UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into culturally appropriate building designs for First Nations at UBC farm Peters, Michael; Shi, Tian Tong; Yi, Christine


This investigation sought to evaluate different styles of Aboriginal housing design, with focus placed on designs that could be considered culturally appropriate for the Vancouver area. Ultimately, this building will be erected at the UBC Farm, and will be used as a community and activity center for Aboriginal Bands from different areas. Although this project’s scope was mainly focused on local housing styles, other Indigenous housing styles were included for background information. However, special consideration was given to Musqueam housing designs, as the UBC Farm is situated on traditional Musqueam land. Since this report serves as a cultural investigation, it focused more on broad cultural and design considerations, as opposed to specific construction techniques or measurements. Five designs were investigated: Tipi, Grass House, Plank House, Pit-House, and Wigwam. The Tipi and Grass House designs were used for background information, while a triple bottom line (Social, Economic, and Ecological) assessment was conducted for the Plank House, Pit-House, and Wigam. Special consideration was given to the social assessment, as the main focus of this paper is to determine a culturally appropriate design. This investigation suggests that the Plank House is the most culturally appropriate design for the Vancouver area. The Plank House has many design features common to different Bands in BC, and was expressly suggested by Musqueam Elder Larry Grant as the design of choice for community buildings. However, it is the most costly of the designs considered, both in terms of construction and energy loss. In contrast, the Pit- House was the next most culturally appropriate design, while being the least expensive in terms of materials. The Pit-house uses the natural insulation of soil to reduce energy loss, making it the most sustainable design considered. The Wigwam was neither the most culturally appropriate, nor the most economically feasible. This report recommends that the first building constructed at the UBC Farm should be a Plank House design, since it appears to be the most culturally appropriate. However, if there are considerations for other buildings in the future, a Pit-House design would be recommended, as it is the most economically feasible, and only slightly less culturally appropriate. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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