Inuit Housing - Pilot Nunavik Duplex

In 2012, as part of their ongoing efforts to improve housing design, the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ), in partnership with Makivik Corporation, Kativik Regional Government and Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, designed and built a pilot housing project suitable for Nunavimmiut families that would be culturally responsive as well as better adapted to climate change and preservation of the tundra. Nunavik comprises the northern third of the province of Quebec and is the homeland of Quebec’s Inuit. Inhabitants of this region call themselves Nunavimmiut and almost all 12,000 live in 14 villages along the coast of Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay. Designing and building housing suitable for Nunavimmiut families and their northern environment is a challenge due to harsh climate conditions that need to be highly energy efficient, with improved aerodynamics to reduce wind resistance and associated heat loss. The expectation was a design that would achieve a level of efficiency equal or close to the Passive House standard. The pilot project was designed as a prototype of sustainable housing that could be built throughout Nunavik.

Identifying Actions

The Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ) lead a two-day design charrette and included the SHQ and Nunavik officials, an architect, an engineer, and seven residents from four villages in Nunavik. The residents were drawn from among Elders, families, mothers, youth, young adults, hunters, and women who practice traditional sewing and represented a cross-section of Nunavimmiut tenants. Following the design charrette, the steering committee commissioned architect Alain Fournier, FIRAC, of EVOQ Architecture, to develop the concepts into tangible designs and technical specifications. A two-day Passive House standards seminar kicked off the architectural design phase. The Société d’habitation du Québec hired a qualified trainer so they, EVOQ and the Nunavik agencies would have a common base of understanding. The Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau took the initiative to circulate the drawings to a small cross-section of people in Nunavik. The feedback received was useful in developing the final design and construction drawings approved by the steering committee. A comprehensive remote monitoring program was installed. Sensors and other equipment were set up to measure 17 variables ranging from heat recovery ventilator functioning to energy usage.


The Société d’habitation du Québec began physical monitoring in January 2016, soon after the tenants moved in. They have now collected enough data to begin analysis of energy consumption, air circulation, and humidity, among other indicators. According to Hélène Arsenault of SHQ, the goal is to assess whether the equipment and features of the prototype house measurably improve livability and environmental sustainability, with a view to adopting them as better practices.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The outcome of the two-day charrette was a report illustrating, listing and explaining housing preferences of the various tenants. In January 2016, two families moved into the new pilot duplex located in Quaqtaq, Nunavik. Eleven months later, researcher Rudy Riedelsperger arrived in Quaqtaq to undertake the socio-cultural evaluation, using an open-ended question grid designed with Dr. Mylene Riva. Rudy Riedelsperger visited the tenant families and found both expressed high levels of satisfaction with their new homes. In Nunavik, building logistics and conditions are always a challenge. The design charrette took place in 2012. When the architectural design and technical drawings were completed and received signoff in 2014, it was too late for materials to make it onto the 2014 sealift. Construction commenced in 2015.

Next Steps

The agencies comprising the steering committee continue to meet every three months to monitor the pilot and make decisions about new housing. The pilot housing project is on track to demonstrate best practices in the following areas: process, collaboration, architectural design and innovation, monitoring, cultural empowerment, energy efficiency and climate adaptation. These best practices will guide future sustainable housing development throughout Nunavik.


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