As Climate Heats Up, Arctic Residents Struggle To Keep Their Homes

"In the spring, after the permafrost thaws and the ground settles, Wilson Andrew Sr takes a wrench to the metal pilings that hold up the foundation of his house in Atmautluak, Alaska, and makes it level again. He cranks the screws until the foundation flattens out, level with the ground. At least for now.

Andrew’s house, on a small island traditionally inhabited by indigenous Alaskans, is a prototype modular home designed by the Fairbanks-based nonprofit Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) to be resistant to harsh weather and a quickly changing climate, while still being affordable and easy to build.

These are the challenges of housing design in the far north, where seasonal variability is exacerbated by climate change – like the heave and twitch of permafrost and the slow creep landward of the edge of the sea ice – adds to the challenge of building in an already brutal environment. Pipes freeze, walls molder. It can be prohibitively expensive, if not impossible, to get labor and supplies, which has led to a huge shortage of housing. And then there’s the social challenge associated with providing permanent housing for population groups that have been living nomadic subsistence lifestyles for generations."

Heather Hansman reports for the Guardian March 15, 2016.

Source: Guardian, 03/16/2016