Feb. 28, 2022

Researcher aims to introduce green technology and design to improve status quo of Indigenous housing

Insight Development Grant used to engage community leaders and design students to devise potential solutions
Headshot of Mauricio Soto Rubio
Hayden Pattullo

Mauricio Soto Rubio, assistant professor at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape has secured a grant for research on the lack of adequate and dignified housing for Indigenous people.

“This has been a long-standing issue in Canada for generations,” Soto Rubio explains the rationale for his research. “Racism, a colonial mentality and lack of understanding of social and cultural identities have hampered most efforts to improve the situation. In addition, standard design processes, construction material and techniques used for non-Indigenous housing have proven to be largely ineffective when addressing the particular needs of Indigenous communities.” Common deficiencies in housing have also led to a variety of respiratory health ailments for Indigenous people.

Soto Rubio and his team of research assistants intend to devise potential housing solutions using design technology.

The team will work with the Swan River Nation in Central Alberta to study the cultural appropriateness of Indigenous housing. They will evaluate the role of prefabrication and modular architecture as well as the potential of design and fabrication techniques to increase housing quality and life span. The team will also evaluate the role of emerging solar energy capturing systems in supporting independence and self-determination of Indigenous communities. They will examine the role of these technologies towards achieving National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) in Indigenous housing.

“During my career as a professional architect and educator, I have been involved in several projects related to affordable housing, particularly in South America,” Soto Rubio notes. “In addition, my research interests include emerging fabrication construction and techniques, green energy systems and prefabrication, all of which have potential to contribute to alleviate the issue.”

As part of the first phase of the three-year research project, the team completed a series of interviews and meetings with the Swan River Nation Housing Committee, which includes Jackie Neron, Donna Sound, Jared Sowan, and Dustin Twin.

Soto Rubio will expand the project by making it the focus for this term’s “Indigenous Futurism” Senior Research Studio. Potential solutions include projects developed with extensive community participation as well as off-the-grid housing projects.

Soto Rubio will recruit two new Master of Environmental Design (MEDes) candidates to assist with the project for the 2022-2023 academic year.

This research is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant.