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On foundations

The melting of the permafrost in the North Arctic region causes a shifting of houses which eventually damages the buildings and results in cracks of walls and windows. In Kivalina, only the school’s foundation pillars go several feet below this layer of permafrost; generally  a variety of types of foundations are identified:

- Foundations on the ground

- Any kind of wood constructions on the ground, in different heights, sometimes with plywood-skirting in order to prevent the wind from going beneath it so it doesn’t get cold if they aren’t well insulated.

- Triodetic foundations, three-armed polls on the ground. The entire system would be rigid, so it can tip on one end and won’t break.

- Pilings in the ground (the only example being the school, pilings go as deep as 10-30 feet)

- The new residential houses own Post and pad-constructions which would allow the tennants to regulate the height themselves. It is flexible meaning the tennants can put more pads if it starts to sink. Leroy Adams, housing coordinator in the tribal office, says: “that’s the way you have to go down here for building residential houses” Screwpadposts are operated with screws; some pad and post constructions are operated with housejacks.

- The newest building, the new water treatment plant, is embedded in gravel and therefore moveable due to the changing of the ground; it has a heat exchanging device, a thermopile, which takes out the heat out of the ground so that the foundation won’t unfreeze and therefore move. Concrete slabs under the floor insulate the heat of the building. The insulation under the slabs has to be at least four inches. This method is expensive because there is no local gravel for the concrete and you have to bring in a lot by barges. But with the amount of weight of the water tanks inside, this is the best solution.

A few buildings are additionally tied down to the groud because of the danger of winds picking up the house.

Some of the old houses which have their foundation on the ground were lifted upon pillars a few years ago because of the snowdrift. Lifting often doesn’t really help because the construction below needs to be as high as the snow piles up during winter time.

Although located on permafrost, there is one case of gardening in a self-built coldframe-construction in Kivalina, an attempt of growing zucchini and summer squash the outcome of which remained uncertain until we left.

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