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185 Teams Sign Up for Living Aleutian Home Design Competition

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dec. 6, 2011 — Nearly 200 teams have signed up to design a small home on the Aleutian Islands that just might revolutionize how we build affordable housing.

The winning design will be used to create a new home for Jimmy Prokopeuff, a 32-year-old Aleut man living in Atka, Alaska, whose current house is badly in need of replacement. But the true goal of the project is to re-envision sustainable, affordable housing in one of the world’s harshest locales.

The Living Aleutian Home Design Competition, hosted by Cascadia Green Building Council in partnership with the Aleutian Housing Authority, aims to inspire teams to bring the tenets and principles of the Living Building Challenge 2.0 ™, to Atka, an Aleutian Island that has been continuously occupied for more than 2,000 years. Currently, Atka has a population of 61 people.

The Living Building Challenge dares the building industry and all inhabitants of the built environment to rethink how buildings are designed, how materials are sourced and how people interact with the built environment. The Aleutian Islands, often called ”the birthplace of the winds,” encompasses a 1,050-mile archipelago that is a treeless, windswept land of steep, high volcanoes, flower-strewn, moss-covered meadows and long, wide beaches.

Prokopeuff is an Alaska native, and more fortunate than many of his classmates, he found a good job in his hometown and is happy to remain. He is the production manager at the Atka Pride Seafood Plant, the community’s largest employer. He says he’s hopeful the plant will continue to thrive, with plans in the works for additional processing lines. Prokopeuff’s love for family and a passion for hunting and fishing make Atka the perfect place for him. Almost.

His living conditions are less than optimal. His small, ranch-style home was built by his father and grandfather shortly before he was born. It is typical of any house built during that time – where comfort depended on cheap fossil fuel. But heating oil shipped to Atka is no longer cheap. Given today’s prices of $6 to $8 a gallon, that can mean monthly heating bills of $600 in the heart of winter, which can last anywhere from four to six months.

“It is so expensive,” Prokopeuff says. “I am so excited for my new home. Everyone here is. It could change things.”

It could change things everywhere. The Living Aleutian Home Design contest challenges teams to create a prototype for affordable, sustainable residences in a rural community confronted with sky-high construction costs, an extreme climate and a pressing need for adopting alternative fuel strategies.

When it’s over, the Aleutian Housing Authority (AHA) will have a replicable design it can use in all 10 villages where the authority builds homes. And it will help demonstrate to others, in rural areas everywhere, that there are ways to radically reduce energy consumption and make the switch to renewable energy, in safe, healthy, affordable homes, explains Mark Masteller, Alaska director for Cascadia.

“The Living Building Challenge deals with far more than energy, of course, but that’s the big driver in rural Alaska,” Masteller says. “With this competition, the AHA will be able to help scores of families, and it will stimulate progress among other builders, here and hopefully across the globe.”

Judging the contest are:
Dan Duame, Director at Aleutian Housing Authority
Sebastian Eckmann, Builder at Nordic Constructors
Jack Hebert, President/CEO at Cold Climate Housing Research Center
Bryan Mackay-Lyons, Principal at Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects
Jason McLennan, Architect and CEO at International Living Future Institute
Lauri Straus, Architect at kpb architects
Susan Szenasy, Editor-in-Chief at Metropolis Magazine

The first prize submission will receive a $35,000 cash prize and have the option to work with the AHA to bring the design to completion. The second-place winning entry will receive a $15,000 prize. Winners will be announced at Living Future 2012, Cascadia Green Building Council’s annual unConference, May 2-4 in Portland.

About Cascadia Green Building Council:
Founded in 1999, Cascadia is a proud chapter of both the US and Canada Green Building Councils and serves the green building community in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. Cascadia promotes LEED and the Living Building Challenge through a comprehensive program of education, outreach, advocacy and research. A network of fourteen branches located in each of the region’s population centers ensures that Cascadia’s programming is targeted and locally relevant. Cascadia is a program of the International Living Future Institute, which is also home to the Living Building Challenge, The Natural Step Network, USA and Ecotone publishing. Please visit http://www.cascadiagbc.org.

About the Aleutian Housing Authority:
The Aleutian Housing Authority is the Tribally Designated Housing Entity for 12 federally recognized tribes in 10 communities in the Aleutian and Pribilof region. Since inception in July 1977, the housing authority has successfully developed 304 single-family homes, 65 low-rent units, and 17 fair market rentals. AHA continues to own, manage and operate 258 housing units throughout the region. For more information, visit http://www.aleutian-housing.com/.

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