The official opening of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, opens a new chapter in Canada’s polar research leadership

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus is a world-class Arctic research facility that brings an enhanced level of research and analytical capability to Canada’s North. The state-of-the-art research labs and technological facilities will provide the necessary space, equipment and analytical capability for researchers and visiting scientists to conduct science in the North.

  • The CHARS campus consists of the three main components:
    • Main Research Building: This building includes research labs, centres for technology development and knowledge sharing, office space, and spaces for teaching, training, and community engagement.
    • Field and Maintenance Building: This building serves as a technical support building and includes spaces such as a maintenance garage and equipment storage.
    • On-campus accommodations: Two triplex accommodation buildings are available to accommodate approximately 45 visiting scientists and researchers.

The CHARS campus project is a $204 million investment from the Government of Canada for the architectural design, construction, equipment, and furniture for the campus. In addition, there was an investment of $46 million for the implementation of the initial 5-year Science and Technology Program.

Planning and construction

Extensive consultations and discussions with the community of Cambridge Bay began in 2010, and continued throughout construction, which began in 2014.

The design of the CHARS campus was inspired by consultations with Hamlet Council members, the local CHARS Steering Committee, elders, youth and others, and input from Indigenous, academic, industry, territorial and government stakeholders from across the North, as well as the results of an assessment of the scientific requirements for the facility.

The architecture incorporates many references to Inuit culture including features inspired by the Inuit snowhouse (iglu), and by the historical use of natural copper by the Inuit of western Nunavut to make tools. Inuit art is a prominent feature of its interior, and the facility includes areas available for public use and community events.

Research Facilities/Services

This state-of-the-art facility will optimize innovation in arctic science and technology, welcome visitors, and provide researchers with the accommodation and technical services they need. The campus can support a wide range of research needs – from ecosystem monitoring, to DNA analysis – and where Indigenous Knowledge is recognized as fundamentally important to the creation of new knowledge.

LEED certification

The CHARS campus is designed for Gold-level certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED-inspired features include such elements as solar panels to facilitate the testing of photovoltaics in the Arctic, low-flow plumbing fixtures, innovative wastewater and waste management, light pollution reduction, energy conservation technology, and other features.

Construction benefits
  • Construction of the CHARS campus provided:
    • Almost 246,000 hours of Inuit employment, valued at over $8 million;
    • Skills development activities worth more than $800,000; and
    • Over $65 million in construction contracts to firms registered with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

POLAR’s Inuit Employment Plan directs its staffing and capacity building efforts to increase representation of Nunavut Inuit across all job groups and levels, as required by Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement. Inuit staff are currently involved in all of POLAR’s functions such as: field operations, research, administration, partnerships, and knowledge management and engagement.

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