The multidisciplinary University of Waterloo Warrior Home team is challenging the notion that sustainable design can't be affordable. Over the past two years, Warrior Home has worked closely with the Chippewas of Nawash Indigenous community and Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce to design and build the first net zero energy Habitat for Humanity home in an indigenous community in Canada. The strong connections that Warrior Home built with the volunteers, homeowners, and community allowed the team to deliver an innovative and affordable single-family detached home shaped by the community's needs while minimizing operational, maintenance, and capital costs.
The Warrior Home team's target market was the growing community of families residing in the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation territory, so they designed an affordable, occupant-oriented, and resilient home for a low-income family. Partner Habitat for Humanity used many donated materials and the assistance of local volunteers for construction, helping to keep costs low to ensure affordability for the homeowners. An energy-efficient building enclosure and mechanical and energy systems introduced operational cost savings. A simple design—a single-story, single-family home with a basic gable roof—minimized expensive equipment and skill, facilitating construction by volunteers.
The design team sought to ensure occupant comfort with a balance of personal space, communal space, and functionality for each room. The home was designed for a growing family—featuring four rooms and two full bathrooms, the house can accommodate children and seniors. With limited bathroom space, a functional divided bathroom allows for use of the sink while another person uses the toilet or shower in privacy. The second bathroom is backed with a storage closet, which can be adapted to an accessible washroom with a bathtub rather than a standing shower.
Chippewa values of community and connection to nature inspired the design of the Warrior Home. A covered front porch enables casual conversation with neighbors, while the open-concept kitchen and living space encourages gatherings with family and friends. Open-concept space is placed to one side of the home, rather than in a central location, to distance the social gathering space from the private bedrooms and help modulate noise levels for different occupants in different areas. Additionally, the Warrior Home was designed to be adaptable to the needs of a family living for generations on the Reserve. Over time, each room can be repurposed for different uses such as an office, nursing room, or bedroom for elderly occupants. The rooms can fit bunk beds, two single beds, or a king-sized bed. The adaptability of the living space and bedrooms enhances the home's resilience, allowing a family to easily change it to suit their needs as family members grow and age over time.
Features and Technologies
- Thermal control of the enclosure was prioritized to minimize unwanted thermal gains and losses given the cold winters and hot summers of Neyaashiinigmiing Reserve No. 27.
- The design incorporates accessibility features such as handrails and additional lighting to accommodate users with physical and visual impairments.
- Net zero design alleviates the need for fuel combustion heating sources.
- A mix of private, semiprivate, and shared spaces meets the needs of multiple family members.
- Smart plugs, smart thermostats, and other technologies are used to monitor and minimize energy usage.
- A central heat pump coupled with a heat recovery ventilator transfers heat from the outdoors instead of using combustion or electricity, and can switch between heating and cooling modes depending on the season.
- A hybrid electric water heater tank paired with a heat pump warms water using electrical resistance. The heat pump draws heat from the surrounding air and uses a compressor and refrigerant to warm the water using ambient heat.
- Building enclosure innovations include raised heel trusses to create room for additional insulation; triple-glazed windows with low-emissivity coatings to reduce solar heat gains; and an insulated concrete form foundation to provide additional thermal performanc
The Warrior Team's target client was an Indigenous family consisting of a single mother with four children. The house caters to the Indigenous community's collective preference for single-story houses as opposed to duplexes or multiunit residential buildings. To suit the family's financial needs, the design featured a strong focus on energy efficiency to remove the burden of energy bill payments. High-performance upgrades were selected to meet the needs of the family and the specific climate of the Neyaashiinigmiing Reserve. For example, a centralized heat pump with a backup heating electric resistor element ensures the home has reliable heat during the cold winters.
High-performance upgrades were selected in coordination with the community and local contractors so that nearby assistance is available if upgrades need repair. As one of the children has potential for visual and physical impairment, hallway handrails and bright lighting were added to support navigation around the home.
The Warrior Home helps address a significant shortage of suitable housing in the Chippewas of Nawash community. The home was built as part of the new Kaikaiknong development on the Neyaashiinigmiing Reserve, an area with an especially acute need for new housing. Newly built homes provide community members a means of staying closer to their families and their culture. To promote continual implementation of energy-efficient homes in the community, the home was designed for easy replicability—in fact, the home was built almost exclusively by volunteers for Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce and the Warrior Home Design Team.