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Building Blocks for Development


How can culture influence the design of a multi-family building? The images presented are inspirational images from the Coast Salish Culture suggesting ideas that can influence the character and nature of a new type of building specifically designed for Cowichan Tribes. Some of the influences and considerations we have suggested include:

The use of Cedar as an important material used historically by Cowichan Tribes. The building can use Cedar for exterior or interior finishes, as well as screens, fences, and trellises. The integration of art from Cowichan Tribes artists to strengthen identity and pride.

Building Orientation:  As with traditional buildings it was often important how the building was orientated. For example the main entrance for many First Nations Cultures is from the east. What ideas can we draw from the Pre-contact Coast Salish Long House?  For example are there areas in the building we can use heavy timber or Cedar cladding. Salmon is an important food to the Cowichan People. Why not have a place for smoking or preparing salmon on the site? The connection to nature is important. The site around the building is as important as the living space. What elements in the landscape design can reinforce the culture and community of this proposed multi-family building?

What other cultural influences, which could shape the building design, are important to you?


Historically, Coast Salish People lived in large longhouses and shared communal spaces for ceremonies and family gatherings. Shared space within a multi-family building provides the opportunity to meet neighbours and encourage social interaction, making the place feel more like home.  In addition, shared amenities, such as a daycare or reading lounge, also enhances the liveability of the building by providing on site care for children and a place to study for students from larger families. What are some shared spaces that can reinforce a sense of community and make a multi-family building more liveable? Some of the communal spaces specific to Cowichan Tribes may include:

  • Healing places such as a sweat lodge
  • Community Freezer with separate family lockers to store harvested fish or meat
  • A community garden
  • A place to prepare meat such as a butcher room
  • Daycare and playground on site
  • A reading room lounge used by students that need a quiet place to study
  • An exercise room, which supports health and fitness
  • A communal space with a kitchen used for meetings and special events
  • A lounge near a laundry room to promote interaction amongst neighbours

What other types of shared spaces could make a multi-family building feel more like home to you?


The design and character of a building is often shaped by the nature of the building elements. What building elements will make the building feel more culturally appropriate and liveable for Cowichan Tribes? Some of the ideas suggested include the following:

  • Balconies to connect the living space to the outdoors.
  • A courtyard or sheltered outdoor space that can be an extension of shared space.
  • The use of shutters or screens made of cedar for privacy.
  • An outdoor walkway to enter suites from the upper floors to make each unit feel like it has its own exterior entrance.
  • The use of wood such as Cedar and Douglas Fir which are materials with cultural significance.
  • Integrated parking or parking close by the units.
  • Cultural symbolism through the use of art such as house posts.
  • A front porch or entry for each unit from the outside to give each unit a sense of identity and home.
  • A roof garden to enliven the top of the building and take advantage of potential views.

What other building elements could make this multi-family building more unique to Cowichan Tribes?

Sites Available for Development - Cowichan Housing Sites

OPTION 1: Club Road

Neighbouring addresses on site are 5636 and 5642 Club Road

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Click HERE for link to Google Street View

OPTION 2: Boys Road

Boys Road and Daniels Crescent, adjacent addresses: 5433, 5439, 5443 Daniels Crescent

Click HERE for link to Google Maps

Click HERE for link to Google Street View

OPTION 3: Tzouhalem [Road

Next to the Graveyard

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Click HERE for link to Google Street View

Development Options

This Feasibility Study seeks to develop a design strategy for a 40 to 50 unit multi-family building that specifically addresses the needs of Cowichan Tribes. We understand there is a large waiting list for housing and, in the interest of the community, we are seeking a solution that will be culturally appropriate, environmentally responsible and economically feasible for Cowichan Tribes. To address the wide demographic needs of the membership, we looked at a mix of unit types within the same complex to address these needs.

In Option A, we looked at the more common double loaded corridor apartment complex and in Option B we looked at the gallery loaded or single loaded complex. In both options we located the larger 3-bedroom family units at the base of the building so there was direct access to a back yard for children. The smaller Bachelor, 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom units will be located on the upper floors. Both options integrate shared spaces on the ground level, and both schemes have an outdoor shared space used for community gardens, playgrounds and other amenity spaces.


Option A is the double loaded corridor scheme. The advantage of this scenario is that it uses one corridor to access units on each side. This is a typical apartment building with the corridor serving units on both sides making construction costs more efficient. However, there is less individuality to each living unit and less natural lighting in this part of the building.


Option B is a gallery loaded or single loaded building. Units on the upper floors have an outside entrance with their own porch. In addition there is the potential to have windows on both sides of each unit maximizing the access to natural light and minimizing lighting costs. There is also cross ventilation advantages similar to a house. The front door and the balcony door can be opened to allow a breeze to blow through the apartment on hotter days. This option seeks to find a solution somewhere in between the typical apartment block and the single family dwelling. It is less cost effective than Option A, however it is more cost effective than town houses.