Improving Home Performance for All Regions
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center was founded by Alaska home builders in 1999 to study the materials and techniques needed to build energy-efficient, durable, healthy, and housing for people in Alaska and the circumpolar north. Research is informed through deep ties to industry as well as to Alaska’s rural communities and shared widely with builders, contractors, and policymakers. Since its inception, CCHRC has transformed from a group of homebuilders seeking to improve their individual home performance to a well-established institution that is making housing better in every region of Alaska. In just twenty years, CCHRC has built a research and testing facility to house its operation that itself stands as a demonstration of building science in the North. The organization has an extensive track record of building science research projects, building prototype homes across the state, providing permanent housing in the wake of natural disasters, and helping advance energy efficiency policy standards.
In November 1999, the first meeting of the transitional board of directors of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center took place in Fairbanks. The five interim directors present included four builders and one architect – Jack Hébert, Richard Tilly, Clai Porter, James Irvine, and Steve Burnett; others included a lawyer and other consultants.
Substantial groundwork had preceded this first meeting, but much more work lay ahead.
Jack Hébert, a Fairbanks homebuilder, was an active member of the Alaska State Home Building Association (ASHBA). Like the Alaska Craftsman Home Program, ASHBA played a vital role in the establishment of CCHRC.
“It was something that homebuilders supported wholeheartedly, I mean it was, we felt, very, very important and it would be a great asset to the state,” said Mat-Su builder Jess Hall.
While builders throughout the state sought to battle high energy costs and major building failures, the various regions used different approaches and methods to address them. there had been little research in Alaska to test building methods; not only did builders disagree on best practices, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) had recently released a new version of BEES – Building Energy Efficiency Standards that frustrated and divided builders on the best methods to achieve these standards. Alan Wilson recalls that at the ASHBA meeting in Homer, Hébert proposed a research center to bring modern building science research to Alaska. Homebuilders would lead the research to address inconsistencies in Alaska housing standards and other concerns. Attendees passed a hat to raise money for an attorney to start the corporate paperwork. The idea for the research center had momentum among this group from the beginning.