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First Nation Community Gets First of Its Kind Wellness Centre

A grand opening celebration for the Alkali Lake Wellness Centre, the first net-zero build in North Central BC and on First Nation land in Canada, was held Monday.

Owner of Zirnhelt Timber Frames, Sam Zirnehelt worked with the Esket’emc First Nation to build the 6,800 square foot Recovery Centre that will house six new Aboriginal supportive recovery beds this year.

He says that the relatively new net zero program is being administered through the Canadian Homebuilders Association with the goal to have a building capable of generating as much energy as it utilizes.

“It was approved last Christmas and we were onsite with the prefabricated building in April and finished by July. It was a rapid process and a lot of fun.”

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“Some of the elements that made it particularly special from an energy perspective was working with Natural Resources Canada through their leadership and their energy partnership programs, and working with BC Hydro and BC Housing. We were very engaged in trying to see new energy efficient technologies on the building envelope and the mechanical side incorporated.”

The Wellness Centre was modeled at 60-80% less energy usage than a building built to the current BC building code standard and tested at 68.4% better than a building built to code.

Zirnhelt says it makes a huge a difference on the energy that is consumed and the long-term operating costs.

“We’ll be building many more buildings using the same technologies that were utilized in the Wellness Centre. We do have another project underway right now which is a combined daycare with a elders centre and  youth centre, and that building will be built to the same standard as are many of our residential homes.”

The Centre has a high-performance exterior insulated panelized wall system to lower energy
use, advanced heat pumps for space and water heating, high performing fresh air heat recovery
machines (Heat Recovery Ventilation), and designated space in its design to install future solar panels.

Natural Resources Canada and BC Hydro will be monitoring the performance of the building’s systems to demonstrate how the  Net-Zero Energy Ready (NZEr) approach could apply to other projects. The goal is to understand how these solutions can benefit other communities across British Columbia and Canada in reducing energy consumption.

The Alkali Lake Wellness Centre, named the Letwilc ren Semec or “Heal My Spirit” Centre offers a variety of services designed to help provide assessment, treatment, and community outreach for clients with mental health and substance use concerns.

On Monday, Interior Health (IH), in partnership with the Esk’etemc First Nation and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), announced plans for six new Aboriginal supportive recovery beds in the Centre, to enhance mental health and substance use (MHSU) services for Aboriginal residents of the Thompson Cariboo region.

Supportive recovery beds provide MHSU clients a safe, medically supported setting while they await residential treatment, return from residential treatment, or transition to a more stable lifestyle.

“Esk’etemc has long been recognized as a leader in First Nations approaches to recovery and healing,” said First Nations Health Authority Chief Executive Officer Joe Gallagher.

“We are pleased to support a $1 million capital contribution to enhance available culture-based recovery and stabilization services for First Nations in BC. We are also encouraged by Interior health’s progressive approach to addiction bed allocation which recognizes and supports First Nations ways of knowing and healing.”

(With Files from Canadian Home Builders’ Association NORTHERN BC and Interior Health)

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