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NUNAMIUTUQAQ

BUILDING FROM THE LAND

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INNOVATION THROUGH
ARCTIC KNOWLEDGE

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 green technologies and materials that actually makes sense to Inuinnait. 

We have spent the last five years preparing for this project by focusing our strategic plan, and pursuing research to define Inuinnait principles for architecture. In 2021, we will begin 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 create buildings 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 a new, net-zero targeted facility in Cambridge Bay. The Inuinnait Knowledge Centre will function as a hub for documenting and mobilizing culture and language research across the Inuinnait region. It is our intention for this building to 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.  

 

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BUILDING WITH AND FOR THE NORTH

No community in Nunavut is untouched by the construction crisis, with demand outpacing supply, chronic maintenance issues, and affordability being among the key issues. Infrastructure is faced with additional challenges of extreme climate and shifting permafrost. A long history of buildings being designed and developed based on what works in non-Arctic climates has resulted in them being imposed on a landscape that they are often not suited for. 

PI/KHS and SAIT are embarking on a green building design plan to innovate new solutions for northern buildings—including envelope, water and wastewater, thermal and electrical technology—by partnering cutting-edge technologies with traditional knowledge to minimize their expense and ecological footprint. 

Phase 1 of this work begins in 2021, and will see the construction of a case study building designed to document and apply local knowledge, while testing and monitoring the performance of sustainable materials and technologies in our Arctic environment.

We will use knowledge, experience and partnerships acquired through this project to assess and develop Phase 2 of our project. This phase involves the construction of a large-scale Inuinnait research facility in Cambridge Bay with a goal of net-zero emissions. 

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.

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PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

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.

CAPACITY BUILDING

We are designing 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. 

LOCAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

We are promoting and building local entrepreneurship from the earliest stages of our project with the goal of supporting future stages of the facility's construction, operation and maintenance. Local contractors have been included from the start of project design to identify the support they will require to scale and engage with this work.

SUPPORTIVE ECOSYSTEM

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.