New, High Performance Homes For Newtok, Alaska
A NEW HOME FOR NEWTOK
Helping build comfort, sustainability and resilience for a new beginning for the people of Newtok.
CHALLENGE:Build durable, high-performance houses made with healthier, more sustainable materials and systems.
SOLUTION:Jet Stream ULTRA® Blowing Insulation
PROJECT TEAM:Rick Blumenthal and Clint Shireman – Managers of Training and Certifcations, Knauf Insulation; Ilya Benesch, Building Educator and Aaron Cooke, Architect/Program Manager, Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC)
In 2019, Knauf partnered with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks, Alaska, to help the remote Native Alaskan village of Newtok, where the melting permafrost and a river
are eroding the land. In providing industry expertise and installation training, we set the goal of helping the CCHRC construct energyefficient homes for Newtok’s relocation to a new, more geologically sustainable location.
Unlike many other rural Alaskan villages, the population of Newtok is growing. But as the population grows, the community’s land is rapidly disappearing. Due to severe erosion, the Ningliq River is closing in on the village at a rate of 72 feet per year, causing harsh flooding and threatening the residents’ health and safety—and their ability to preserve their Yu’pik heritage. Erosion is a naturally occurring process, but because of the rapid loss of permafrost, the rate at which it’s happening in Newtok is anything but natural.
Now the town is in the final sprint of what has been a decadeslong process to move to a new, permanent location on higher, more geologically stable land: Mertarvik. All the while, the residents have watched their land be eroded by the water, foot by foot. In a matter of mere months, homes could be lost to water. Time has all but run out.
Jet Stream® ULTRA was the right product for the job.
Contains a minimum of 50% recycled glass
Multi-purpose; only 1 product was needed for the entire building
Effective for the life of the building; it will never settle or lose thermal performance
The new location, Mertarvik, is nine miles upriver from Newtok on the volcanic bluffs of Nelson Island, a familiar hunting area for the Yu’pik people. After the villagers tolerated such harrowing conditions for so long, the progression of this project has created a shared sense of hope among the residents.
Securing funding for the project has been an ongoing challenge. The community has seen investments (and disinvestments) from a variety of federal and state agencies, but overall they have fallen short of the funds needed to build new homes in Mertarvik. However, Newtok has had substantial help from nonprofits such as the CCHRC. The CCHRC was contracted to provide the design, verification and testing for the homes—durable, high-performance houses made with healthier, more sustainable materials and systems.
The Knauf team collaborated with CCHRC to help develop a strategic plan and establish best practices for insulating the new homes in Mertarvik. Knauf also recommended the use of fiberglass insulation, which is not only more environmentally sustainable but also healthier than options such as spray foam and cellulose.
The builders for Mertarvik have in-house carpenters, plumbers and electricians—but no insulating staff. Knauf trained the installers on the entire installation process and worked on-site with building crews to ensure the insulation was installed properly in order to deliver the best quality and performance.
The Mertarvik homes are being built with “mono-trusses,” which are self-contained, complete gable frames that maximize energy efficiency and shipping efficiency to remote job sites. The roof, walls and floors are all one piece and made of open-web trusses, to help prevent thermal bridging once insulated. Construction materials are selected to be resilient to wind, ice, snow and rain, and to be as low maintenance as possible.
Knauf also sponsored the installation of sensors to be placed in the walls of each house to monitor temperature, moisture and relative humidity for two years. Our goal is to extract and provide data on the performance of a continuous, high-performance fiberglass system in one of the harshest climates on the planet.
Discover how to add Knauf Insulation blown in insulation to your next project.