Students share the scoop on Sustainable Village

Josh Hartman / Sun Star

For two residents of UAF’s Sustainable Village, the housing is enjoyable and worth the cost. Cheyenne Greenside, a Natural Resource Management student, and Jacob Odom, an Art student, shared their thoughts on the Village.

Victoria Hollister, a resident of the Sustainable Village, stares out her window into the forrest that lays all around her house. - Josh Hartman / Sun Star

Victoria Hollister, a resident of the Sustainable Village, stares out her window into the forrest that lays all around her house. – Josh Hartman / Sun Star

The Village, located just south of the Nenana Shuttle Station in the lower campus, has several purposes, one of which is to create a space where students can learn about and practice sustainability while experimenting to learn more about constructing sustainable housing.

The houses are described on the UAF Office of Sustainability web page as “smart” homes.  Both Greenside and Odom had slightly different approaches to what it means to be living in a “smart” home.

Greenside focused on residents’ ability to control the energy use settings of the house.  On the lower floor of each house, there is a mechanical room where villagers can fine tune their energy use.  Each house has slightly different features that allow them to function effectively and efficiently, even in cold climates, she said.

“It means living in a resource smart house,” Odom said. He explained that the houses use about 80 percent less energy and energy resources than a normal house in Alaska would.  There are solar panels that absorb energy in the summer, and in the winter when sunlight is reflected off of the snow and then absorbed and used.

The cost to live in the Village is $2,840 per semester – slightly higher than the cost of a single room in other housing options on campus. The 2015-2016 rate for a single room in most halls is $2,485, while a single in Cutler Apartments is $2,742.  Students at the Village are not required to purchase a meal plan with the university, however some residents of the Village, such as Odom, do choose to use the meal plan.

The Village has four houses in total, each of which accommodates four people with their own bedrooms. The houses do not have a resident director, however they are managed by John Napolski, who is an Area Coordinator. There is also a resident assistant living in one of the houses.  Those who want to live in the Village can indicate so on the application on UAF’s Residence Life Homepage. The applicants then have to go through an interview with the Sustainable Village Committee.

The fact that the Village has such a low capacity and requires a high level of involvement might lead to the residents who stick with the Village to like it more, according to Moriah Hunstiger, another of the Village’s residents.

Residents of the Sustainable Village are required to follow a set of guidelines designed to promote sustainability.  These requirements, which are listed on the Sustainable Village’ webpage, include items such as: “I will promote indoor air quality and limit environmental degradation by using ‘green’ cleaning supplies,” and “I will conserve water and energy (electricity and heat).”

Even though these guidelines exist there isn’t a limit on the amount of electricity or water that can be used.

Students who live in the sustainable village compete with one another to see who is fulfilling the village’s mission best.  The resources residents use are tracked and compared to usage in the other buildings.  According to Greenside, the aspect of competition encourages more conservative behavior.

“It’s really not a problem to get here,” Odom said.  Students must take a trail through the woods and walk a set of stairs to get to and from the Village.

“I can understand why people live on upper campus, but in [the Village] you’re not in a cramped space,” Odom said. “It’s just nicer. You get to go outside and walk for a bit, it’s good for you.”

“The thing is, we’re an experiment,” Greenside said.  “There’s not a house in Fairbanks like ours,”

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