Global climate change is largely caused by greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic sources. The building industry is responsible for over 40% of global carbon emissions. Almost half of the energy consumption in buildings is from space heating and cooling. The incorporation of energy efficiency in homes has a large potential to mitigate future climate change impacts while at the same time aiding household members to adapt to the effects of global change. This dissertation explores this potential in Alaska, where in addition to climate change impacts, residents are vulnerable to high oil prices affecting not only their energy security, but also their health, food security, and sense of place. This interdisciplinary dissertation explores the viability of Alaskan energy-efficient homes from social, economic, and environmental perspectives. In the following chapters, I first use a conceptual model of energy security that is adopted from the food security literature to determine that a significant segment of Alaska is in an energy-insecure state. This is predominantly due to expensive fuel, overreliance on fuel imports, inefficient uses of heating fuel, and a legacy of inefficient homes. Next, I provide a historical survey of Alaskan homes from pre-contact dwellings to modern era homes. Some of the pre-contact homes' energy efficiency features have been reintroduced in some modern homes, such as a small square-foot-to-occupant ratio, passive solar design, arctic entrance, round or octagonal building layout, using earth berming, sand dunes, and snow banks as natural insulation, permafrost lined cellars, subterranean building style, thermal mass, and shared stone walls between rooms. Third, I discuss interviews conducted with homeowners of highly energy-efficient homes and other stakeholders in the building-, real estate- and financing industry, which reveal several barriers to the adoption of this building style innovation. The predominant barriers are lack of information and education on this building style by homeowners, designers, and builders; economic disincentive due to a low appraisal value; and a psychological mindset resisting change. Finally, I use a case study of a highly energy-efficient home in Dillingham, Alaska to exemplify the carbon payback point. Using a life cycle assessment approach, I calculated that within 3.3 years the highly energy-efficient house has reached carbon parity when compared to a conventional counterpart house. Collectively, I build on these findings to recommend improvements in education about the benefits of energy efficiency, an overhaul of the appraisal system, and a careful consideration of the psychological aspects of embracing innovations in an effort to facilitate wider adoption of highly energy-efficient homes in Alaska.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2017
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction -- 1.1. Global impacts of climate change -- 1.1.1. Climate change mitigation -- 1.2. Built environment -- 1.2.1. Buildings and energy -- 1.2.2. Buildings and health -- 1.2.3. Buildings and environmental impacts -- 1.3. Alaska : the canary in the coal mine -- 1.3.1. Energy security in Alaska -- 1.3.2. Effects of energy consumption on food security and health -- 1.3.3. Residential housing legacy -- 1.3.4. Adaptation strategies -- 1.4. Research goal and methods -- 1.4.1. Conceptual framework -- 1.5. Chapter outlines -- 1.6. References. Chapter 2: Defining energy security in the rural North: historical and contemporary perspectives from Alaska -- 2.1. Abstract -- 2.2. Introduction -- 2.3. Conceptual background -- 2.4. Energy security definition and framework -- 2.4.1. A framework for energy security -- 2.5. Energy security in the pre-contact North -- 2.5.1. Homes and households -- 2.5.2. Food systems linkages -- 2.5.3. Colonial changes -- 2.6. Contemporary energy security concerns in Alaska -- 2.6.1. Food-energy interactions -- 2.6.2. Household and municipal uses -- 2.6.3. Stability -- 2.7. Discussion -- 2.8. Conclusion -- References. Chapter 3: The evolution of home energy efficiency in Alaska -- 3.1. Abstract -- 3.2. Introduction -- 3.3. Concepts and methods -- 3.4. Historical survey of home design in Alaska -- 3.4.1. Pre-colonial home designs -- 3.4.2. Settlers' influences on architecture -- 3.4.3. Modern era homes -- 3.5. Elements of adaptation strategies -- 3.5.1. Occupancy rates -- 3.5.2. Indoor thermal comfort -- 3.7. Discussion -- 3.8. Conclusion -- 3.9. References. Chapter 4: To build or not to build: highly energy-efficient homes in Alaska -- 4.1. Abstract -- 4.2 Introduction -- 4.3. Background and framework -- 4.4. Methods -- 4.5. Results -- 4.5.1. Adopter group -- 4.5.2. Social networks and knowledge sharing -- 4.5.3. Barriers -- 4.6. Discussion -- 4.6.1. Recommendations -- 4.7. Conclusion -- 4.8. Reference. Chapter 5: Conducting life cycle assessment (LCA) to determine carbon payback: a case study of a highly energy-efficient house in rural Alaska -- 5.1. Abstract -- 5.2. Introduction -- 5.2.1. Case study overview -- 5.3. Materials and methods -- 5.3.1. Case study home -- 5.3.2. Life cycle assessment for buildings -- 5.4. Calculation -- 5.4.1. Details of LCA -- 5.4.2. Parameters and system boundaries -- 5.4.3. Materials -- 5.4.4. Disposal scenario -- 5.5. Results and discussion -- 5.5.1. LCA results -- 5.5.2. Carbon payback -- 5.5.3. Calculation and results -- 5.5.4. Disposal of building materials -- 5.6. Reflection on analysis -- 5.7. Conclusion -- 5.8. References. Chapter 6: Conclusion -- 6.1 Key Findings -- 6.2 Recommendations -- 6.3 References -- Appendices.
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