Piikani Nation and Karoleena Homes Pave Way for Sustainable Modular Buildings

At last year’s Home and Garden show, Terry Metatawabin, a First Nation Eastern Cree man who specializes in First Nation project development, stumbled upon the Karoleena Homes display of durable, modular homes. He immediately saw the potential for this innovative business to improve housing conditions for First Nations peoples.

The company’s high-end modular homes are built at an environmentally controlled manufacturing-site, limiting both debris and construction time. Plus, the homes are equipped with steel framing and are designed for barge and helicopter shipping when no adequate roads are available—perfect for remote locations in Canada.

“I was attracted to Karoleena Homes because of the sustainability factor and the quality controlled manufacturing,” says Metatawabin. “Their homes are durable and are designed with a phase two component in mind, to give families the opportunity to expand their homes as their families grow.”

He soon met with Karoleena Homes founders Kris and Kurt Goodjohn about the idea (both named Top 40 under 40 in Avenue in 2011), and eventually took the idea across Canada, finding it well received among First Nations.

"Positive changes start at home, and we want to develop, promote and support quality First Nations housing development,” says Kurt Goodjohn. “My generation is a growing population, and an educated one—one that wants something better. We are excited to get involved and do our part to make better sustainable housing and improve the standard of living for First Nations.”

Karoleena Homes is currently nearing the completion of its first project of this kind: a 5,800 square-foot Child and Family Services building in Piikani Nation, Alberta. Having worked with the community to form the final design, Karoleena Homes is hoping that this building’s success will grant them their stripes and open more doors to housing contracts within First Nations communities in the future.

Though Karoleena Homes’ housing typically costs about $200 per square foot, which at first glance may not seem like a low-cost solution to the housing issue currently facing many First Nations communities, the homes do seem to be more economical in the long-term. According to Metatawabin, the homes currently being built or delivered to First Nations communities are not only unattractive, but full of hidden maintenance costs because of their susceptibility to weather damage and mold, and because of their inefficient energy-use. Plus, Karoleena Homes offers a 10-year warranty and lifetime service guarantee to all of its clients.

But for Metatawabin, the dream goes beyond just improved housing for First Nations communities.

"My dream would be to see First Nations living in sustainable housing units that compliment their climate," says Metatawabin. “But I would also encourage a lot more Canadians in whatever industry they specialize in to reach out and partner with First Nations, because better housing is only one part of the equation.”

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