Current Research Activities

What we're up to at the Village

updated March 2011

Thermal Energy demonstrations and research:


Air heating system integrated with exterior metal cladding which covers about 1/6 of the south wall of the strawbale building. Heated air is drawn into the building via fans and distributed with a conventional metal duct system.

Flat Panel air pre-heat

A modified Enerworks solar water heating panel is heating air that is connected to the interior of the strawbale building via a heat recovery ventilator core.

Flat Panel solar water heating

An Enerworks flat panel solar water system is installed on the south side of the strawbale building.

Evacuated Tube solar water

Several sets of Copperhill Alternate Energy evacuated tube solar water heating panels are being tested on a set of scaffolding on the south side of the strawbale building. This work is part of a Master's program in Biosystems Engineering, supported by Manitoba Hydro.

Electricity generation demonstrations and research:

Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

A Global Wind Group sponsored Wind-Terra turbine is installed at the Village. It is a grid tied electricity generation system that offsets power loads at the Village complex.

Fibre Reinforced Polymer Monopole

The VAWT is installed on a synthetic tower that is being monitored for behaviour under active loading conditions. This work is part of a Master's program in Civil Engineering, supported by ISIS.

Wind tower icing behaviour study

A set of instruments destined to be installed at the Ste. Leon wind farm are being verified for functionality. This set-up is designed to be entirely off-grid, with both photovoltaic and wind providing electricity generation. This work is part of a Master's program in Mechanical Engineering, supported by Manitoba Hydro.

Thermal Electricity generation

A Wet Brayton cycle device is being set up on the North side of the strawbale building on the Village site. This device is intended to use biogas to generate electricity and heat. The electricity will be used to offset the load from the strawbale building, and the heat will be used by buildings on site during winter months. This work is part of a Master's program in Mechanical Engineering, supported by the NSERC chair in alternative energy.

Biological systems demonstrations and research:

Fish remains composting

A Biovator commercial composting machine is being tested for suitability handling fish remains from northern Manitoba fishing communities, mixed with wood chips. This work is part of a Master's program in Biosystems Engineering.

Soil Bin

The north half of the strawbale building is home to the department on soil science's apparatus for testing erosion due to tillage in various soils and at various slopes. Work conducted in this apparatus is at both graduate and undergraduate level, and is supported by NSERC and the faculty of Agriculture.

Building systems demonstrations and research:

Building Envelope wall section study

A wall section on the north wall of the strawbale building is contrasting the thermal and moisture performance of three variations on standard stick framing techniques. This work is part of an undergrad thesis in Biosystems Engineering, and is the latest in an ongoing set of work on exterior finishes and building system performance.

Structural systems testing

There are two large hydraulic load frames in the strawbale building which are used for structural testing of conventional wood and alternative building material structural systems. They are currently testing structural insulated panels, manufactured in Dominion City, Manitoba. This is an example of commercial testing leading to third party product certification (CCMC in this case).

Building envelope full-scale study

A number of test buildings are being built on the Village site to contrast the thermal and moisture performance of several residential building systems. These test buildings are available for use by other researchers, and there are plans underway for Landscape Architecture to test several green roof technologies on them. This work is supported by Manitoba Hydro.

Community partnerships and education:

Internship programs

Undergraduate and graduate students are brought together with clients and stakeholders from the community to learn together and produce designs specific to each project. Inter-disciplinary collaborations are both possible and encouraged in this model.

Truss School

Undergraduate engineering students take a truss course for an intensive week, and then a software training course for another week. After these two weeks, they are employed by a wood truss manufacturer for the rest of the summer. This program is supported by the members of the Western Wood Truss Association.

Public Workshops

The Alternative Village is host to the annual ‘Northern Climates Alternative Building Design Day’.  The Design Day is a one day conference that focuses on a variety of topics such as: Stackwall/Cordwood Masonry, Light Clay, Timberframe, and Verticle Axis Wind Turbine to name a few.


June 8-10, 2011 - Cordwood Building Workshop

June 11-12, 2011 – Continental Cordwood Conference 2011 (CoCoCo 2011)
                     (co-hosted by The Alternative Village, UofMB)

June 11-12, 2011 - Northern Climates Alternative Building Design Day (joint with CoCoCo 2011)