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

  • Peace parades mark 25th anniversary of Los Angeles riots

    World News CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Twenty-five years ago, a jury acquitted four white police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King, sparking looting and violence that would turn into one of the deadliest race riots in American history. Source
  • 'I just want to see her breathe': Woman meeting mom who got twin sister's lungs

    Canada News CTV News
    Strangers are meeting in Winnipeg this weekend, more than a year after a tragic event changed their lives forever. One night, in February 2016, 23-year-old Leanne Germain, 23, died of complications from taking the drug ecstasy. Source
  • Tories launch campaign rally as N.S. waits for election call

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's opposition parties have officially launched their campaigns in anticipation of an election call that could come as soon as this weekend thanks to an apparent gaffe by the governing Liberal party. Source
  • Pope urges against war with North Korea: 'I don't think humanity today could bear it'

    World News CTV News
    Pope Francis is warning that "a good part of humanity" will be destroyed if tensions with North Korea escalate, and he is calling for diplomacy and a revived United Nations to take the lead in negotiating a resolution. Source
  • Halifax mother who gave birth in Superstore didn't know she was pregnant

    Canada News CBC News
    The husband of the woman who gave birth in a Halifax grocery store says the arrival of little Ezra was even more of a surprise than it first seemed: the mother didn't know she was pregnant. Source
  • Samantha Bee gets star support for her Not The Correspondents' Dinner event

    World News CBC News
    Washington's once-glitzy "nerd prom" is about to get overshadowed. Late-night TV star Samantha Bee was pulling in celebrities for the first Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday — a tongue-in-cheek play on the real bash, where journalists, the president and, in recent years, lots of bold-face names have mingled. Source
  • Calculators included in places where teens stash their drugs

    World News Toronto Sun
    Does your teen spend a lot of time with his graphing calculator? That could be a sign of a drug problem, according to the DEA. On April 20, the Drug Enforcement Administration tweeted out a link with a simple imperative: Find out where kids hide drugs. Source
  • Teens face murder charges in death of Saskatchewan restaurant owner

    Canada News CTV News
    LA RONGE, Sask. - Three teens are facing murder charges in the death of a Saskatchewan restaurant owner who police say was fatally assaulted during a robbery at his business earlier this month. RCMP say three males, aged 18, 17 and 14 were arrested Friday afternoon without incident in the La Ronge area. Source
  • Ex Montreal borough mayor convicted of sexual touching released after 1 month

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - A lawyer for a former Montreal borough mayor says her client has been allowed to return home after serving a sixth of his sentence for sexually touching a minor. Renee Millette says Gilles Deguire was released from jail earlier this week after serving one month of a six-month sentence. Source
  • Chronicles of crime [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    RANDY RINK RAT’S RAGE Thomas Clayton never stopped being a rink rat at heart. The girls, the parties, the fun. The former minor league hockey player couldn’t seem to grow up. Now, he’ll mature into old age in Attica. Source