Taylor Architecture Group in Yellowknife is one of the groups included on the shortlist. Caitrin Pilkington/Cabin Radio
Six teams of architects and designers have made a shortlist for federal funding with their plans to address the housing shortage in the Northwest Territories.
They entered a competition run by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) as part of the federal National Housing Strategy. $80 million has been set aside for projects that look at supply chain solutions for northern and remote housing.
CMHC asked applicants to address one or more of three key challenges around building in the North: the long distances supplies have to travel, the harsh climate and short construction season, and the high cost of materials and skilled labour.
Applicants find out if their projects will be awarded federal funding some time in 2023.
The NWT teams selected are Arctic Canada Construction, Northern Industrial Construction, Taylor Architecture Group, Rampart Rentals, Keepers of the Circle and Techi?Q. In total, around 40 applicants from across Canada made the shortlist.
Here are the ideas that may be coming to the North in the near future.
A modular housing manufacturing facility in Délı̨nę
Northern Industrial Construction has partnered with the Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government on an ambitious concept: creating a climate-controlled facility for building modular housing units.
“We’re hoping to start building pre-manufactured homes right in the community,” said Rodney Johnson, the company’s president.
“Traditional stick-built construction is so cost-prohibitive in the North but, by going through the modular home route, you cut your cost per square foot by half, so you’re getting twice the amount of units for the same amount of money.”
At the moment, though, all of those modular sales go through southern manufacturers and send money out of the North.
“If we’re building housing units right in the community, using local labour, we’re not going to be able to get the same economies of scale as a big manufacturing facility from down south,” Johnson acknowledged. “But we’re going to be able to bring the costs down significantly, compared to the average stick build.”
The building would create a space for assembling homes and act as a warehousing space for supplies, offering long-term employment for residents.
“This would also offer some advantages over the typical five-month building season if we could build all year round in a climate-controlled environment,” said Johnson. “We’re very excited to be working with the Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government to make this possible.”
Cabin Radio reached out to Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę leadership but did not receive any comment before publication.
A hub in Hay River
Hay River is uniquely situated on a rail line, a waterway and a highway leading across the territory. It has tremendous shipping potential and is home to the Hay River Community Learning Centre, run by Aurora College, offering trades and industrial skills training.
Enter the Arctic Construction Development Centre, which would build and ship modular homes across the territory and offer hands-on learning in partnership with government and institutional apprenticeship programs.
“The focus is on education because one of the issues that’s been highlighted is the lack of skilled tradespeople in the North, in the communities that are going to receive some of the housing units,” said Aaron Doyle, president of Arctic Canada Construction.
The company says a centre in Hay River can utilize its various transportation avenues to increase access to housing across the territory, but also to address the North’s urgent need for skilled labour.
“It means a lot to us to be included on the shortlist,” said Doyle. “We’re honoured to have the opportunity to tackle a problem that has deeply affected many northerners.”
A shipping project for the Sahtu
Joshua Earls, owner of the Ramparts grocery and hardware store in Norman Wells, couldn’t believe it when he saw his idea on the shortlist.
“I called my brothers and my parents and my family right away,” Earls said. “I was jumping for joy, very excited about it, very surprised. After seeing the other organizations who were shortlisted and everything, I realized I’m one of the few private companies, or individuals, who have made it to this stage.
“I built my whole proposal by myself, I didn’t have a big team behind me, so I was pretty happy to see my name in there.”
The concept? Warehouse-to-warehouse shipping and logistics between Edmonton and Norman Wells to improve the northern supply chain.
“Edmonton is kind-of the gateway to the North for goods and supplies,” said Earls.
“We’re proposing acquiring a physical location where we can consolidate people’s orders and housing supplies and truck them up to Norman Wells, where there will be another warehouse that ships orders out to all NWT communities throughout the year.”
Earls is hoping to alleviate the costs that come with many communities having to fly in their building supplies.
“People will be able to actually order what they want and need, rather than just using old, deteriorated goods and scraps or having to pay extremely high markups for their goods,” he said.
While it may seem a leap to go from a community grocery store to supply chain management, Earls said he is essentially hoping to create a more ambitious version of what he has already been doing to minimize costs and more effectively run his business.
“We started our own rinky-dink trucking company just to service ourselves and lower our own costs, bring up the things that we needed, and we’re now trying to implement that same system on a much larger scale in order to serve the whole Sahtu region,” he said.