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Partner in Reconciliation: Building for the Indigenous People of Canada

The University of British Columbia (UBC) was honoured with a Sustainability Award from APPA: Leadership in Educational Facilities, for the second time in six years in August of 2017. It was a no brainer to have AYO Smart Home’s Pilot House share this stunning and innovative campus. The idea for the AYO Smart Home came about as a possible answer to address the state of Aboriginal housing in Canada. The Aboriginal people of Canada have long been underserved. There exists a serious need for respectable and durable housinges on and off of Aboriginal reserves in Canada. Many Aboriginal citizens who are in need of social housing often find themselves living in unaffordable and deteriorating units.

The AYO Smart Home Pilot House is located on the campus of University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

The AYO Smart Home Pilot House is located on the campus of University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

AYO Smart Home created its the pilot project in partnership with the Centre for Interactive Research in Sustainability with the shared goal of developing a lasting solution to the Aboriginal housing crisis. AYO Smart Home first premiered the Pilot House in 2015 on the UBC campus in Vancouver, Canada. Today, this pilot home serves as its office space and a show-home used to educate people on the various sustainable technologies that are installed in the home. Since then, the company has been working on delivering two significant projects north of Vancouver in Ross River, Yukon and Kitkatla, British Columbia.

The kitchen and dining area of the AYO Smart Home Pilot House, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

The kitchen and dining area of the AYO Smart Home Pilot House, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

AYO Smart Home is a build and design company that marries various sustainable technologies together into homes that are of superior quality and comfort. It’s mission is two-fold: deliver respectable and healthy homes to indigenous Canadians and create high-quality sustainable homes. Transitory and social housing is often dilapidated, mold-ridden, and uncomfortable for many residents who are in need of secure housing. Vulnerable communities, like the indigenous people of Canada, are often unable to find quality housing because of the great demand for units. Housing prices in British Columbia and other parts of Canada have driven many residents into extreme conditions, and this situation is only worse for those who are in need of social housing. There is not only a housing shortage, but the available housing is extremely expensive.

The kitchen and dining area of the AYO Smart Home Pilot House, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

The kitchen and dining area of the AYO Smart Home Pilot House, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

Sustainable homes will allow these communities to have secure housing that will last for years to come and in which they can take pride. The AYO team goes beyond simply designing and building homes. In their work with indigenous communities, the team’s goal is to make the kind of homes that the tenants can envision themselves living in and that can serve their personal needs. This process begins by first meeting with Chiefs and other representatives to discuss their needs in regards to housing. Safe and secure housing is an apparent issue on every Aboriginal reservation. The AYO Smart House team visits the reserve to assess the needs of each community and then offers them designs that are durable, sustainable, and fit their budget. Each Aboriginal community has unique values, interests, traditions, and ways of living. AYO Smart home works toward delivering customizable homes that are both aesthetically and functionally valuable to each community. In addition, climate conditions have to be considered when developing homes in certain parts of Canada. Sustainability is a huge interest of Aboriginal communities across Canada, many of the new housing developments on reserves go beyond traditional ‘green’ standards.

The Smart Home monitoring system in the AYO Smart Home Pilot House monitors the use of water and lighting and solar PV generation. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

The Smart Home monitoring system in the AYO Smart Home Pilot House monitors the use of water and lighting and solar PV generation. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

AYO Smart Home’s Pilot House is what stands out to many people. This house is built from magnesium oxide structural insulated panels (MgO SIPs). These panels sport connections that are extremely secure and airtight thus preventing heat loss or bacterial growth. In addition, they are significantly thicker and more durable than walls of traditional wood homes. By using MgO SIPs, the cost of the building foundation is also dramatically reduced because the magnesium oxide boards are approved for the use as partial foundation walls. This means that a simple gravel or cement pad is enough to accommodate this home. When it is time to move or take this home down, there is no issue, because MgO SIPs can easily be recycled or reused. In addition, during the deconstruction process, they do not produce highly toxic and foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide gas like traditional gypsum does.

View of the living area in the AYO Smart Home Pilot House. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

View of the living area in the AYO Smart Home Pilot House. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

Moreover, this home uses a highly efficient heat recovery system with a heat pump. The heat recovery system extracts waste heat from exhaust air and water to increase the temperature of incoming air to the heat pump, resulting in an efficiency that is much greater than that of a typical heat pump system. The system allows fresh, healthy air to be brought into the house on a continuous basis at equal pressure as the outside air, which in turn eliminates heat loss and air leakage from the envelope.

Building green is increasingly becoming the standard in Canada. But, AYO Smart Home wants to push the envelope further and use green building as a way to address social issues as well. AYO Smart Home recognizes that the increasingly hostile housing market greatly affects marginalized communities, and works toward combating that by offering affordable and sustainable housing solutions. Secure and healthy homes should not be exclusive to those who have wealth; each citizen is entitled to have a respectable place to call home. AYO Smart Home believes in economic empowerment and secure and durable housing is a great foundation for any person to create a meaningful and peaceful life.

View of a bathroom in the AYO Smart Home Pilot House. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

View of a bathroom in the AYO Smart Home Pilot House. (Photo courtesy AYO Smart Home)

Green Energy and Sustainable Features of the AYO Smart Home Pilot House:

  • Superior building envelope made of magnesium oxide structural insulated panels (MgO SIPs): easy, clean, and fast construction (four days of construction from foundation to ‘lock up’ stage)
  • Air tightness of 0.4 ACH @50 Pa
  • R-30 walls and up to R-8 windows
  • Completely recyclable and reusable building envelope
  • Mold and fire resistant materials
  • Home designed to take advantage of natural light and heat from sunlight
  • Highly efficient heat recovery system with a heat pump (estimated energy consumption of 14 kWh/m²/year)
  • Solar PV system that can achieve a net-positive status
  • 91 rating from EnerGuide’s Energy Efficiency Evaluation. Canada’s EnerGuide scale ranges from 0 to 100 and accommodates millions of houses across Canada. Relatively few houses achieve a rating of 80 or higher and those that do, represent the most energy-efficient houses on the market. (Total estimated energy consumption of 120 kWh/m²/year)

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