RCE Saskatchewan - 2023

Blanket of Warmth Project
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Blanket of Warmth Project
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Saskatchewan
Contributing organization(s) : 
MacPherson Engineering Inc., Star Blanket Cree Nation, University of Regina (Faculty of Engineering)
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Aura Lee MacPherson
Organizational Affiliation: 
MacPherson Engineering
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Additional resources: 
Sage Sustainable Solutions Podcast with Aura Lee MacPherson:
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
Star Blanket Cree Nation
Address of focal point institution for project: 
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
The impact of mold growth in homes located on First Nation reserves in Canada is part of a national housing crisis that has not been adequately studied. It is a result of high humidity created by extended families living in small homes with inadequate ventilation and heat distribution. The tipi was one of the first structures in North America to use the concept of activating the thermal mass to produce radiant heat. To address the issue of unheathy homes the decision was made to use the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a platform to address this problem and weave Indigenous Ecological Knowledge into the project.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
An opportunity was presented to study the issue of unhealthy homes and to implement improvements using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a platform. Advancing the typical residential HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) from a traditional forced air system to a hybrid forced air/hydronic radiant system created a healthy home. North American Indigenous Ecological Knowledge of using radiant heat from rocks to heat the Tipi can play a significant role in improving comfort and energy efficiency in the existing North American housing stock by heating the thermal mass of a traditional house. A simple and well-designed HVAC shift created a ‘Just Transition’ to help to meet the 2030 and 2050 sustainability goals outlined in the Paris Accord.
January, 2018 to March, 2023
The problem was poor indoor air quality in the home, primarily caused by the cold, damp and musty smelling basement. This is a common trait in many North American homes due to inadequate basement heating and ventilation systems that typically consist of a few ceiling diffusers supplied from a forced air furnace. This problem was labeled by the local First Nations as ‘wicked’, suggesting that there was likely no hope of solving the issue. This problem is magnified in the small First Nation homes where extended families are welcome, the kitchen is always in use and the basements provide additional living and sleeping spaces. Attempts to improve the basement conditions by hanging bags of silica over pails to dehumidify, and to use portable electric space heaters for comfort were ineffective and potentially dangerous, as space heaters are historically involved in 79% of deadly home heating fires according to the National Fire Protection Association (Janna 2011).
In the spring of 2018, a pipe ceremony took place that included the Nation’s Elders and Knowledge Keepers as well as university scholars, industry leaders, local businesses, and the media. This led to a conversation about the importance of working with the University and the potential to create a final year engineering student Capstone project to measure and quantify the benefits of the hybrid radiant heating system. The goal of the project was to improve the health of the home with affordable solutions.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
In the fall of 2018, the local university created a Capstone project to compare comfort, air quality and energy consumption of the 2018 house with the hybrid radiant heating system installed to a reference house which was a similar neighboring house without the system. This comparison was conducted with the use of metered electricity and natural gas consumption and data loggers to measure space & wall surface temperature and relative humidity in both houses during the 2018-2019 winter. In the spring of 2019, the Team installed the hybrid radiant heating system in the reference house as well, for $7500.00 CAD. Cost savings over the 2018 installation were achieved by using field constructed radiant zone manifolds and equipment.
Size of academic audience: 
This project was presented at the University of Regina Capstone Students "Presentation Day" to an audience of approximately 50 people including professors, students, members of the Star Blanket Cree Nation and government officials.
Meeting the 2030 and 2050 sustainability goals outlined in the Paris Accord requires a ‘Just Transition’ to ensure that solutions are simple and affordable so that no one is left behind. Taking advantage of the thermal mass of the concrete structure and supplementing the forced air heating system with radiant heating in two renovated 1970 vintage homes improved indoor air quality, created comfort and safety, reduced energy consumption and inspired hope towards solving a ‘wicked’ problem. Using the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals provided a pathway to ‘build back better’ and to solve the ‘wicked’ problem of mold by blending Indigenous Ecological Knowledge with current HVAC design practices. The existing North American housing stock can benefit from installing systems that activate their thermal mass in a similar manner to how the Tipis were heated. Simple and well-designed solutions are possible when industry, academia and communities/First Nations come together to create compassionate professionalism and social sustainability.
Lessons learned: 
Success - Using the United Nation 17 SDG’s is rarely if ever used by Saskatchewan Engineering companies as a tool to address engineering problems. This opportunity to address unhealthy homes on Star Blanket Cree Nation was an excellent learning experience that demonstrated the multiple layers of solutions that using the 17 SDGs bring to a project.
Challenges- not many companies understand the 17 SDGs which required on our part a great deal of time to educate our partners.
Key messages: 
An opportunity was presented to study the issue of cold, damp, uncomfortable and unhealthy homes on Star Blanket Cree Nation in Canada and to implement improvements using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a platform.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
In 2019 "A Blanket of Warmth for Our Nation's Homes" one an ESD Recognition Award from RCE Saskatchewan's annual ESD awards program. That year it was held at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Hannin Creek Education and Applied Research Center on May 18th.
The project cost $7500 (CAD) and most of the funding came from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS) and the community.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Disaster Risk Reduction 
Traditional Knowledge  
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
I acknowledge the above: