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Seabird Island Sustainable Community Demonstration Project
(Sun, Earth, Wind, Water)
We did not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our children. Seabird Island Sustainable Community Demonstration Project - Spiritual Healing Garden


The Seabird Island First Nation Sustainable Community Demonstration Project is an innovative approach to the planning, design, construction and management of residential community developments. A key objective is to provide an information transfer opportunity to assist communities and builders through-out Canada to solve housing challenges in a sustainable, healthy, energy-efficient and affordable way. The project integrates community planning, architecture and environmental design.
The project has garnered Canada wide attention for its low tec approach. Self built in 2003-2004 by the Seabird Island community in partnership with Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC), Indian & Northern Affairs Canada and National Resources Canada, this environmentally designed housing development is based on Healthy Housing™ , Flex Housing™ and sustainable planning concepts.

Some of the sustainable innovative features demonstrated include: a solar roof, wind generators, a low tec inexpensive type of geo-thermal (geoexchange) heat and cooling extraction to supplement conventional heating systems , as well as heat recycling, radiant hydronic floors, fan coil heat, water efficient plumbing, and the use of healthy building materials, net zero energy targets and an application of the integrated design process to residential community projects.

The Seabird Island Project is regarded by CMHC as a flagship project for the future of housing. A film "In a Sacred Way We Build" was produced that documents the extraordinary planning, integrated design and building process undertaken by the community. Click to order the documentary film.




View Summary (PDF): "Integration + Innovation - Seabird Island"
View In A Sacred Way We Build (Video Clip)
Order Documentary Film
View Climate Exchange News (PDF) "Leadership By First Nations"
View INAC Spring Newsletter (PDF) "On The Go"
View Tour Booklet (PDF) "Building A Sustainable Future"
View ALL Resource Materials for Download.

Design Concept

The overall planning and building design approach is complementary with First Nation’s teachings about environmental stewardship - "Building a Sustainable Future".
As the elders remind us,
"We cannot simply think of our survival; each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation. What we do today will affect the seventh generation and because of this we must bear in mind our responsibility to them today and always." (International Institute for Sustainable Development)

References to traditional vernacular and past technologies are embodied in the design, structure and detailing. They include use of indigenous materials such as recycled old growth yellow and red cedar logs, cedar siding, weathered river rock, traditional forms, local craftsmanship, artworks and a colour palette based on the four elements (earth, air, fire, water).

Ancient builders have used the relationship with the cosmos (trajectory of the sun) to create environmentally responsive buildings for thousands of years. The use of affordable and clean renewable energy sources are promoted at Seabird Island. The homes are designed to benefit from solar, wind and earth energy and minimize use of water. The main living areas and solariums are oriented to the south in a semi-circular pattern around a communal
spiritual healing garden (PDF). The garden is the focal point of the site and its design acknowledges and demarcates the four sacred cardinal directions.

1 following the sun
2 flexible housing
3 flexible housing
5 sustainable future

The Carved Poles in the Spiritual Healing Garden

Pole 1: represents North   - the Eagle carrying wisdom and strength to protect all residents
Pole 2: represents East     - the Wolf with Pup symbolizing the importance of family and community
Pole 3: represents South  - the Welcome Mother Figure to greet families to their new homes
Pole 4: represents West   - the Bear with a captured Fish to feed the people

The Local Carvers:
Claude (Rocky) LaRock

Larry Shaw
Daryl Francis (EY:IYE)

Sustainable Environmental Design Features

  • Efficient Land Use
  • Energy Efficient
  • Sacred Geometry
  • Variety of Housing Types
  • Balanced Environmental Carrying Capacity
  • Integrated Design Process
  • Community and Industry Participation
  • Solar Orientation
  • Space Zoning (south facing living areas)
  • Low Tech Systems, Low Maintenance
  • Cost Effective, Affordable
  • Solariums (for heat and year round growing)
  • Passive Solar: Convective Air Flow Systems
  • Thermal Living Air Floor™
  • Thermal Living Roof™
  • Thermal Transfer Water Storage System
  • Hydronic In-slab Radiant Heating/Fan Coil (upper floors)
  • Earth Tubes™ to Precondition Intake Air (heating and cooling)
  • Wind Generators for Supplemental Power
  • Higher Insulation (walls and attic)
  • Rain Screen Construction
  • Wide Overhangs for weather protection
  • Modular Dimensioning for Construction
  • Recycled Materials (logs, strapping. sills, insulation)
  • Built-in Recycling Bins
  • Edible Landscape, Indigenous Planting
  • Shared Community Facilities, Recycling Depot
  • Indigenous Materials (logs, gravel, wood, river rock)
  • Non-toxic & Resource Efficient Products
  • Engineered Wood Products, Engineered Wood Flooring (upper floors)
  • Finished Concrete Flooring (lower floors)
  • High Performance Windows
  • Natural Day lighting
  • Low Energy Lighting Fixtures (compact fluorescents)
  • Self Construction, Local Labour and Suppliers
  • CMHC Healthy Housing™ & Flex Housing™ Principles
  • Universal Design (accessible main floors)
  • Local Artists and Craftsman
  • Cultural and Historic References
  • Rain Water Recovery (for water closets, irrigation)
  • Water Efficient Plumbing Fixtures
  • Low Energy Appliances
  • Storm Water Management
  • Construction Monitoring Program (waste & pollution control)
A Self Built Project
The sustainable planning and green design and green construction process has enjoyed considerable community involvement. Virtually all Seabird Island residents, from the elders who helped create the Spiritual Healing Garden to the school children who grew medicinal plants for its four sacred quadrants, have taken part in some way. Almost every construction crew, from pouring concrete, to framing, siding and roofing has been First Nation, while the project overall has significantly fed the local economy.

Industry and Community Participants

The Seabird Island First Nation Sustainable Community Demonstration Project was developed in partnership with Seabird Island First Nation, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Omni Film Productions and with the participation of over 25 building industry and community groups.

Seabird Island Sustainable Community Housing"In a Sacred Way We Build" (Sun, Earth , Wind, Water)
Video Clip
"In A Sacred Way We Build"
"In A Sacred Way We Build" Movie
Order the Documentary Movie
(Omni Films / Anthony Perzel, Director)

1 aerial view
2 cluster housing
3 town house
4 siteplan
5 healthy housing
6 cluster buildings
7 self construction
8 installing windgenerators

Local Carvers

Spiritual Healing Garden

1 renewable energy
2 solarium
3 solar roof
4 earth tubes
5 recycled logs
6 rainwater harvest
7 hydronic heating air floors
8 rain sreen

Home Featured Work Seabird Demo (Sun, Earth, Wind)