Another posting from Fairbanks homeowners Rocky Reifenstuhl and Gail Koepf.
There are many things to consider once you have decided to build, starting with location.
Assess the neighborhood, covenants and surrounding properties. What utilities are available? Is it on a bus route or within an easy commute to your job? Does view potential play a role? What about sun exposure? Good sun exposure can have a significant beneficial impact on your heating costs using passive solar building practices. It can also open up a variety of solar thermal and power options that would not be possible in shaded locations.
Permafrost is another issue and can be a double edged sword to the unaware. The land may be much more reasonably priced, but often those costs are offset by the costs of building a system that is capable of withstanding the unstable soil conditions year after year. Roadwork, septic systems, and water supplies will also need special attention in regards to permafrost soils. Minimal site disturbance is the standard approach to keeping frozen soils stable, consequently clearing areas for roads, gardens, and sun exposure, can have disasterous effects. Be absolutely clear on every detail of how you are going to build on frozen ground and the associated costs before you commit to buying the land. “Figuring it out later” can be a recipe for disaster. A soils boring and assessment may seem expensive but a professional analysis can save a lot of future heartache.
Gail Koepf and Rocky Reifenstuhl, Fairbanks, Alaska homeowners, are building a new home using sustainable, energy efficient techniques. CCHRC staff are filming aspects of the construction for use in a future “Best Practices” video about homebuilding in the North. We will continue to post entries as their work progresses.