apartments focuses on adding value to the homes – and the lives – of its residents. “No matter what, costs are going up, so every time we put up a new product, we’re the highest priced one,” said Francis. “It’s hard to compare a building that I’m building today in 2020 against a building built in 2010 or even 1980. That’s where the quality proposition has got to come into play – being able to provide something new and of quality is where you’re going to get your customers.”

November 24, 2020, 9:12 PM EST