Innovative housing design earns praise for Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre

By Spencer Sterritt
September 12, 2018 - 8:36pm

Nuutsumuut Lelum has "passive house" technology, which uses natural and ambient heat to keep the affordable housing units toasty during the winter.Aboriginal Housing Management Association/Facebook

NANAIMO — A method of bringing down hydro bills is earning serious recognition for the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre and their first affordable housing project.

The 25-unit Nuutsummut Lelum complex on Bowen Rd. is a finalist for the Land Award, given by the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., for the passive housing designation the project received. Heat recovery technology means it doesn't have traditional heating and tenants shouldn't expect to pay more than $20 for hydro during the worst winter to ever effect the area.

“For affordable housing tenants, to be paying $200 or $300 a month for hydro is excessive,” Centre executive direction Chris Beaton told NanaimoNewsNOW. “To not go through this winter with significant hydro bills, I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.”

Beaton said Centre staff and tenants are excited to see their project be recognized and bring more attention to the passive house model. It's more common in Europe where utility costs are substantial, but Beaton said it's becoming a trend in North America.

It's a model Beaton said they're introducing to many people involved in other housing projects and city councillors.

“I can't remember how many tours we hosted,” Beaton said of community interest in the project. “I think over 200 individuals came through the construction site just to see what we were doing and what the outcomes were intended to be.”

The passive house technology came with an extra cost, roughly an eight per cent premium on construction costs. But Beaton said the long-term savings more than make up for the higher initial cost. Less hydro is used and there's significantly less equipment which requires maintenance or replacing.

The award will be presented on Oct. 11.


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On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit

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