By KATHY McCLUSKEY, For The Standard
Mississauga First Nation, west of Blind River, had some money to spend on housing and got building last fall. As a result there are five new houses soon ready for occupation.
Monica McGregor, housing manager, said there is a waiting list of 141 families looking for housing. She said she was pleased with the open house held on Feb. 25 to showcase the new homes on Eli Street. In fact she said it “was awesome” describing the response and feedback she has been seeing and hearing from her community about the new homes.
The homes were built by community residents in conjunction with Blind River Home Hardware, its subsidiary company, Four Corners, and the innovative design and technology of STEEP Building Systems (Structural Thermal Energy Efficient Panels). A two-bedroom and a three-bedroom model were open to the community.
Construction began Oct. 9, 2013. The team consisted of McGregor and the rest of the housing staff of the Mississauga First Nation, the infrastructure specialists with the North Shore Tribal Council, Chasity Toulouse and Joey Jacobs, Ken MacLeod of Blind River - infrastructure director, Craig Roberts - site manager, Jeff Watts - construction manager with Four Corners, and Jessica Riopelle, design and material manager of the project, Blind River Home Hardware, plus the residents who built the homes.
The homes were built with panels for the exterior walls that can be installed quickly, with claims by STEEP Building Systems to have up to an 80% reduced build time in comparison with other framed homes. The panels weigh 45-70 pounds and are built with recycled steel studs that can be custom designed.
Riopelle said the windows and doors are pre-cut, and the panels come equipped with foam insulation and have an R value of 33, well above the 2016 building code requirements.
According to the information provided by STEEP Building Systems, the structure is 100% recyclable, has no toxic gas emissions, and produces less smoke than traditional wood and fibreglass, in the event of a fire.
Riopelle said it is expected to take about six months, from the start in October, for all five homes to be move-in-ready.
She added a family was expected to move into one of the two model homes at the end of February.
The homes showed well, and featured products sold by Home Hardware with nice cabinetry in the kitchen and bathroom, wood laminate floors, in-floor radiant heat, and on demand hot water.
Riopelle said the first home was built front to back by request of the band council to vary the look of the homes on the street, and the second home was built in the more traditional side bungalow.
Watts, construction manager, said the homes were built on slabs rather than having basements to allow for a smaller design to suit the needs of the smaller families or empty-nesters who did not want the larger raised ranch-style bungalows, and to stop any risk of ground water troubles.
He said the STEEP homes can be built on foundations if desired, however.
The five-member construction crew was working on existing homes when the construction began and were able to keep working on the new homes, getting training-on-the-job on the installation of the panels, exterior siding and interior dry walling, etc.
Watts said it was really important for them to be able to hire and train the crew from the Mississauga First Nations, to be able to keep them working in their community.
McGregor said there are plans for two subdivisions with 45 lots in each, to be developed in the future.
She said no decisions have been made as to whether the new homes will be STEEP built.