CLIMATE RISK ASSESSMENT
RISK STUDY OVERVIEW
Our project seeks to understand the climate change risks and impacts associated with the design, construction and operation of our building. We are working on a design that minimizes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, takes into consideration future weather patterns, and is resilient to climate change. Since May 2021, we have conducted dozens of interviews and informal conversations with local homeowners, builders, and community members on the impacts that climate change is having on community buildings over time. We held targeted sessions with people knowledgeable of our building's future construction site, including Elders and PI/KHS staff, and used these land-based visioning exercises to collect in-depth knowledge of how--and how quickly--the land is changing within the span of local memory. We reflected on the seasonal land patterns, including prevailing winds, snow accumulation, drainage flow, and water accumulation during spring melt. Information gathered from those interviews, and combined with available climate data and background research on studies conducted on similar infrastructure across the Arctic - has formed the basis our first high level Climate Risk Assessment.
The piece of land selected for our building is one of few remaining in Cambridge Bay that meets our organization’s requirements of a central location for easy access by Elders and Youth, coastal proximity for access to boats, skidoo and sled paths, and sufficient land area to design and implement outdoor cultural activity areas. Despite its many positive traits, the land is also positioned to be highly impacted by climate change. The climate risk assessment highlighted several potential infrastructure and site vulnerabilities to a changing climate; some of the major concerns being permafrost degradation, terrain instability and seasonal meltwater and drainage issues that could impact the piece of land that are leasing for construction. Changes in average and extreme temperature patterns, increase in extreme wind speed and frequency and intensity of storms/precipitations are also being considered and assessed.
With the Canadian Arctic being increasingly prone to climate risk, we see our building project as an opportunity to devise innovative new solutions to community adaptation around these issues.
We will take the following steps to help us create a more adaptive building design to handle future climate risks:
We are conducting a series of geotechnical investigations to better understand the physical properties of the permafrost and ground layers beneath our building. These investigations, combined with the outcomes of our land-based visioning exercise and on-going discussions with the Municipality, will inform the final location of the building on our new property and outline climate risk mitigation actions that need to be considered.
We are making every effort to design our building according to future climate. To accomplish this, we are exploring the integration of predictive climate data into our energy models and renewable energy production.
We are designing the building and surrounding landscape to limit permafrost degradation and mitigate the effect of water run-off on the foundations. Our Board of Elders emphasized the need to keep the landscapes natural environment as undisturbed as possible, especially wetlands and drainage areas, as they host important ecosystems of bird and animal populations. We are investigating tundra re-vegetation techniques for portions of the site that will be disturbed during construction.
Our building operation and maintenance (O&M) practices, such as snow removal and frequent structural assessment, will be an inherent part of our climate strategy.
We are continuing our discussions on the potential impacts of climate change on the building with our Board of Elders. Our environmental lexicon is exploring Inuinnaqtun terminology as it relates to climate change, climate impacts and green building design.