To meet the growing housing needs of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (TFN), Parks Canada transferred 84 hectares of land from the Pacific Rim Park Reserve in 2006, located 15 km south of the District of Tofino on Vancouver Island. This set the stage for development of a new community, called Ty-Histanis, adjacent to the existing TFN community of Esowista that was at-capacity.
A commitment was made to apply practical sustainable development principles to the planning, design and construction of this site, consistent with TFN’s concept of “Hishuk Nish Tsawaak” (All-is-One). This concept embodies the principles of ecological planning and development with its emphasis on the connectivity of our lives within our ecosystem. This approach harmonized with Parks Canada requirements to protect the ecological integrity of the park. TFN’s goal is to achieve a balance between ecological integrity and social and economic vitality, making Ty-Histanis a model community.
To be built in phases as funding for capital investments permits, the neighbourhood development will ultimately include 162 residential lots, up to 215 housing units, an elders’ complex, and a variety of community facilities located in the Community Core. By the end of 2012, phase 1 of the subdivision has been completed as well as two phases of housing development, with all infrastructure in place and 43 housing units built and 8 more planned.
An Integrated Design Process, funded by the EQuilibrium™ Communities Initiative, served as a cornerstone in the sustainable development of Ty-Histanis. Consisting of a series of design charettes and workshops, the process brought technical experts together with Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (TFN) representatives, builder representatives and future occupants to provide community input at all stages of project planning and development. This helped to ensure that the design would be affordable and suitable to future occupants.
During the initial design charette, participants discussed what performance targets could be realistically achieved and explored design options to realize those targets, considering technical, cost and approvals issues. Participants included TFN representatives, the builder and the consulting team, including architects, engineers, landscape architects, an energy modeller along with a facilitator to assist the sharing of ideas and recording of options and next steps.
Subsequently, a second series of workshops was held to further discuss the design options, after participants in the first charette had conducted additional research and looked at technical feasibility, including long-term costs, technical issues and maintenance/operation considerations. One of the workshops investigated landscape design options and water use reduction strategies. This approach ensured that the proposed landscape solutions were affordable and met TFN’s sustainability goals in terms of potable water use reduction and protection of the natural environment.
A central challenge for this project was to build affordable, durable, energy efficient and sustainable houses that are suitable for a rural First Nation’s community. Two additional workshops were held to review house designs and explore the use of alternative technologies. This led to a detailed analysis of different house components: building interior, building exterior, mechanical systems, and electrical systems. Different materials and products were evaluated against specific criteria: durability; environmental impact; practical application; and capital and operating costs. Participants explored various building envelope options, including type and placement of insulation, to minimize thermal bridging and maximize air tightness.
Design options along with cost, maintenance/operation considerations were taken back to the community to get input from future occupants at two workshops. Following input from community members, TFN representatives, builder representatives and the consulting team went back to a final design workshop to integrate the feedback and finalize the design specifications.
The Integrated Design Process resulted in substantial benefits. As an outcome, the project team was able to identify cost-saving measures from improvements in landscape design, house design including the house layout, envelope design and mechanical features as well as construction methods. The owners/clients also benefited from a streamlined design review and approvals process. Most importantly, the community engagement process ensured the delivery of affordable and appropriate solutions that meet the needs and wants of this growing community.
Although much of Ty-Histanis had been cleared in a previous decade for expansion of an airstrip, the site was forested and surrounded by the Pacific Rim Park Reserve. Several environmentally sensitive areas are located within the project boundary, including watercourses and a bog. As a result, Parks Canada had requirements for the protection of the park’s ecological integrity which harmonized with the ecological vision TFN had for Ty-Histanis as a ‘Community in Nature’:
Roads and residential lots were located in ways that are sensitive to natural features. Through careful attention to the layout of community features, 40% of the gross area remains natural and undisturbed to protect wildlife habitat and corridors. Clearing limits were clearly marked prior to construction and disturbance of vegetation was minimized to ensure erosion and sediment control.
50% of areas disturbed during site development will be re-planted. Only certain non-invasive native species are allowed for the re-vegetation of disturbed areas including individual lots and road right-of-ways. The seed mix for all hydro-seeded areas is a Parks Canada seed mix. With a target of 50% tree canopy coverage of the site, TFN will embark on a tree planting program to replace the trees lost from clearing operations.
Sensitive habitats, including creeks and bogs, were preserved and protected, for example, the design of a new bridge over a creek within the project boundary. The 30.5 m single span bridge was constructed from bank to bank across Esowista Creek to avoid any work within the creek and limit impact on the riparian vegetation as much as possible. The bridge was an alternative to directing the creek though a large culvert, which would have resulted in completely filling in the ravine and impacting the streambed.
Stormwater flows from the site are at pre-development levels. To achieve this, impermeable surfaces were minimized at 12% of the site area and stormwater flows into planted swales which allow infiltration. Remaining stowmwater enters detention ponds before release to existing creeks.
Nature is an integral part of this community as it provides access to natural food sources, such as fish, game, berries and native plants. To supplement food purchases with locally grown food, residents will also enjoy the use a community garden. Playgrounds incorporate cultural elements and natural features.
With a goal to provide sustainable and affordable housing alternatives, Ty-Histanis is a not-for-profit housing project benefitting members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (TFN). In order to supply new housing and community amenities for more than 100 families, TFN has received financial support from a number of different organizations: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Health Canada, and the Province of British Columbia. This has allowed TFN to offer a range of affordable housing options, both in terms of housing types and tenure.
By the end of 2012, 43 residential units were completed including 26 detached single-family homes (bungalows and 2-storey homes), 4 sets of duplexes and 9 elders’ units in the form of 3 triplex attached bungalows . The bungalow format enabled the elders’ homes to be accessible. In terms of financing, 19 of the homes were financed through CMHC’s On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program (Section 95), the elder’s complex was funded through Canada’s Economic Action Plan (CEAP) and private funding, 13 homes where financed through conventional lenders and 2 homes were privately financed.
Construction of an additional 8 detached homes is planned for 2013: 6 CMHC Section 95 homes and 2 individually owned homes. Upon project completion, Ty-Histanis will include 162 residential lots and 215 housing units, with the majority of these being rental units.
The primary challenge of Ty-Histanis has been to build affordable and durable housing for the TFN community. Typically, the quality of on-reserve housing is impacted by remote locations, budget constraints and lack of inspection. In addition, higher occupancy rates and overcrowding usually result in greater wear-and-tear, leading to higher repair and replacement costs.
Because the cost of home ownership not only depends on capital but operating costs, TFN implemented specifications for newly constructed homes to promote higher building standards for energy efficiency and occupant comfort as well as the use of durable building materials. Mechanical systems need to be easy to operate and maintain to ensure that they are properly cared for. Even with these improved features, the builder kept the construction costs to about $115 per square foot on average.
Comparing the projected annual cost of homeownership in Ty-Histanis, including capital and operating costs, with the total rental cost at the adjacent Esowista community demonstrates that the home ownership options at Ty-Histanis are very affordable for a range of income groups. The minimum household income required to ensure that total housing costs (rent and utilities) for a one-bedroom unit represent no more than 30% of average annual household income, is less than $20,000. According to 2006 Census data, the median household income is $38,016 for TFN households living on Reserve.
Housing Types and Affordability
Total monthly housing
and operating cost
household income required*
One bedroom detached
Two bedroom detached
Three bedroom detached
Four bedroom detached
*Minimum household income required to ensure that total housing costs (rent and utilities) represent no more than 30% of average annual household income.
The District Energy System provides space heating and pre-heating of domestic hot water for the first phase of homes and institutional buildings at Ty-Histanis. It is a clean and renewable energy source that uses an abundant supply of geothermal energy.
The system is comprised of a geothermal collector field, a Central Energy Plant, and a distribution piping system. The geothermal collector field was sized to accommodate the first phase of residential development and all the institutional buildings, with 314 boreholes drilled to a depth of approximately 49 meters. This 15,000m² field is located in the center of the community, adjacent to the Central Energy Plant, community water reservoir and pump house.
The water extracted from the geothermal collector field is transferred to heat pumps in the Central Energy Plant where heat is extracted and enhanced to provide heating to a secondary water loop that is distributed to each building through a two-pipe distribution system (supply and return). After this heated water has been transferred and circulated through each building, it is returned to the plant. The outgoing water has a temperature of 49°C, while the return water is 44°C, after having supplied heat to the in-floor radiant heating.
Upon project completion, the District Energy System combined with the energy conserving building features described above, will result in an estimated energy reduction of 6,235 GJ/hr annually and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to a standard community.
Potable water consumption in British Columbia is one of the highest globally with a 450 litre per capita consumption per day. During the integrated design process, TFN set a target for potable water consumption of 200 litres per person per day – a reduction of 20% compared to the adjacent Esowista community. This target is to be achieved through a multi-stage approach, including installation of water-efficient appliances and fixtures, water metering program, and community education. In terms of technology, the residential units at Ty-Histanis are equipped with the following fixtures and appliances:
dual-flush toilets (3L and 6L flush options)
low-flow kitchen and bathroom faucets
low-flow shower heads
ENERGY STAR™ rated dishwashers and front-loaded laundry machines
To preserve and protect the natural environment, 40% of Ty-Histanis’s gross area remains in its natural state, including preservation of a sphagnum moss bog system and all adjacent water courses. To limit the extent of hard surfaces, only 12% of the 86 hectare site is covered by impermeable surfaces, such as roads and roofs. Clearing has also been limited as much as possible to retain existing vegetation.
The basic landscape package of each residential lot includes excavation for a rain garden, planted side-lot swales that lead to roadside swales and provision of a gravel driveway. The remainder of the cleared areas are hydro seeded with a Parks Canada seed mix. This integrated approach maximizes opportunities for stormwater infiltration, while ensuring visibility into the properties – an important consideration as part of a Crime Prevention through Environmental Design strategy.
At the community level, the surface drainage system consists of planted swales on either side of the roadway. These swales direct runoff to catch basins, which convey stormwater through the community stormwater collection system. Roughly half of the stormwater is discharged at various locations into the sphagnum moss bog, allowing for more infiltration on site. The remainder is discharged into detention ponds and other areas, after which it is slowly released into adjacent watercourses. This provides a highly efficient system to move stormwater without impacting the natural receiving waters that is not typical for a rural community.
Through the application of Best Management Practices, Ty-Histanis is meeting its target for stormwater runoff volumes not exceeding predevelopment rates.
The landscape design of Ty-Histanis is integral to the features described under “stormwater runoff reduction and permeability” and “protection of the natural environment”:
40% of the total Ty-Histanis site area remains in its natural state. The siting of roads and residential lots was sensitive to natural features. To minimize disturbance, clearing limits were clearly marked prior to construction.
50% of areas disturbed during site development will be re-planted. Only certain non-invasive native species are allowed for the re-vegetation of disturbed areas including individual lots and road right-of-ways. With a target of 50% tree canopy coverage of the site, TFN will embark on a tree planting program to replace the trees lost from clearing operations.
The basic landscape package of each residential lot includes excavation for a rain garden, planted side-lot swales that lead to roadside swales and provision of a gravel driveway. The remainder of the cleared areas are hydro seeded with a Parks Canada seed mix, consisting of low-growing native vegetation on native soils. This integrated approach maximizes opportunities for stormwater infiltration, broadens the diversity of non-invasive flora and fauna while ensuring visibility into the properties. In addition, plantings were selected to be low maintenance and low-cost, based on preferences indicated by future occupants during the Integrated Design Process.
Because of a strong commitment to their cultural heritage, the Community Core located at the centre of Ty-Histanis will integrate several places for TFN to celebrate traditional practices: community longhouse; neighbourhood smokehouse; canoe shed; and an elders’ complex. The Community Core will also include: a health clinic, multi-purpose recreation center, daycare, and school. Combined, this institutional space will occupy 16,365 m² of gross floor area (gfa), with the district energy plant and public works.
Outdoor community amenities include a covered postal kiosk and covered bus shelter beside the future bus drop-off, providing opportunities for occupants to be outdoors on rainy days, which is important for a wet climate community. Outdoor amenities also include a park with play structures and an extensive path network linking the community to the richly forested landscape that weaves through and around it.
With its location adjacent to forests and the Pacific Ocean, occupants enjoy access to traditional fishing and foraging for berries and native plants. A future community garden will provide access to locally grown food.
Meeting TFN’s goal of an ‘Accessible Community’, Ty-Histanis is designed to encourage walking and promote social interaction, health and fitness for all residents. Ty-Histanis has a central core with existing and future community amenities located within an 800 meter walking distance of homes. To connect to daily destinations on foot, a multi-use trail network weaves throughout the community and beyond. Paved sidewalks on one side of the roadway are separated from traffic by planted swales for increased pedestrian safety. Throughout the neighbourhood, 3 km of wood-chip paths wind through the protected natural areas and open spaces.
For pedestrian safety, traffic calming devices have been installed, such as raised pedestrian crossings, traffic islands and circles. In the village center, a raised cross walk with paving stones acts as a speed hump, while the roads meander to slow down traffic to the 30 km/hr speed limit.