Before anything was drawn up, the CCHRC
consulted with the community. Cultural-appro-priateness was a major priority. Lots of organizations have been working to solve the housing
problem in Alaska’s native communities, Grunau
said, but they often neglect to take the native
populations’ unique lifestyles into consideration.
“We didn’t want to be the next person just to
offer another solution,” Grunau said. “We wanted to be the group that finally asked them what
they wanted and what would work for them to
fulfill their needs.”
The design CCHRC settled upon is a partially
subterranean modern spinoff of the sod igloo.
The traditional building form sheds the wind better, keeping everything tucked into the ground,
The traditional-looking building gets its energy from modern sources, however: a residential
solar array and a wind turbine. The YRITWC supplied and installed a 1-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV)
array and a 730-watt wind turbine, using a grant
from the Administration for Native Americans.
The list of other sustainable features runs
long. The walls are insulated with 9 inches ( 23
cm) of soy-based spray-foam insulation. Topping
the roof is a blanket of tundra sod, and the walls
are partially bermed, maximizing heat retention.
A traditional native ventilation system, a quinok,
was installed to discharge stale moist air. The
wastewater is processed by a residential sewage treatment plant — an aerobic digester that
pumps water through a UV filter before distributing it back into the ground. The construction
came together, without any major hiccups, over
a four-week period last June and July.
“Our thinking was, ‘How can we do this and
still support a modern lifestyle?’” Grunau said.
“So we used a lot of innovative construction
techniques. I don’t think that they’re really nontraditional, but they’re definitely more innovative. We just combined the two in a new way.”
Prototype meets energy goals
Insulation & Design
Many of the residences in Anaktuvuk Pass
are stilted “kit houses” shipped up from the
Lower 48 in the 1970s, Grunau said. Leaky
ducts and inadequate insulation are much too
common for a city that has 16,000 heating
degree days (HDD). By comparison, Anchor-
age has about 10,500 HDDs, and Denver has
just over 6, 100. Using the latest data, the aver-
age house in the village used 1,400 gallons of
heating fuel per year. At $8 per gallon, that’s
$11,200 per residence, per year.
For years, insufficient funding has kept the local housing authority from meeting housing needs.