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Alaskan green home concept borrows indigenous knowledge

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Many critics of environmentalism accuse greenies of “wanting to take us back to the 19th century.” Residents of Quinhagak, Alaska, appear to be OK with that idea… or going back even further … at least in terms of their housing stock.

Turns out that many of the homes in this small village on the Bering Sea are in bad shape: recent engineering reports showed “…that a sample-test of 55 houses built in the 1970s showed that many were ‘unsafe for occupancy’ because of such problems as rotting beams and moldy walls.” These same houses are also really expensive to heat in the winter — a homeowner may use as much as 750 gallons of heating oil a year. Village leaders decided something had to be done, and commissioned the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks to design a plan for a house that would meet the needs of Quinhagak residents… without costing an arm and a leg.

At the suggestion of village mayor Willard Church, CCHRC looked to traditional sod and driftwood houses built by Yup’ik natives as an inspiration. The prototype created uses an octagonal shape, as well as laturaq, or Arctic entry, to combat the fierce, moist winds common to the area (which are largely responsible for all that mold). The building design, plus the use of high-efficiency heating appliances, should keep heating oil consumption to about 150 gallons a year. The concept requires minimal materials, which should allow for a single barge shipment, and a lower cost: the Quinhagak house should come in at around $200,000, or about half the price of recently-built homes in the area.

Traditional knowledge meets green building… maybe looking backward isn’t such a bad thing?

via Green Building Press

Image: Artist’s rendering of Quinhagak Prototype Home Credit: Cold Climate Housing Research Center