2 test homes to be built in remote Alaska villages

Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Two prototype homes will be built this summer in remote Alaska villages to test construction methods and energy savings as researchers look for low-cost housing.

An eight-sided home meant to resemble traditional Yup'ik dwellings will be built in Quinhagak, a rainy Western Alaska coastal village where some homes built in the 1970s are rotting.

A home designed for the arctic coast village of Point Lay will sit on an 18-inch buffer of insulation that should prevent it from melting the permafrost. Two walls are sloped inward in the style of traditional sod homes to hamper snowdrifts from piling up against the house.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the homes were designed by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks.

The center says the three-bedroom Quinhagak home could cost as little as $200,000 to build and would cut energy bills in half.

The octagonal shape exposes less of the exterior walls to the wind while the design allows for foam insulation to be sprayed from the inside for easier construction in wet weather, said Jack Hebert, president and CEO of the research center.

The potential savings are even greater in the North Slope, where building materials are shipped by plane. The target price for the Point Lay house is $200,000.

"Hopefully this could be a new trend and better way of building and we'll be able to put out more homes for the people in the villages," said Dan Shepherd, project manager for the regional housing authority.

The center's goals are to create affordable, energy-efficient home designs that village residents can build themselves.

One prototype home has already been built in Anaktuvuk Pass, a Brooks Range village of 280 people, and a family moved in at the beginning of the year.

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