BUILDING FROM THE LAND
Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society (PI/KHS) is an Inuit-directed cultural research centre based in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. We have spent more than two decades dedicated to the renewal of Inuinnait culture and the Inuinnaqtun language, and to innovating through the wisdom and experience of Inuit. With every project we gather knowledge, develop lessons learned, and build our capacity to make sure that Inuinnait voices are heard and applied in the world.
Located in a landscape that has been facing the dangerous effects of climate change for decades, we recognize that action must be taken now. PI/KHS has developed a new program to partner with green and renewable energy researchers and industry professionals to strengthen Inuit leadership in addressing the pressing need for climate awareness and more environmentally sustainable building practices across the Canadian Arctic. We recognize that effective solutions must be conceived at a holistic level: through considerations of our own organization's and community's energy infrastructure, consumption and cost; through the development of northern training and mentorship; and through the creation of language surrounding more sustainable technologies and materials that actually make sense to Inuinnait.
We have prepared for this project by focusing our strategic plan, and pursuing research to define Inuinnait principles for architecture. We have been developing carbon inventories and energy profiles for our organization and its operations. We are launching an intensive program to document and develop Inuinnaqtun terminology essential to environmental and green energy research. We have partnered with Green Building Technologies (GBT) at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to consider the challenges of developing long-term, sustainable infrastructure for the Canadian Arctic that both draws from traditional knowledge and uses experimental materials and technologies to reimagine the world we leave for future generations. Our goal is to build in ways that are culturally informed, scalable, and which incorporate the newest advances in green energy and sustainable design.
All of this work is leading towards our construction of Kuugalak, a net-zero targeted cultural campus in Cambridge Bay, which will function as a hub for documenting and mobilizing culture and language research across the Inuinnait region. It is our intention that the resulting buildings and infrastructure genuinely emerge from the land we live in, aligned with its environment, its people, and its priorities for an Inuinnait future. As we move forward with this ambitious project, we walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and will continue to rely on the innovation and ingenuity of our culture to solve climate and building challenges in the North.
Architecture and material technology have always been important tools for Inuit survival in the Arctic. We have long been committed to creating these tools from the land - in Inuinnaqtun, nunamiutuqaq. We want to ensure that buildings we make -and our lives within them- are integrated with the environment, harmonized with our surrounding landscape rather than at odds with it.
We must find our way back to what our ancestors knew. When we tackle any project, we have to consider where we have come from and all of the lessons we have learned along the way. We watch, practice, adapt, adjust, learn, teach, and grow. This is the Inuit way. To move forward, we have to consider our traditions alongside new ideas and technologies and figure out for ourselves how everything works. This way, we continue to assert our rights as Inuinnait to occupy and honour this land.
We bridge community members with specialized consultants such as energy modellers and architects, to ensure that the project receives full community support and is genuinely anchored in the needs and vision of the people who live here.
We have designed this project alongside northern industry and organizations to ensure that all knowledge and practices developed continue to reside in the North. We prioritize the involvement of students, scholars and workers from North and South to strengthen cross-cultural awareness and exchange in the development of energy and infrastructure solutions.
We are promoting and building local entrepreneurship from the earliest stages of our project with the goal of being able to support our infrastructure's construction, operation and maintenance entirely at the local level. Local contractors have identified the support they will require to scale and engage with this work.
We are building a network of organizations, research partners, and funders that can enable and support the long-term benefits of this project. We are taking leadership in building a community of practice among existing northern green energy programs so that we can all move forward by sharing our challenges, successes and lessons learned.