Back to list

Co-chairs: Kala Pendakur (Standards Council of Canada)

Anne Barker (National Research Council of Canada)


Permafrost underlies more than one-third of the Canadian land surface, and nearly all of it is, or will be, experiencing some degree of thaw this century. As permafrost warms, infrastructure in the north will need to be built or retrofitted to accommodate ground settlements. As it stands, the Northwest Territories Association of Communities estimates that permafrost thaw causes $51M in annual damages to public infrastructure in the Territory.

It is critically important from both a health and safety perspective that community infrastructure in permafrost areas accommodates for the potential instability of the ground. The effects of changing permafrost on the natural and built environment is already necessitating changes to policy-making, the advancement of research, and the need for tools adapted to reflect the changing climate realities.

The proposed session will focus on two big questions: in a country experiencing rapid permafrost thaw, how can Canada adapt its infrastructure, and what tools exist to do so?

Both the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) are working to help Canadians adjust to a warming world.

The challenges posed by changing permafrost need to be understood and incorporated in science and engineering practices in our accelerated climate change environment. NRC's Arctic Program is completing cutting-edge research on how to preserve frozen grounds to diminish damage to infrastructure in the first place.

Standards support the resiliency of infrastructure by providing design professionals with guidance that they can feel confident in. Through SCC's Northern Infrastructure Standardization Initiative, northern standards are being developed to support community infrastructure adaptation to changing ground conditions.

SCC and NRC will present overviews of the standards, codes and research that can help to answer these two big questions. In addition, SCC and NRC will solicit abstracts from speakers that can contribute to the dialogue on adapting infrastructure to permafrost thaw. Through this session, the audience will be provided an overview of:

•How permafrost is changing and what this means for communities (focusing on coastal permafrost);

•Examples of permafrost thaw mitigation research;

•How new standards are helping northerners adapt to permafrost thaw;

•Case examples of communities building with permafrost thaw in mind;

•What permafrost issues still need to be solved