Mistawasis First Nation Says Yes to 3twenty’s Net Zero Modular Homes
Ambre O. Khiari
On a mission to build healthier, more energy-efficient housing, the Mistawasis Chief and Council recently commissioned Saskatoon-based modular homebuilder, 3twenty, to create its first net zero, modular demonstration home. Their hope was that the project would showcase modular technology as an affordable, long-term housing solution and incite a larger movement toward embracing net zero in the future.
Well, it was mission accomplished this past fall when the Mistawasis Nêhiyawak community received $8,064,875 in federal funding through the Green and Inclusive Community Building (GICB) program toward the construction of a new, net zero carbon community centre.
“It takes a community to take on a project like this,” said Mistawasis Nêhiyawak councillor Colby Daniels. “It’s a really exciting time for our little community in Mistawasis to hopefully do something that can benefit generations long after we’re gone.”
Why net zero?
Improved air sealing, water management and insulation are just some of the features of net zero homes and buildings that are known to improve energy efficiency by up to 80 per cent compared to traditional new homes. Building to net zero standards can also reduce annual energy consumption by 60 per cent, according to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA).
For the environmental and energy savings benefits alone, choosing to go net zero made sense for the community located in Leask, Saskatchewan; add in the on-reserve housing crisis that has been impacting nearly all Indigenous communities across Canada and it was a solution that checked multiple boxes—including high quality, comfort, and affordability.
“When you really looked at some of the infrastructure struggles on First Nations and some of the costs that went along with houses, it wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t economical in the long run,” Daniels said. “And if you look at what we have now, a fully operational net zero home, I really think that we are ahead of the curve.”
Debbie Watson, who lives in the first demonstration home, said she was “very thankful for the leadership for taking that step to do something different,” and that she was “proud to be the occupant of a home like this.”
Making durability a priority, 3twenty’s process ensures every detail of the project—from the roof and the façade to the carpentry and the furniture—is carefully chosen and built to code. It begins with the design of the floor plan, at which point permit applications are completed and submitted ahead of construction.
Since all net zero buildings must meet the requirements of the National Energy Code, the modeling process offered by 3twenty is used to certify to the appropriate authority that the building envelope, mechanical, and electrical designs all meet energy requirements, as stated on the company’s website. Once construction of the building is 90 per cent complete at the warehouse, the building blocks are shipped to the site and placed directly on the foundation.
The modular aspect of the project makes it possible to work simultaneously on several aspects of the project, leading to faster production times in addition to an end product that is durable and economical.
Taking the lead on sustainable development
Through this project, the people of Mistawasis hope to gain support and funding to build more modular homes in their community and show other Indigenous communities the energy- and cost-saving benefits of high-performance homes.
In fact, they’ve already taken positive strides to embrace renewable energy. In February 2022, Mistawasis united with eight other First Nations bands under the Meadow Lake Tribal Council to take ownership of a renewable energy company, miEnergy North America, forming a premiere Indigenous-owned solar EPC service provider.
“The benefits for Mistawasis Nehiyawak will have long-term impact,” Mistawasis First Nation chief Daryl Watson told MBC radio. “We look forward to building relationships with our partners, who already have success in this industry, to develop one of the best renewable energy companies in North America.”