College of Rural and Community Development professor Tom Marsik (right) shows Tyrone C. Pinkins, White House communications officer, the world's "most airtight home" days before President Obama visited Alaska in 2015. Photo courtesy of Tom Marsik
A record for home efficiency
Tom Marsik, an assistant professor of sustainable energy at the UAF Bristol Bay Campus, is the proud owner of the most airtight residential building in the world.
Marsik and his students developed the innovative building design, which resulted in the construction of an extremely energy-efficient home in Dillingham with an annual heating bill of about $150. The house features super-insulation, heat-recovery ventilation and a tight building envelope. The structure was officially recognized in 2013 as the tightest structure of its kind.
Achieving the record took some practice. Students in BBC’s Construction Trades Technology and Sustainable Energy programs worked first on a structure known as the Passive Office, which was a prototype to test the concept. The innovative design was achieved through a collaboration with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, Bristol Bay Housing Authority, Alaska Building Science Network and Dillingham Builders.
However, the project has implications that go beyond bragging rights. Many rural Alaskans struggle to heat their homes due to the combination of cold climate and high fuel costs, sometimes having to decide whether to buy fuel or food.
Lessons learned from Marsik’s project are included in sustainable energy program classes, while publications from the project are working to help homeowners save energy and money.