In order to set themselves apart at the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C. this week, the Canadian team decided to incorporate aspects of their native culture into the design of their solar home.
“In Canada, and I'm sure in North America, cultural considerations have been largely left out of the process of building homes, and that omission doesn't represent the different needs of First Nation cultures,” said Johann Kyser, aboriginal relations manager for the team.
First Nation citizens in Canada, according to Kyser, are restricted in regards to housing rights. One law states that if a house is built on First Nation reserve land, that land and house become part of Canada, instead of remaining sovereign.
“That's why we are creating a modular structure,” said Kyser. “We are hoping this becomes a means to allow first nations to develop and build equity and leverage.”
The Canadian team, aside from building homes First Nation peoples are able to maintain on their own terms, is also making sure the homes are built to raise First Nation housing standards.
“Mold and burn are critical problems in First Nation housing right now,” Kyser said. “Rates of fire are twice that in non native communities. So, we are using magnesium oxide as a building material, which is impervious to mold and fire—beyond the culture and beyond the technology, we are creating safety.”
The Canadian team also borrowed concepts from aboriginal culture to improve the design and layout of the solar home.
“Aboriginal cultures are very connected to the land and spirituality,” said Kyser. “One of the things we look to is the medicine wheel—each of the four colors on the wheel symbolizes a connection to the elements. One of the places you will really see this connection to color in the home is painted on the winter count, on the canvas under the roof. We worked with the community to explore what their values are—it’s an active system and an integrated system, as well.”
Canada’s team is currently in 11th place, and the home will be on display through Oct. 2nd at the 2011 Solar Decathlon.
More information can be found at www.solardecathlon.gov.
Photo: Al Jaugelis.