Helping Homeowners: A Service-Learning Project.
From August 6-21, 2011, Cape Breton University, in partnership with Southern Illinois University (Carbondale), hosted a Service-Learning Exercise, bringing together faculty members and graduate students from several universities. This group worked with local experts and community organizations to respond to seven questions (below), develop some resources that can be used by other property owners in the future, and help with exterior on-site work and planning at the Liscombe House (which is under renovation). One such resource that was aided by this dialogue and problem-solving was a document prepared by CBCL Limited on certain aspects of one of the demonstration project renovations and energy efficiency, some parts of which may be helpful to others doing company-house restorations, although each home has its unique qualities and challenges. Click here to access this document.

The participating faculty and students acknowledge the support of the United States Embassy to Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the Cape Breton University Research Office in making this Service-Learning Exercise possible. This was an initiative to share applied research expertise developed at an American university (SIU) with Canadian colleagues. Our Southern Illinois colleagues have done very impressive work on housing revitalization in economically struggling communities. See, for example: .

On a very practical note, the work resulted in detailed drawings for one of the demonstration projects, which were subsequently endorsed and submitted by the local Habitat for Humanity Committee.

Participants (in alphabetical order):

Megan Baker, architecture student, Dalhousie University
Glen Carabin, recent MA graduate (public administration), Memorial University
Prof. Jon Davey, Architecture, Southern Illinois University (Carbondale)
Charmaine Dean, Communications student, Cape Breton University
Joel Inglis, MBA student, Cape Breton University
Alicia Lake, Community Development Officer, Cape Breton University
Toni Lettiere, graduate student in Architecture, Portland State University
Nancy Oakley, heritage conservation graduate student, Carleton University
Luca Poloni, engineering student, Cape Breton University
Prof. Andrew Molloy, Political Science, Cape Breton University
Joyce Rankin, Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia
Myriam St-Denis, Master's student in Planning, Université de Montréal
Jim Schmidt, graduate student in Architecture, Portland State University
Prof. Robert Swenson, Architecture, Southern Illinois University (Carbondale)
Prof. Tom Urbaniak, Political Science, Cape Breton University


  1. What opportunities do these projects offer to showcase and develop traditional and local crafts and skills? What modules or protocols could be implemented immediately and on subsequent projects? How can we continue to connect craftspeople - such as those at the Fortress of Louisbourg - with volunteers, students, architects, and local businesses to encourage renewed interest in local crafts?
  2. How can we use these projects to augment instruction in the public schools on architecture, planning, social/community history, sustainable development, and building crafts? What workshops, guides, and programs would be appropriate? Please propose a sample toolkit or outline of same.
  3. Please propose an outline for a practical guide to affordable, "green," durable company-house renovations using the Mechanic Street experience as a case study.
  4. Please propose an Assessment Tool, with relevant examples, that will aid community organizations to evaluate renovation/revitalization projects and to determine:
    • How to prioritize projects
    • How to ensure local input and leadership in design and planning and ensure that designs are respectful of the local character, architectural history, and local skills
    • How to balance and reconcile affordability, heritage conservation, energy efficiency, modern convenience, and other factors.
  5. Based on your experience and on the information and insights you have gathered in Cape Breton, should there be a supplement -- or an interpretation guide -- for the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada to aid communities that are struggling with depopulation and neglected infrastructure?
  6. How should on-line educational resources and project updates be structured and updated? How can social media be used more effectively? What forms of social media would be most effective?
  7. What opportunities do you see for ongoing collaboration on housing revitalization/service learning between Cape Breton University, Southern Illinois University, and their various community and not-for-profit/public partners (eg. ICOMOS, INTBAU, CMHC)? How can we ensure that some of our work has national and international applications?