Saugeen First Nation celebrates completion of one of Canada’s greenest affordable housing projects

First Nations

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New Saugeen housing developments exceeds all building and environmental standards

Saugeen First Nation is celebrating the completion of one of the most innovative housing developments that maximizes livability and affordability by minimizing energy consumption, proving that green is cost effective.

Steve White (L), Indian & Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and Saugeen Chief Randall Kahgee officially cut the opening ribbon

The development is one of the most advanced low-rise green buildings in Canada and a model for other builders. This unique eight-unit residential building has been majority funded under the Canadian Economic Action Plan (CEAP).

Chief Randall Kahgee (L) and Gordon Kewageshig who delivered the traditional blessing

The town homes were officially opened today by Saugeen First Nation Chief Randall Kahgee and Steve White, Acting Associate Regional Director General - Ontario Region South, from the federal government.

The homes are social housing units that were built to EnerGuide specifications and will be owned and operated by the Band. Saugeen is located adjacent to Southampton in Saugeen Shores on the shores of Lake Huron.

Chief Kahgee said Saugeen wanted to take a leadership position on green building for on-reserve housing and for all homes built in Canada. He was quick to point out that he had broader community development goals beyond building green.

“I was strongly in support of this project, especially because it created new jobs in our community, and it produced healthy and affordable homes for our families in to live in,” Kahgee explained.  "This project was built by our own people and the pride and dedication is evident throughout.   This project happened very quickly.  From the time the notice of funding came through to today's completion has only been 135 days.  It was a coordinated team effort and this will set the standard across the country and is a step forward for all communities."

Saugeen Housing, along with consultant partners Four Winds Inc. and Aboriginal Building and Construction Services, set out to build both affordable and very energy efficient homes using an innovative production model.

(L)Patraic Lally and John Godden of Sustainable Housing Foundation presented certificates to Saugeen Housing Director, Ron Root and Chief Randall Kaghee (R)

With the support of the Sustainable Housing Foundation, a Greater Toronto Area-based, not-for- profit group that works with production builders in Ontario to produce very low energy buildings, the partnership used an integrated design to maximize energy conservation, indoor air quality, comfort, and affordability.

Ron Root, Saugeen’s Housing Director, and Derek Laronde, Project Manager decided to use a new wall system that would allow for more insulation without significantly increasing cost or production time. The S-11 SuperSTUD is a product of North Bay’s SuperSHELL Homes Corporation, which worked out a deal with Saugeen to manufacture the studs at their Youth Employment and Training Centre, training youth in skilled manufacturing trades and creating five new green jobs.

SuperSHELL Homes Corporation said, “When the project team at Saugeen First Nation approached us to set up a mini-assembly plant for this project, we knew the process could be replicated on a smaller scale. Now Saugeen is able to produce top quality S-10 and S-11 studs to supply other projects in southern Ontario.”

The project was completed on time and the homes have passed their energy certification inspections. Chief Kahgee said Saugeen hopes to build more units this summer.

The First Nation’s building crews are R-2000 certified and, having built energy efficient homes in the past, knew how to maintain air-tight construction to address thermal bridging issues. Europe’s best builders have been seeking to maximize the thermal envelope for several years. Saugeen now is the first viable production effort in southern Ontario to maximize the thermal envelope.

Key to the project’s high conservation marks is the building envelope. With triple-paned windows, insulted concrete form foundation walls, R-50 above grade walls, straightforward design, no thermal bridging, and extreme air tightness, the buildings are reminiscent of the German Passive Houses. The idea behind a Passive House is to maximize the building shell, in order to minimize, or even eliminate, the heating and cooling equipment needed.


Saugeen Housing Director, Ron Root

Root noted that key to making this ground-breaking venture a reality was the support of green building industry manufacturers. “Roxul, Uponor, VanEE, EnerWorks, and SolarSheet, all stepped up to support us in putting together this project.  Also, I always believed in our people and wanted them to be trained in the skills that are needed to build projects like this.”

Because the community is not connected to the natural gas grid, heating fuel sources are limited to propane, wood or electricity. Traditionally seen as a very expensive way to heat a home, in this case, electricity proved to be the most affordable and reliable heating solution. This is the result of an innovative method of off-peak storage working in combination with solar air panels.

With the support of Hydro, Clear Sphere Inc., Sustainable Housing Foundation and INAC, the concrete floor of the crawlspace was used as an off-peak thermal heat sink for the homes to store heat at night. The homes are heated with high efficiency hot water tanks and solar air panels are used to feed warm air into the fully ducted HRV system. An in-line electric heater is used for back up.

All about team work & partnerships according to Chief Kahgee (4th from R)

Project development consultant Tom Laronde, President of Four Winds Inc., is looking to replicate this prototype for high-efficiency, healthy home construction as a green and affordable option for other local governments and builders.

Although Laronde was out of the country and unable to attend the event, a representative said on his behalf that, “Four Winds is building for families who often do not have much in the way of disposable income. Whatever we can do to lower their utility costs and improve living conditions, we need to consider. In this case, we are also reducing the environmental footprint by providing homes that are among the most energy efficient in the country.”

The homes received EnerGuide ratings of 86 on exterior and 87 on interior units. If talks to get solar PV panels on the roofs work out, it is likely that these homes will operate at net zero energy cost. With Ontario’s Feed-in-Tarrif subsidies for solar power generation, the homes will be able to use this solar income to more than pay for their very low electrical bills. Clearsphere, Ontario’s largest new homes rating company provided both EnerGuide and HERS ratings for the buildings. 

"I hope that through Indian & Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)," said Chief Kahgee, "this kind of development will continue across the country.  We are, in fact, already requesting additional units to be built here.  This is going to set a standard and have a great impact on not just First Nations communities but communities throughout Ontario and other provinces."


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Thursday, April 29, 2010