Sask. engineers receive provincial award for First Nation housing project

A local engineering firm received a province-wide award for their work on a housing project on Star Blanket Cree Nation. 

MacPherson Engineering was honoured with a provincial Association of Professional Engineers/Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS) Exceptional Engineering Award.

The product they created, called RadiantLink, was based on the traditional design of the teepee, which are heated with rocks using a form of radiation. This technology is built into the concrete walls of a basement to warm it up just enough to get rid of the dampness.

The project is now being called the Blanket of Warmth.

"It warmed that home, took away the mould and improved our living conditions health-wise," said Wendell Starblanket, who has the RadiantLink installed in his home.

Starblanket said the technology has had a positive impact on his family’s lives mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually since being installed two years ago.

It was invented by a team made up of the United Nations, First Nations, industry and academia to address what had been labeled a "wicked" problem of poor air quality and dampness in First Nation homes.

Aura Lee MacPherson, project manager at MacPherson Engineering, said they didn’t do the project for recognition, they did it for Starblanket.

Starblanket originally brought the issue to MacPerson and she decided to do whatever it took to help reach a solution.

"We're going to look at it, we're going to spotlight this and we're going to do better," said MacPherson. "We're leading the country and we did something pretty spectacular here just by working together and that in itself is why we're so happy to receive this award."

The APEGS Awards look for leaders in professional achievement, volunteerism in the community, as well as contributions to society, the environment and the economy.

"The recognition that what you have done is what we as engineers and geoscientists are trying to do, which is improve or maintain the levels of lifestyles that we have," said Bert Munro, chair of the APEGS Awards committee.

Blanket of Warmth has also been recognized nationally by Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine as a Canadian Green Building Technical Award recipient.

Currently, the technology is in just two homes on Star Blanket Cree Nation, but Starblanket would like to see it expand to at least one home in every First Nations community in Canada.

MacPherson said the dream for the project is to have it spark a conversation in Ottawa.