How Are Houses Built In Alaska?

7 minutes read

Houses in Alaska are built differently compared to many other locations due to the unique challenges presented by the state's harsh climate and remote locations. Here is an overview of how houses are typically constructed in Alaska:

  1. Foundation: The foundation is an essential part of any house. In Alaska, foundations are typically built on pilings or deep concrete footings that extend below the frost line. This helps support the structure and prevent shifting or damage caused by freezing temperatures.
  2. Framing: Wood or steel framing is commonly used in Alaska house construction. To withstand the heavy snow loads, framing often needs to be beefier and structurally stronger than in milder climates. Builders may use insulation techniques to minimize heat loss and avoid ice dams that can form on the roof.
  3. Insulation: Insulation is crucial in Alaska due to the extreme cold temperatures. High-quality insulation is used in walls, ceilings, and floors to prevent heat loss and maintain energy efficiency. Common insulation types include spray foam, fiberglass, and rigid foam boards.
  4. Moisture barrier: To guard against moisture infiltration, particularly during the thawing and freezing cycles, a vapor/air barrier is typically installed. It helps prevent the build-up of condensation and the potential for mold or rot.
  5. Roofing: Roofs in Alaska are designed to withstand heavy snowfall. Sloped roofs are commonly seen to allow for snow shedding. Metal roofing is a popular choice due to its durability, longevity, and ability to resist snow accumulation. Adequate insulation and ventilation are also crucial to prevent ice dams.
  6. Windows and doors: High-quality, triple-pane windows with low U-values are commonly used to minimize heat loss and maximize energy efficiency. Exterior doors are built to be airtight to prevent drafts and heat leakage.
  7. Heating systems: Alaska's cold climate necessitates highly efficient heating systems. Common options include forced air furnaces, radiant floor heating, wood stoves, or heat pumps. Many houses also have backup heating sources, such as propane or diesel generators, in case of power outages.
  8. Building codes: Alaska has stringent building codes to ensure houses meet the specific climatic challenges. These codes cover various aspects, including insulation requirements, seismic design, wind resistance, and fire safety.
  9. Remote construction: In remote areas of Alaska, where road access is limited, houses are often built using pre-fabricated components. These components are transported via boat or aircraft to the construction site, ensuring that even in isolated regions, people can have homes.

Overall, constructing homes in Alaska requires careful planning, consideration of extreme weather conditions, and a focus on energy efficiency. Building techniques and materials are adapted to ensure the durability, comfort, and safety of the residents living in remote and demanding environments.

What is the construction process for houses in Alaska?

The construction process for houses in Alaska is quite similar to that in other regions, with some additional considerations due to the extreme climate and unique environmental conditions. Here are the general steps involved in building a house in Alaska:

  1. Preliminary Planning: Begin by selecting a suitable location and securing the necessary permits. This involves surveying the land, checking zoning regulations, and obtaining any required permissions from local authorities.
  2. Design and Architectural Planning: Engage an architect or designer to develop a layout and design that fits your needs, while considering Alaska-specific factors such as energy efficiency, insulation, and protection against extreme weather conditions.
  3. Foundation: Excavate the site and construct the foundation. Due to the cold climate, it is common to have deep footings and insulated slab-on-grade foundations to resist frost heave.
  4. Framing: The framing consists of erecting the primary skeletal structure of the house, including walls, floors, and roof. In Alaska, it's important to use proper insulation techniques to minimize heat loss and increase energy efficiency.
  5. Electrical, Plumbing, and HVAC: Rough-in the electrical and plumbing systems, which may require specialized considerations to withstand freezing temperatures. Install the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system suitable for the Alaskan climate.
  6. Exterior: Install the exterior cladding, roofing, windows, and doors. In Alaska, it's crucial to choose durable and weather-resistant materials to withstand extreme temperatures, high winds, and heavy snow loads.
  7. Interior: Complete the internal finishes such as insulation, drywall, flooring, and painting. Consider using materials that are both aesthetically pleasing and can handle the demands of the Alaskan climate.
  8. Utilities Connections: Connect the house to the necessary utilities, such as water, sewer, and electricity. Ensure proper insulation and protection against freezing for plumbing and pipes.
  9. Final Touches: Install fixtures, cabinets, countertops, and other interior elements. Coordinate with professionals for finishing touches, including electrical and plumbing fixtures, lighting, and ventilation.
  10. Landscaping: Complete exterior landscaping, including grading, installing driveways, sidewalks, and any desired outdoor features.

Regular inspections are conducted throughout the construction process to ensure compliance with building codes and regulations. Additionally, it's important to consult with local experts, architects, builders, and contractors who have experience working in the Alaskan environment to ensure the house is constructed to withstand the unique challenges it presents.

How to design windows for optimal daylighting in Alaska?

Designing windows for optimal daylighting in Alaska requires considering the unique climate and environmental conditions of the region. Here are some tips to guide you in the design process:

  1. Window Orientation: Orient the windows to maximize exposure to the sun's path, which may vary depending on the season. South-facing windows typically receive the most sunlight throughout the day, especially during the winter months. East-facing windows are ideal for capturing morning sunlight, while west-facing windows receive afternoon sun. However, be cautious with west-facing windows in summer as they may contribute to overheating.
  2. Window Placement: Intelligently position windows based on the internal layout and purpose of each room. Concentrate windows in living areas, workspaces, and kitchen/dining areas to ensure these spaces benefit from natural light. Minimize windows in less frequently used rooms or storage areas.
  3. Window Size: Larger windows or window walls can bring in more daylight. Consider installing floor-to-ceiling windows or incorporating additional transom windows above standard-sized ones. Remember to comply with local building codes and energy efficiency requirements.
  4. Window Glazing: Opt for energy-efficient glazing options like double or triple-pane windows with low-emissivity (low-e) coatings. These coatings help to reduce heat transfer and retain warmth inside during winters.
  5. Window Frames: Choose well-insulated window frames, such as those made from vinyl, fiberglass, or wood with thermal breaks. Insulated frames help reduce heat loss and condensation.
  6. Shading and Overhangs: Incorporate appropriate shading devices like window awnings, exterior shades, or horizontal overhangs to control the amount of direct sunlight entering the building. This prevents excessive solar heat gain in summer while allowing for maximum daylight penetration in winter.
  7. Glazing Tint: Consider using glazing with a lower solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) to reduce heat gain during summer when the sun's angle is higher. This prevents overheating indoors while still allowing daylight.
  8. Daylighting Controls: Install adjustable interior shading devices such as blinds or curtains to allow occupants to manage daylight levels, especially during intense sunlight or when privacy is required.
  9. Light-colored Interiors: Paint walls, ceilings, and other interior surfaces in light colors or light-reflective finishes to enhance the distribution of natural light and improve overall illumination.
  10. Maintenance and Cleaning: Regularly clean windows and ensure that they remain unobstructed by vegetation or external elements to maximize daylight penetration.

It is recommended to consult with local architects, designers, or window manufacturers who are familiar with the specific challenges and opportunities of daylighting in Alaska to achieve an optimal design.

What is the typical size of a house lot in Alaska?

The typical size of a house lot in Alaska can vary depending on the location. In more urban areas such as Anchorage or Fairbanks, the average lot size for a single-family home is around 7,500 to 10,000 square feet (697 to 929 square meters). In more rural areas or remote parts of Alaska, it is not uncommon to find larger lots ranging from 1 to 10 acres (0.4 to 4 hectares) or even more.

What is the typical ceiling height in houses in Alaska?

The typical ceiling height in houses in Alaska is around 8 to 9 feet. However, ceiling heights can vary depending on the specific design and type of house. Additionally, some newer or custom-built homes in Alaska may have higher ceilings, ranging from 10 to 12 feet or more.

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