Rosslander wins affordable housing contest...In Kimberley

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
March 18th, 2010

Kimberley, a town not unlike Rossland in its makeup and the challenges it faces, has been taking some bold steps towards increasing affordable and green housing. And a resident of the Mountain Kingdom is helping them.

In late January, the City of Kimberley sponsored and hosted its second annual Green Building Conference. Showcasing new techniques, offering both educational and hands on workshops, the conference (which attracted over 300 participants) was deemed a success. “We are excited, and just a little bit scared, about how successful the conference was,” said conference co-organizer Erna Jensen-Shill. “With such an overwhelmingly positive response, with so much interest, what do you do for an encore?”

As part of the conference, the Wildsight group, whose work focuses on promoting ecological sustainability in their communities, ran a real-life affordable housing contest in conjunction with the city. Using two vacant properties the city currently owns, they provided all of the specs for the project to design affordable, ecologically-friendly housing based on three key pillars:

• ecology: the design lessens or removes environmental impacts;
• society: the design is healthy, comfortable and delightful;
• economy: the design is affordable in construction and operation.

Rossland’s Demitri Lesniewicz was the ultimate winner of the competition with his unique, simple yet functional duplex design. Just two years out of his Masters of Architecture program, Lesniewicz has been living in Rossland for two years and jumped at the competition when he saw it.

Basing his ideas around accessibility, Lesniewicz used his own neighbourhood as inspiration for his design. “I think accessibility was a big part of my entry,” commented Lesniewicz. “I designed the units primarily for accessibility with wider hallways, easier entries, covered parking. I had a veranda around the side. I actually met Kimberley Joines [Rossland’s sit-skiing champion], and I live near her house. That house is working well for her, so I kind of used that as the basis of my design.”

The two-story duplex design stacks two one-story units on top of each other, incorporating a number of simple but effective design elements to keep it affordable as well as sustainable.

“The duplex wasn’t extremely complex: I just mirrored both halves. There were two bathrooms, and I tried to stack them as best I could to reduce plumbing. I simplified the design with one central mechanical room, put on solar water heaters and had on-site drainage from the roof to capture the rainwater and store it in a cistern in the backyard. I considered ventilation and site aspect as big deals. Lesniewicz situated the house with southern exposure and big glazed windows.The roof overhang was just enough to prevent some of the summer’s scorching sun. 

Where his design will go now is not entirely sure. As part of a grand prize that included $1,000 cash, the winner will get to work with the City of Kimberly on the final design of an affordable housing to be built on the site. As of yet, Lesniewicz has not heard a definite answer from Kimberley City Council on his involvement.
Could Rossland pull off a similar event to kick-start affordable housing in our mountain city? If we could hold such an event/design competition would the results be needed? Lesniewicz added his two cents to the debate.


“I think it’s especially important in Rossland. I’ve rented here in Rossland; the housing stock isn’t great, and it’s fairly expensive. It would be great if the city would get on board with something like this. I think that we have spaces for it. I live across from the Cooke School site and it’s kind of tragic that we have this large space sit empty. It’s a great place for a park or walking dogs. I’d like to see a park mostly actually but there is likely some room for affordable housing as well.”


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