The Shelter Project


Steel Door

At this point (September 2018) this document focuses on only one product—doors—and only one material—wood. However, the intention is to expand to other products and materials in the coming months.

These design specifications are intended to enable the production of building components—and, eventually, houses and community buildings—in communities within about 200 km of the treeline.

The intention is to lay the groundwork for a small production shop in each of these communities that can employ local people, using local materials, to make these building components.


Currently, the most commonly used exterior door in these communities is an insulated steel door in a steel or wooden frame.

Most exterior doors in these communities do not function as intended. They have often been damaged in some way and, because there is no facility in the community to repair a steel door, repairs do not restore the door to its original function or appearance.

As well, these steel doors are expensive to purchase, ship and install. An all-in cost of $1,000 is not unusual.

Purpose of Doors

The purpose of the Boreal Forest Exterior Door design is to enable remote northern communities to build their own doors, from local wood (pine, spruce and larch), suitable to their climate and uses.

This is also intended to serve as a prototype for other designs using local materials in these communites.

The intention is to make building components which, when compared to “equivalent” buildings components brought in from the south, are:

  • Strongly preferred by local people
  • More suitable for use in these communities and their climates
  • Competitive in price, once the cost of ordering, shipping, storage and installation are included

The building components made to these specifications are also intended to:

  • Be very well made
  • Exceed building code requirements


Available Options

The Boreal Forest Door, is a wooden door, made with local materials, by local people, that can be used instead of an insulated steel door.

There are at least four basic door structures that are feasible in this situation:

Materials and Tools

Materials Characteristics

These communities have access to shorter boreal forest trees.

These trees often take 50 years to grow to these dimensions. They grow very straight and—except in high-precipitation areas—have very low moisture content.

This wood has more in common with hardwoods than with pine or spruce harvested in southern Canada. The most prominent difference from hardwood is probably weight; this wood is considerably lighter than an equivalent hardwood.


A construction shop, with basic shop tools, is needed. Ideally, this shop would be associated with the school in some way, with door construction happening when the shop is not being used for educational instruction. This construction shop will also be valuable for the Waste & Recycling Initiative.

The Shelter Initiative (of which these design specifications are a part) will have a higher chance of success if student learning is integrated into product design and construction.