In some cases, the best way to move forward is to look back.
Modern architecture's intense focus on green technology and materials may be a relatively recent trend - one that's been stimulated by concerns about global warming and dwindling resources - but many of the basic concepts of sustainable housing have been in practice in Alaska for thousands of years.
Bob Banghart, chief curator at the Alaska State Museum, will give a lecture on sustainable housing in Alaska during a brown-bag lecture at noon Wednesday at the museum. The illustrated talk, "Sustainable Shelter: Modern use of traditional architectural concepts in sustainable housing design," will show how traditional and indigenous architectural concepts are influencing contemporary housing design.
Using Native Alaskan expertise, engineers and architects are designing new structures to address housing issues in rural Alaska. The goal now, as it was in the past, is to create homes that are energy-efficient, durable and cost-effective, as well as healthy and emotionally sustaining. Some of the ideas being put into practice include passive airflow ventilation systems, the use of local materials, and homes that support multigenerational living, Banghart said.
Banghart, a cultural resource management advisor, has in the past worked with communities around the state in designing and building community-based cultural centers, museums and visitor centers through his business, Banghart & Associates. He met Jack Hébert, president of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, while attending a conference on sustainable housing in Nome, and soon thereafter joined the CCHRC in creating a prototype sustainable home in Anaktuvuk Pass. The model home is banked into the ground, like a traditional sod home, and features a Native ventilation system that allows warm, moist air to leave while bringing fresh air in. Modern additions include a waterproof shell and soy-foam insulation.
Banghart said the house is now occupied by a family, and that it has lived up to its expected low cost of heating this winter.
Banghart said he hopes to see similar housing concepts applied to Southeast communities in the near future.
Brown-bag lectures take place at the museum every Wednesday, from noon to 1 p.m., through March 31, and are sponsored by the state Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums.