Quebec social housing agency testing unit adapted for Inuit culture

MONTREAL - Amid what experts are calling an acute accommodation shortage in Northern Canada, the Quebec government is preparing to test a new social housing unit it says is better adapted to harsh climates and Inuit culture.

See Full Article

Quebec's social housing agency says a pilot project carried out in the Ungava Bay-area village of Quaqtaq with two bodies that oversee accommodation in the north is expected to be ready for occupants early in the new year.

The project will test a new prototype adapted from one of the units in use: a one-level duplex, with two two-bedroom apartments in each half and a mechanical unit in the middle containing water tank, furnace and ventilation system.

However, this unit has been fitted with better insulation to increase energy efficiency; aerodynamic features to minimize the inconvenience of accumulated snow; and pile foundations which are better suited to shifting permafrost.

Jean-Francois Gravel, a technical expert for the housing agency, says the goal of the project is to test the various individual elements to see which ones may be adopted in future models.

"The idea is not necessarily to repeat this model itself on a large scale, but to see what works well," he said.

Gravel says the technical elements, such as air quality and energy efficiency, will be monitored online by the agency. Pile foundations, he says, are widely used elsewhere in Canada's North but are still under-studied in Quebec.

The families living there will also give their feedback on a number of changes to the floor plan based on the requests of a panel of Inuit residents during public consultations.

These include a combined living room, dining room and kitchen for large traditional family gatherings, as well as a cold porch for storing outdoor gear. The design also includes a movable kitchen island to give more space options as well as a lockable cabinet for hunting gear, and large chopping blocks for preparing fish and game.

Alain Fournier, a founding partner at FGMDA Architectes, the firm that designed the model, said these functional elements contribute to a growing narrative he describes as "empowerment through architecture," where Inuit and First Nations communities are increasingly working with governments and architectural firms to design buildings that better represent them.

He points to a series of air terminals he's redesigned in the province's north in recent years - each with a theme chosen by the members of the community that relates to their culture. He's designed one with a beluga theme, one the Arctic char and another that represent a traditional sled.

"These themes are integrated and expressed in the buildings and the integrated artwork," he said. "What's important is that ultimately it comes from them."

When it comes to building social housing, however, Fournier said some factors limit what can be done. Building costs in the Subarctic are three times higher than in the south due to climate, remoteness and lack of skilled labour.

Higher-quality materials cost more, and that may mean building fewer homes at a time when the housing shortage in northern Quebec is estimated at between 900 and 1,000 units.

Gravel says the bill for the pilot project has yet to be tallied, although costs will be higher than for normal units. Nevertheless, Fournier said it can pay off in the long run.

"Any improvement on energy efficiency means your operating costs - heating bills - are much lower, and the money saved can go to building more units," he said.

Jimmy Okpik, the housing manager in Quaqtaq, says he doesn't know which residents will get to test out the new units, but he is sure there will be no shortage of volunteers.

"There's always a waiting list," he said. "The waiting list never goes away."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Death toll in Egypt attack on Christians rises to 29

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- The death toll in the attack by gunmen on a bus transporting Christians to a monastery south of Cairo rose to 29, Egyptian authorities said Saturday. The Egyptian Cabinet said in a news release that 13 victims of Friday's attack remained hospitalized in Cairo and the southern province of Minya where the attack took place. Source
  • U.K. lowers terror threat level to 'severe' as more arrested

    World News CTV News
    MANCHESTER, England -- Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch, from "critical" to "severe," as authorities said major progress has been made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. Prime Minister Theresa May said "a significant amount of police activity" and several arrests had led to the level being lowered. Source
  • ISIS claims responsibility for deadly shooting on Coptic Christians in Egypt

    World News CBC News
    The group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said on Saturday that its fighters were responsible for a shooting that killed dozens of Egyptian Christians on Friday, according to a statement from the group. Source
  • U.S. backs call for fight against protectionism in G7 communique

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to include a pledge to fight trade protectionism in a final communique due to be released later on Saturday at the end of a summit of Group of Seven leaders, a G7 source said. Source
  • N.S. party leaders stick to familiar scripts in campaign's final days

    Canada News CBC News
    The final Friday of this provincial election campaign was as illustrative as any of what each party leader wants voters thinking about as they prepare to cast their ballots. Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil started his morning at the office of a company that specializes in virtual reality flight simulation. Source
  • 11 arrests total in Manchester bomb investigation

    World News CBC News
    Police arrested two more suspects Saturday over the deadly Manchester concert bombing, as Britons began a sunny holiday long weekend under heightened security. Greater Manchester Police said two men, aged 20 and 22, were detained early Saturday in the northwest England city on suspicion of terrorism offences. Source
  • 5 things to watch for in today's Conservative leadership result

    Canada News CBC News
    After a year of campaigning, it's mostly over but the counting for the 13 candidates in the Conservative leadership race.Listen to CBC Radio's The House: Conservatives make their choiceFollow CBC's live coverage of the Conservative leadership conventionConservative leadership candidates lay out vision for party in final speechesAs the final few votes are cast in person and the tabulation machines set to work Saturday, here's what to watch for when the results are revealed at 5 p.m. Source
  • Mosul siege extends ISIS fight in Iraq, puts civilians at risk

    World News CTV News
    MOSUL, Iraq -- Iraqi forces are steadily closing in on the remaining pockets of territory held by the Islamic State group in Mosul, inching toward a victory that U.S.-led coalition officials say is "only a matter of time. Source
  • Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski dies

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Zbigniew Brzezinski, who helped topple economic barriers between the Soviet Union, China and the West as President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, died Friday. He was 89. His death was announced on social media Friday night by his daughter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski. Source
  • Man hurling racial slurs kills 2, injures 1 on Portland train: police

    World News CTV News
    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Two people died Friday and another was hurt in a stabbing on a Portland light-rail train after a man yelled racial slurs at two young women who appeared to be Muslim, one of whom was wearing a hijab, police said. Source