Feature Projects

Profile articles exploring the background and traits of particular projects

Project Profile: Tuktoyaktuk School


Roughly two and a half hours North of Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, NWT is a small hamlet located on the coast of the Arctic Ocean.

Tuktoyaktuk has just shy of 1,000 residents and is named for the Inuvialuktun meaning of ‘resembling a caribou’. Tuktoyaktuk, often informally referred to as Tuk, was the first location in Canada to revert back to its original indigenous place name in 1950 - having been changed to Port Brabant for several years before that.

Tourists are now able to discover the melding of traditional arctic living and modern life in the Tuk community - all as close to the Arctic Ocean as possible, thanks to the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway. The highway opened in late 2017 and is the only publicly accessible highway to the Arctic Ocean.

Our team has had the opportunity to work in the Northwest Territories previously, most notably our ongoing apartment complex project in Inuvik, and relishes the adventure and teamwork it takes to work so closely to the Arctic Ocean!

Getting Started

The project we’re featuring in this piece is a full renovation and gym addition to the Mangilaluk School. We had a 30 day tender window to bid on this project, which opened in July 2019 by the Government of Northwest Territories. We were awarded the project one year later in the summer of 2020.

The school was built over 30 years ago in 1990 and was originally designed to accommodate students from kindergarten to Grade 8 - but now provides learning to students from junior kindergarten to Grade 12. Extra space for learning and recreation is a necessity!

Project Scope and Timeline

One of our specialties at Southwest and Midwest Design & Construction is performing extensive renovations that often coincide with regular business hours. In this case it's a balance of working in as minimally disruptive a manner as possible while still being cognizant of the owner’s schedule.

Our aim is to complete this project by the early spring of 2024.

Scope Details

  • Brand new gymnasium
  • New roofing, siding, windows, doors, refreshed interior layout, new walls, paint, flooring, ceilings, and a community library space

Arctic Considerations

This project is located right on the Arctic Ocean; one can’t go any further north within the Northwest Territories. Because of this, some key factors colour in the Midwest team's daily life that wouldn’t otherwise if we were operating in milder conditions:


A significant factor in new construction on arctic tundra is the ever-present permafrost.

Permafrost is classified by sustained ground temperatures of at least 0°C (or lower) for a minimum period of two consecutive years. This makes drilling into the ground difficult at times, but is necessary to ensure stable enough walls that can withstand the coarse Arctic winds.

Extreme Weather

Along with the permafrost are the more practical, day-to-day realities of working and living in the Arctic. Temperatures can be cruel, with lows reaching -40°C before the windchill factor. Indeed, the windchill can almost double the feel of the cold, which can make outdoor working conditions hazardous and, in a word, uncomfortable.

In the cold months, the roads are hard on tires, which need to be changed much more frequently. The wind from the ocean can be cutting and made it challenging to install the 30ft walls for the gymnasium. In fact, at one point, the winds were so severe that we could not operate our crane for nearly three days!

The safety of our team members remains top of mind during these projects. If it’s too cold, we shut down operations for the day and dress appropriately.

Shipping Delays

The isolated nature of Tuk means that transporting materials to the hamlet requires keen logistical thinking. All goods coming into the community must pass through two separate river crossings on the Dempster Highway.

A ferry operates during the summer months, and during the winter months the ice hardens so deeply that large vehicles may safely pass over the rivers. However, during thaw periods neither transportation option is viable, so goods must be arranged for delivery either before or after the thaw.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to shipping delays, the extreme cold, and the day-to-day realities of working in the arctic - we need to navigate these variables as much as possible in our timeline estimates, and our experience with the Territories gives us that leverage.

Planning is key, and our project management team ensures that the materials we need to complete the project are ordered on schedule with more than enough time to reach us in our cold, yet beautiful arctic workspace!

Contact Southwest And Midwest Design & Construction

Want to learn more about how we can help your next design and construction project? Contact the team at Southwest and Midwest Design & Construction with our convenient online quote request tool. A member of our staff will be in touch to discuss project details and the next steps.