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Knocking on the door of sustainable housing in the north

April 20, 2012 — 

Sustainable housing in the northResearch supporting the health and sustainability of remote and northern communities is one of the top strategic research areas of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Manitoba. Research in this area spans healthy housing, drinking water, transportation, access to remote communities and environmental issues.

Extreme weather and social conditions create many challenges that affect the conditions of homes in the north and the health of their inhabitants. First Nations housing has been characterized as “substandard”, “Third World”, and “unhealthy”. The demand for engineered solutions for northern housing is of high priority. Dr. Dimos Polyzois (Civil Engineering) and Dr. Kris Dick (Biosystems Engineering)at the University of Manitoba are working together with community leaders to increase the awareness of engineers of the various issues facing the north. This collaboration has led to the development of state-of-the-art materials and structures testing facilities to address these challenges, and the creation of The Alternative Village, an outdoor laboratory that is dedicated to research, testing, and training related to alternative and sustainable energy and building systems. Current research activities include the use of solar energy, electricity generation, and the use of hemp as a building material.

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Polyzois has worked in and with remote communities to develop wind energy systems, explore new materials for use in northern infrastructure, and improve housing and health conditions in northern communities. More recently he has teamed up with Dr. Dick and First Nations leaders to develop a protocol for the renewal of housing to improve the health of northern residents. Northlands Denesuline First Nations, located approximately 1000km north of Winnipeg with an on-reserve population of approximately 700 people living in 135 homes has partnered with this team of researchers to assist in meeting the following objectives:

Sustainable housing in the north1) Assess the community’s concerns
2) Conduct full-home visual inspections
3) Develop home repair recommendations
4) Introduce HVAC installation practices guidelines
5) Provide post-installation and quality control practices guidelines

It is believed gathering this information and creating these protocols will help community leaders and researchers to assess whether these homes have adequate indoor air quality, adequate water supply, adequate sanitary areas and waste disposal, adequate food preparation areas, adequate safety from fires, electrocution and explosions, adequate warmth and dryness, adequate security, privacy, and space, and to address energy efficiency issues.

For more information on these and other exciting research initiatives at the Faculty of Engineering, please send us an email.

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