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Shipping containers repurposed for First Nations home

Russell Hixson
Shipping containers repurposed for First Nations home

Construction has started on a new pilot project to provide housing on First Nations reserves in Alberta. Bearspaw First Nation Chief Darcy Dixon and council members Rex Daniels and Larry Daniels held a sod-turning ceremony on July 20 to mark the start of the project at Eden Valley, 90 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

They were joined by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures and Ladacor Advanced Modular Systems. The project will see the repurposing of shipping containers to form the engineered modular structure of a three-bedroom bungalow home. Ladacor Advanced Modular Systems, based in Calgary, have pioneered the innovative modular-technology for various uses already, including hotels, seniors-housing and apartments.

"The strong, non-combustible steel modular core offers great durability and fire safety, and by the time the home is finished, it is indistinguishable from conventional construction," said Joe Kiss, president of Ladacor. "The homes are of a very high quality, very well insulated and very durable – both interior and exterior, making them exactly the sort of building that many remote communities need."

According to Ladacor, the poor state of housing quality on-reserve has driven this initiative, as many First Nations people live in substandard homes with thin wood walls. As for fire safety, the steel-non-combustible homes will make a significant difference to the safety of those living on reserve, as they are typically 10 times more likely to die in a fire than the rest of Canada.

Rhys Kane, director of business development for Ladacor, explained modular construction reduces the construction time to six weeks, making it ideal for remote locations like First Nations reserves.

"We are hoping to build many homes on reserves across Canada with this being a demo project," Kane said. "The cost-effective technology is highly repeatable, has multiple configurations and is an ideal solution for First Nations housing requirements."

Kane added that costs are comparable to conventional wood stick-built construction, however Ladacor’s product is a far more durable and non-combustible, steel building.

Rob Shotclose, Bearspaw First Nation CEO, commented that "the Bearspaw First Nation is proud to be a partner in this important project."

He added that once constructed the home will showcase the technology that will help to address the issues with on-reserve housing including fire, mold problems and issues with durability.

An important part of the initiative has been working with members of the Bearspaw community to provide design input into the homes, so that the home will suit First Nations lifestyles, offering a design from both a technical and cultural-specific basis.

Alberta Innovates Technology Futures is helping to commercialise the technology offered by Ladacor and working with the Bearspaw First Nation to showcase it, a release explains.

Construction has already started and a family has been lined up for occupancy by early September.

A monitoring program will then commence to test both cultural acceptance and technical performance of the home.

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