Water Equity Clearinghouse

Cold Climate Housing Research Center


The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) is a nonprofit that was founded for the purpose of furthering the development, use, and testing of durable, resource- and cost-efficient, healthy building technologies for people living in cold climates.

CCHRC works both in research and implementation of smart building strategies. Their Building Science Research Team conducts experiments and studies the performance of different wall designs, insulation products, ventilation strategies, and renewable energy technologies such as heat pumps and solar thermal. The CCHRC Policy Research Team produces economic analyses of building, retrofit, and energy projects and makes policy recommendations to agencies and decision makers.

The Sustainable Northern Communities program is an on-the-ground initiative to address the need for sustainable housing in rural Alaska. CCHRC works in conjunction with state and federal agencies, housing authorities, and other design and building firms to develop culturally appropriate and climatically sensible homes for communities.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

For residents of rural communities, reliable water and wastewater services can be cost prohibitive. The Alaska Water-Sewer Challenge is an initiative from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation that seeks to create innovative, cost-effective home-based water and sewer systems for households. CCHRC partnered with DOWL, a civil engineering company, to construct and test a fresh water and wastewater treatment system. The system, which can be incorporated into people’s homes, has the capacity to recycle greywater and hold blackwater. A prototype was tested at CCHRC’s research facility in 2016.

Previously, CCHRC has worked on developing in-home water-sewer systems that are sanitary, affordable, and convenient. The system designed by CCHRC and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium features a 100-gallon water tank, pump, and filtration system. Residents of Kivalina who are testing these systems have a way to safely consume water and dispose of waste, providing a cleaner community. Kivalina is facing the possibility of relocation due to climate change, and the water systems are designed to be mobile.

In addition to simple water and wastewater services, hot water can be a luxury if energy bills are too high. CCHRC identifies necessary solutions by developing solar and tankless water heaters. These systems help families by bringing down the cost of hot water.

CCHRC is also concerned with water quality and the effect of stormwater runoff on groundwater. To mitigate this pollution, CCHRC has developed a number of green infrastructure design plans to help homeowners reduce runoff on their properties. The design plans include rainwater catchments, rain gardens, tree pits, infiltration planters, swales and berms, riparian zone revegetation, and more. Several of these designs have been implemented at sites around Fairbanks and are highly replicable for individuals.