Groups Organize Global Contest to Design ‘Living Building’

Between the high prices of heating fuel and construction materials in the Aleutians, the cost of building a house along the Chain – and living in it – is higher than most places in the United States. But now, two groups are teaming up to find an affordable and environmentally friendly design that works for the Aleutian Islands. The Aleutian Housing Authority and the Cascadia Green Building Council have organized a global contest to develop what’s called a “living building” in Atka.

“Living buildings” go beyond most green building standards. Mark Masteller is the Alaska director of the Cascadia Green Building Council and he explains what buildings must do to qualify as “living.’

That means that the building’s environmental footprint would be minimal, and that the space would be practically self-sustaining. Masteller says that the buildings should also promote local food production.

The building that AHA and Cascadia want designed is a single-family home that would replace one of the houses in the village of Atka. If this housing project is deemed a success, AHA’s goal is to see homes like it sprout up across the Aleutians.

Masteller says that it’s important for design entrants to factor things like wind, cloud cover, and fluctuations in sunlight over the year as they’re coming up with ways to heat and power the house. The buildings should also match the lifestyles of the community’s residents.

The best design will be announced next May. The winners of the competition will be awarded $35,000 and given the chance to see their design completed.

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