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Yuut Yaqungviat, Yup’ik for “Where people get their wings,” trains local pilots for the region, which has the third busiest airport in Alaska. Single-engine turboprops, small bush planes, and cargo aircraft connect dozens of remote villages to just a couple of urban hubs. Air travel is a way of life on the Yukon Kuskokwim River Delta, where fortyeight small villages are spread across an area the size of Oregon with no roads and few centralized services. Southwest Alaska has been occupied by Yup’ik Eskimo for thousands of years, yet communities have struggled to adapt as the region has rapidly modernized over the past fifty years, shifting from a subsistence lifestyle to a cash economy, from seasonal shelters to modern housing and energy. “The Yukon Kuskokwim region has the lowest per capita income, the highest unemployment, the highest suicide rate. We don’t have tourism. We don’t have

oil. We don’t have forestry. We have a rich culture,” says Mike Hoffman, executive vice president for AVCP, a nonprofit tribal organization in Bethel. It was a blow to the region when high operating costs forced the aviation school to close last year. Students couldn’t afford to spend $1,000 a month on energy on top of tuition. AVCP hired the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) to design new energy-efficient duplexes for students to help the school reduce its energy burden and re-open its doors. CCHRC is a research center based in Fairbanks that develops and tests sustainable housing solutions for the north. Bethel is one of the most challenging places to build in Alaska. Sitting in one of the largest deltas in the world, where the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers empty into the Bering Sea, it is a treeless tundra exposed to wind-driven rain and coastal storms. The soil is constantly

Courtesy of CCHRC

See the interactive annual report and find more info about the integrated truss and other cold climate innovations at cchrc.org. Videos available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ColdClimateHousing Bethel duplex designed for aviation school.

shifting, with a high water table and a deep active layer that freezes in the winter and turns to mush in the summer. Most housing in the region was imported from the Lower 48 and has succumbed to moisture, mold, and structural damage over the past few decades. Many are now rotting from the inside out. The average household in Bethel spends $6,500 a year on energy, more than three times the national average, thanks to leaky housing and imported heating oil that runs $6.50 a gallon. Nearly half the homes in the region are overcrowded, with three or more generations often packed into three-bedroom homes. CCHRC designers worked with AVCP and the community to come up with a Ice fishing on the Kuskokwim is a tradition dating back thousands of years for area residents. Courtesy of AVCP

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June 2015 | Alaska Business Monthly

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Alaska Business Monthly June 2015  

Ravn Alaska CEO Bob Hajdukovich on the tarmac in front of the company’s hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The company’s...

Alaska Business Monthly June 2015  

Ravn Alaska CEO Bob Hajdukovich on the tarmac in front of the company’s hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The company’s...