Finnesko 13

The Finnesko 13 house, from Spanish architecture firm Taller Abierto, won the competition. It features wind turbines, a geothermal installation that gathers heat from the island’s volcanic soil, and an easy assembly process. According to the designers, it "stands between respect for tradition, local culture and…the opportunities offered by new building construction technologies."

The House For A Windy Island

The House For A Windy Island, designed by Jesse Belknap and Joseph Swain of the University of Washington, took second place. The structure aims to protest traditional outdoor activities from the unrelenting winds. As such, over 40% of the site is devoted to food production (it contains micro-greenhouses and garden boxes) and the house has a smokeless smokehouse for preparation of fish, seal, and game. Instead of sourcing materials directly to ultra-remote village of Atka, the project proposes sourcing everything centrally to Seattle and the loading all the materials on a freighter for their final leg.

Orca House

Designed by Janus Welton Design Works of New York, the Orca House took third place. The prefab house is 100% energy self sufficient, has a superinsulated building envelope, a passive solar design, arched roofs that deflect wind and circulate heat inside, an interior hydroponic garden, a peat blackwater filtration system, and a seismically stable earth bag foundation. In order to cut down on shipping costs, it uses shipping pallets as part of the building material.

Universal Serial Home

The Universal Serial Home, designed by 2SIS Arquitectes of Spain, tied for third place. The building consists of two distinct spaces that the designers call the "living space" and the "technological container"--the part that contains everything residents need to function self-sufficiently. The house is elevated above the ground to leave local flora and fauna intact, and it can be removed at the end of its lifecycle without leaving any trace of its former existence.


This modular home from firm 24Studio in Spain can be easily and affordably sized up or down depending on needs.It has simple temperature controls, and easy to access home automation systems. The designers explain: "The idea here is using a maximum o renewable materials and local resources, or materials with the cleanest life cycles (from production to recycling)that we could achieve at that time in the USA.



Better Than An Igloo: Affordable, Efficient Homes In One Of The World's Harshest Environments

Building incredibly efficient buildings is hard enough, but it gets a lot harder when you have to make them be able to work in the freezing conditions of rural Alaska. These buildings do it, and cheaply, too.

Okay, so people on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands don’t actually live in igloos (they did once live in sod structures called Barabaras). But residents of these islands—there are about 7,000 people in total—could really use an infusion of cheap, efficient homes. And if you think that’s a tall order in more temperate climates in the continental United States, think about how difficult it is in a place where it rains over 200 days a year, wind speeds often hit 100 miles per hour, and electric power comes from diesel oil that’s shipped in from thousands of miles away.

The Living Aleutian Home Design Competition, sponsored by the Aleutian Housing Authority, challenged designers to build cost-effective, practical, replicable homes for Atka, Alaska (a village on the islands) that meets all of the standards of the Living Building Challenge 2.0.—an incredibly rigorous green building certification that requires structures to be net-zero water (meaning they produce as much water as they consume), net-zero energy, sourced from local materials, non-toxic (they don’t use certain red-listed materials), and more. If you can build structures that work in Atka, you can build them for anywhere.

All entries had to have three bedrooms, one bathroom, range from 1,150 to 1,350 square feet of living space, and cost no more than $400,000 to construct—the typical construction cost for a house of this type in the region.

Why the Aleutians? It’s a region that wants to change. In 2010, a summit of local tribes, businesses, communities, and nonprofits set the goal of slashing fossil fuel use in the region by 85%. As a result, the winner of the competition gets to work with the Aleutian Housing Authority to complete the design (and a $15,000 prize).

Check out the winner and runners-up in the slide show above.

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  • james mason

    Igloo is the Inupiaq Eskimo word for shelter. Any house is an igloo. Of course, the Unangans of the Aleutian Islands don't speak Inupiaq.