Dawson housing project lauded

A sustainable housing pilot project in Dawson that was completed years ago is getting some high praise from the Conference Board of Canada.

A sustainable housing pilot project in Dawson that was completed years ago is getting some high praise from the Conference Board of Canada.

The board released a report on Monday that highlighted four co-operative housing projects across the North. One of them was a pilot project begun in 2006 in partnership with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Yukon Housing Corp., The Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation and Han Construction.

The aim was to build a demonstration house that would use 50 per cent less energy than the latest building code and was built to meet the needs of northerners.

It brought together community elders, women and youth, municipal and territorial representatives, architects, engineers and planners for a series of workshops to come up with the design for the house.

The finished house uses around one sixth of the energy required to heat a traditional building, and only costs about 10 per cent extra to build, said Dennis Joseph with Han Construction, the local contractor hired to do a lot of the building work.

A typical house costs about $176 per square foot. This energy-efficient house cost around $184.

The house features super-insulated windows and doors, thicker walls and much better insulation, said Joseph. Since the first project in 2006, Joseph said Han has worked on a number of other structures based on the same collaborative design.

He said this type of project has the potential to be used successfully across the North.

“In my mind, I would say yes. Then again, it would all depend on the return costs. You don’t want to be paying into a building that won’t see any payback for 50 years. Depending on the payback period, it probably would be a way to go. For an extra $8 a foot, I’d say it’s worth it.”

Juergen Korn was the Yukon Housing project manager involved with the pilot. He said ensuring that everyone was on the same page is what made the Dawson pilot a success.

“Basically we pulled a team together to come up with the best design possible with local available technology and come up with a house that’s suited to the community’s needs. That’s the point of this: integration. Normally the mechanical guy would design his systems and the architect would build the building enclosure and then the electrician does his work. But if you get everyone involved, you can reduce inefficiencies,” said Korn.

One of the most important factors that the design team identified was making sure houses in the North meet the unique demands of the climate and culture.

“We live in the North, and often houses are built with very little room in the entrance way. Where do you put your boots? These houses were designed to be more flexible. People with a walker or a wheelchair could move around easily,” said Korn.

The Conference Board report also looked at collaborative projects in Nunavut and the N.W.T.

“Mention housing in Canada’s North and most Canadians think of the 2011 crisis on the Attawapiskat First Nation reserve,” Anja Jeffrey, Director of Canada’s Centre for the North said in a release. “Our goal should be to broaden that perception by calling attention to successful housing options that truly meet the needs of northerners living in a wide range of communities, both on and off reserve.”

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