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UAF's Sustainable Village to open this fall

Laurel Andrews

UAF announces that its newly created Sustainable Village will be open and housing students come autumn.

The Sustainable Village will be comprised of 4 buildings which will house 16 UAF students interested in living in a low-impact, community setting. The super-insulated buildings are equipped with an integrated heating and ventilation system, a solar hydronic system and a biomass stove. The students will function as live-in researchers, and will be asked to participate in documenting the successes and flaws of the various energy systems. They will also study how the buildings hold up on permafrost, a notoriously undesirable soil that complicates building in many parts of Alaska.

Michele Hebert, Sustainability Director at UAF, says she is most excited about the community aspect of the project. In an era when most students live in single rooms, she believes that forming together as a community in search of a common goal of sustainability will impact them “for the rest of their lives.”

The sustainable village is an experiment – students will work together to figure out what aspects of sustainability they want to focus on, and what is best for their community. That could mean deciding to shop together, or figuring out a recycling plan, or a way to ditch their cars for low-impact transportation.

Another aspect of the housing that Hebert notes is that students have been involved in the process since its inception. Students helped to design the buildings, and now students are working alongside Cold Climate Housing Research Center workers to build the structures. That is a model that she hasn’t seen “anywhere else in the United States.”

The sustainable village was the brain child of Jack Hebert, President and CEO of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, a nonprofit corporation devoted to the development of energy-efficient building technologies for people living in circumpolar regions across the world. The dream is that this project will eventually become a model for rural housing in Alaska, especially areas plagued by permafrost.

Phase II of the project is slated to begin in the summer of 2014. UAF hopes to build four more houses during that summer, and continue to build structures for the next decade, until they have between 25-40 different residences that are a part of the Sustainable Village. Michele Hebert told Alaska Dispatch that “we hope this is a national model that will keep growing and developing.”

Six of the 16 slots have already been filled; the Office of Sustainability is currently accepting applications.

Read more from UAF’s press release, here.