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Real Estate / 49th Estate

The 49th Estate: Eagle River bioshelter

  • Author: Stephen Nowers
  • Updated: September 30, 2016
  • Published March 8, 2011


The 49th Estate is our answer to MTV's "Cribs," a weekly tour of Alaska homes and interviews with their owners.


Curt and Cindee Karns live in Alaska's only bioshelter. Built in the 1980s by Bob Crosby as a test home to show that Alaskans could build energy-efficient, attractive homes, the house "mimics a living organism," according to Curt, taking in and expelling air, water and even waste. A 42-foot block of south-facing windows lets in light and warmth, and a 5,000-gallon cistern collects rainwater for use in the home. Composting toilets turn just about any waste the house collects -- food scraps, human waste, eggshells -- into fertilizer for the garden.

The Karnses love to host friends in their unique home, and they're always looking for additional ways to "tread lightly on the planet," says Curt. Next on their wish list: wind or solar power.

If you have an interesting Alaska home you'd like to see featured as a 49th Estate, contact Maia Nolan at maia(at)

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