Indigenous techniques used to create new health centre for Mi’kmaq community
The Pictou Landing Health Centre was constructed in an indigenous Mi’kmaq community in Nova Scotia Canada. The building design is based on a strategy of maximising the use of local intelligence, materials and skills. The structural and environmental strategies for the building are based on the principles of a traditional Mi’kmaq building. Mi’kmaq precedents were studied for their instrumental, scientific aspects.
The structural system was developed through a study of historic local indigenous long house and lodge construction, which used locally available un-sawn wood in the round, bent into arched forms while green and flexible, to maximise their structural efficiency and minimise embodied energy inputs. A community saw mill was constructed with this system as training for local workers in building the trusses, and providing a local source of sawn wood in an area of high unemployment.
The heating, cooling and air exchange systems minimise the environmental impacts of the building over time by using ground source heat and cooling. The height and slope of the cross section also allows for the efficient capture of return air and heat recovery ventilation. The thermal mass of the building at a lower level creates a thermal storage, and an interior earth plastered wall helps to regulate humidity.
Community focus group meetings with elders, youth, and special needs groups were held during the design phase. The spaces within the building are regarded as part of health promotion by being materially articulated, visually interconnected, and naturally lit. Spaces are shaped to provide for many forms of social interaction. Each space also has distinct views into the surrounding community and landscape. The building embraces a circle in the centre of the community. In this circle are traditional stone medicine wheels and a medicine garden containing plants traditionally used for healing.