Like many other educational opportunities, I had to go outside to obtain the training and certification as a Passive House Consultant. The experience was amazing, the instructors were incredible, and the material was so engaging. That said, I was the token Alaska boy. A segment of instruction could not go by with out the ” ha,ha,ha, well you might need to do it a bit different in Alaska”, or “hahaha, this will work every where else in the country…except maybe Alaska. At the same time and about as frequent, the instructors were also mentioning a Builder from Fairbanks, Thorsten Chlupp, who is shaking heads around the Passive House community. It was if both some of the newest thought and the some big challenges for Passive House were expressed in the word Alaska.
One of the more interesting facts of Passive House coming to the US of A, is the challenge that has arisen in meeting the standard in the extremely different climates around the country. There is no place like Louisiana or Minnesota in Europe. Alaska is not just a single climate like most other states in the lower 48, but a host of differences. Comparing the climate of Chignik, Anchorage, Sitka, Fairbanks, or Teller (and there are more extremes) will rise in quite different Passive House designs in order to meet the strict energy usage requirements. I think it is a mistake to discount these climate specific challenges and opportunities all around the state. I think you can see this adaptation in action in the results for the Living Aleutian Home Challenge, put on by the Living Future Institute and the Aleutian Housing Authority. If you don’t have time to follow the link, the designs all coalesced around the central idea of wind.
I think too often when we look at Passive House or extreme cold climate building techniques from the likes of Thorsten or CCHRC, we over shoot the target for south central AK. Their work is amazing and needed, but might glean over the more temperate climates of south-east and south-central and the opportunity for the average person. With uncomplicated technologies, super insulation, and very air tight homes we can be reaching these design standards here. What’s more, is adhering to or striving for these standards will also create more durable structures, some thing we could stand to use in AK.