New dorm at University of Alaska Fairbanks will allow students to act as efficiency researchers

FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks is building a dormitory it hopes will serve as a living laboratory to study renewable energy, gray-water recycling and elements of hyper-efficient design.

The $1 million project, called the Sustainable Village, is being designed to test efficiency and low operating costs, according to The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The first phase of the village will house 16 students who will also serve as researchers. They will live in clusters that each house between 4 and 6 people.

“It just seemed like a wonderful opportunity,” said Cold Climate Housing Research Center President Jack Hebert, whose organization is partnering with the university on the project.

The village, which will be on a roughly 60-acre plot on campus, will emphasize local building materials and environmentally sound land use. A community garden, shared open space and network of footpaths will be integrated among the buildings.

Construction on the project was expected to begin in April.

“We want to transform our campus life, and this is really a step in that direction,” said University of Alaska Fairbanks Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Pat Pitney.

Future additions to the development will change based on what planners learn from the first phase of the project. Planners expect to add another three phases, with new pieces added roughly every other year.

“I hope in 10 years, we’ll look at this first phase and realize how much we’ve learned,” Hebert said.

The $1 million needed for the project will come from the university. Pitney said she expects rental fees at the village to allow the project to pay off its debt.

Efficient design and rents higher than elsewhere on campus should allow the project to break even, she said.

The project’s design is still being debated. Planners want to incorporate renewable energy sources like solar, wind and biomass with new approaches toward gray-water recycling and waste management.

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