It's a village life: Students prepare to move in to Sustainable Housing

Lex Treinen and Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Reporters
August 28, 2012

In a quiet section of the woods across the railroad tracks from Lola Tilly Commons, construction workers scurry about sawing boards and pounding nails. Few might notice, besides the squirrels skittering about and the geese flying above, the four new homes that exist among the trees. Tamarack, spruce, birch and willow trees surround the houses and wood chips create pathways to the houses that will become homes for the students living there over the next year.  This is the Sustainable Village.

Halfway through our applications we had our doubts. The brand new housing complex looked good on the advertisements but as we read through the housing contract created by Sustainability student workers, we wondered what we might be getting ourselves into. Each student would have a role in the village, whether it was monitoring energy consumption or organizing tours for people who wanted to visit the village. We would agree to change our living habits to promote a more sustainable lifestyle. By living in the village, we wouldn’t have cable, washers, or dryers.

The homes of the village are designed to test some of the ideas that the Cold Climate Housing and Research Center has been working on in rural communities. Sustainability was a key factor throughout the process. “This will be a world class facility and will get world class attention,” said Jack Hebert, President and CEO of the CCHRC. The architects and builders used local and recycled materials whenever possible. The pipe accents on the houses are recycled from the Alaska Pipeline. The labor was all local and the majority of the workers were students. “The more we can utilize local materials and people the better,” said Jack Hebert. “It keeps money in the community.”

In the village each home  is constructed differently, which will allow the administrators and students to understand which designs are the most efficient.  All four homes have outside insulation. Some of the homes use rigid foam insulation while others use locally produced recycled cellulose. The houses were also designed to fit into the surrounding environment, minimizing tree removal.

18 residents will move into the village during the coming week. Our actions will determine if the village a success. Since the homes are energy efficient, there will be no more long hot showers or mindless hours playing video games. “There’s a lot of responsibility on you guys,” Jack Hebert said. Working with other residents in the village, we will decide what should be included in the village. Decisions about gardens and recycling are up to us.

“One kid said they wanted chickens, one kid wanted a fire pit, one kid wanted to do compost,” said Michele Hebert. Whether these ideas are actualized is up to the students. “I am just a facilitator,” Michele Hebert said.

Although responsibility is not generally a priority for students, sooner or later we’ll all face it whether its responsibility for our academics,  lives, or our planet. We’ll be doing our best to make the Village a success and are excited for this this new adventure. No matter what, the Sustainable Village will be an awesome learning experience for us, our neighbors, the campus and maybe even Alaska.

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