Tag Archives: UAF

Framing, Floors & Slabs

We’ve made a lot of progress on the Sustainable Village this week—framed the first floor of the northwest house, started building the deck for the second floor, and poured concrete slabs for the two east homes.

The first floor of the first house was framed in a day. The 1,500-square-foot home has four bedrooms, a downstairs bathroom, upstairs kitchen, and big south-facing deck on the second story.

The beginning of the week was cold with scattered showers, so the concrete contractors waited until Thursday and Friday to pour slabs. The process took about two hours—the mixing truck and the pumping truck showed up and one of the guys poured the coloring (Santa Fe) into the mix. Then five guys worked together on the floor, spreading the “mud” from a rubber hose, moving it around with “mud sticks,” leveling the slab with a screed (or flat board), and smoothing and sealing it with a bull float (a long-handled tool with an aluminum float). Once the slab set up a bit, they went over it with a trowel (a flat, metal-bladed hand tool), which gets rid of any bumps and gives it a smooth finish. The slab is 1.5 inches with a pretty adobe color.

The crew is currently framing the second story. Next week students begin helping out on site.

Spray Foaming the Foundations

Two of the homes will have insulated raft foundations. This allows the house to rest directly on the ground, keeping the floor warmer than if it were elevated on piles. A thick mat of spray foam is designed to prevent heat loss from affecting the frozen ground, and a cooling system was also installed in the gravel pad to chill the soils if needed.

Groundbreaking for the UAF Sustainable Village

The UAF Sustainable Village broke ground on Friday, April 6 on lower campus near the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

The development will feature innovations in cold climate construction—with super-insulated building envelopes to minimize heat demand—as well as experimental approaches to energy, ventilation and wastewater treatment. The homes will serve not just as student residences but also as housing prototypes, building science labs, and teaching tools.

UAF students helped CCHRC develop the concept for the homes, through a design contest, and will help build and conduct research on the Village as well.

“The thing that’s unique about this project is it’s engaging students for the first time in the development of sustainable housing,” said Michele Hébert, who heads the UAF Office of Sustainability. “Our hope is that this will lead to more young people learning how to live sustainably and be future leaders in sustainability.”

The 1,500-square-foot homes will have an R-50-60 envelope and will use a mix of solar, biomass and conventional fuel. A 14 kw photovoltaic array was funded by the university sustainability grant.

The project will demonstrate that a highly energy efficient 4-bedroom home can be built in Fairbanks without breaking the bank. The budget is approximately $200,000 per home. The rent will approximate the cost of a mortgage for an equivalent new single-family home in Fairbanks and be competitive with dorm rates.

Construction will be done by seasoned carpenters along with UAF student workers. Student residents move in in mid-August, so we will be busy for the next few months!

The UAF Sustainable Village: drilling, design, and detailing

Two boreholes were drilled to take soil samples at the Sustainable Village building site.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center are gearing up to break ground on the UAF Sustainable Village, a super-efficient campus housing project planned for this summer. CCHRC designers have developed the building form and floorplan as well as the envelope and foundation design.

Site clearing of four lots took place in November, and UAF scientists drilled two 30-foot boreholes for a soils analysis in February. The west site revealed strong, stable soils, with silt and gravelly sand, while the east site revealed marginal soils with six feet of silt and peat on top, then three feet of ice-rich silt, and below that fine sand and gravelly sand. “The east site will be the best place to test some innovative foundations,” said CCHRC designer Aaron Cooke.

Now the team is focused on structural engineering, construction detailing, and planning mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and other systems.

Meanwhile, students are involved in the project at many levels—creating cost analyses for renewable energy systems, helping CCHRC with the foundation design, and setting up a social study of the Village.


The four houses will demonstrate various combinations of foundations, envelopes, and form.


Concept and floorplan for two of the four homes.










Calculating: UAF takes stock of its carbon emissions

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is forming a Climate Action Plan in an effort to chop its carbon footprint. CCHRC listened in on a webinar Friday to see what it was all about. The session focused on how to inventory your emissions, calculate your footprint, set concrete goals to reduce it, and track your progress.

The UAF Office of Sustainability has partnered with Clean Air-Cool Planet, a group that helps business and campuses tackle their emissions. The group spoke to department leaders and students about building a Climate Action Plan that fits the UAF campus—for example, one that can account for unique circumstances like an on-campus coal plant and high travel expenses.

The group highlighted the benefits of this calculation; not only does it make campus more sustainable but it can also save money and attract students and grant funding. The process would also paint a clear picture of where your emissions are coming from—heat, transportation, agriculture, waste?

First you have to decide on the scope of the plan. Do you count only direct emissions, from fuel combustion and fleet vehicles, or also include indirect emissions like purchased electricity, business travel, wastewater disposal, and so on? Do you include every department and group on campus, which could take forever, or stick to a smaller core?

Then you form your plan of attack–will you convert vehicles to biodiesel, add geothermal heating in dorms, ramp up the recycling program?

UAF wants to have a plan ready by September 1. There are 667 universities that have signed on to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, an agreement to work toward climate neutrality, including the University of Alaska Anchorage.