lucy inside a 2

Residential housing conditions

Being on site in Kivalina in August and September 2012 we had to learn that the buildings are in a relatively low condition. Even nowadays, none of the residential houses in Kivalina come with a sewage and water system. Instead of using a toilet, people are using honeybuckets made of plastic. The houses’s waste and honeybucket storages on the streets are spilling over, water which is usually collected from one of the two watertanks in the city, couldn’t be provided during our stay. Rainwater is collected for washing. Only some houses gain certain comfort by owning a special selfmade construction of water buckets connected to a fosset.

Generally there’s a lot of draft in the buildings and most of the houses aren’t well insolated. The new housing units, the fullfoams houses, are great for the insulation, but the flooring is falling apart after a few years when the panels are moving and breaking apart the joints. In winter snow comes through the cracks and gaps in the wall and around the windows in some of the older houses.

Little mendings are done by the tennants, who try their best to keep the draft away by using ducktape, or covering the leaking spots on the ceiling with plastic bags and buckets.

Mold is a appearing in almost every household, especially if the houses are kept relatively warm inside. Even the newer buildings which are indeed more airtight, are also very likely to lead to mold. These new housing units come with a ventilation-system but the vents are seldomly in use because the housing companies didn’t care to provide people with instruction leaflets. Furthermore the unused ventilation holes are causing surplus draft. In 2011 the organization Rural Cap helped doing energy efficiency upgrades by renovating some residential housing units f.ex. in terms of putting more foam around older buildings in order to insulate them.

The newer houses are built of structural insulated panels (SIP) and come as prefab constructions, where the entire wall is delivered in one piece whereas the older housing units are are stickframe constructions. Some houses are built of lumber and mostly plywood. There are also some houses with metall panelling, the new clinic is supposed to be a construction of multiple containers joint together. There is a quite similar housing arrangement in all housing units, the open kitchen being the centre of a household organized in multi-generation-families, with up to approx. 15 people living in one building. Most of the people live in one story houses with a relatively low ceilings (high ceilings not being appreciated because the heat tends to go up), but there are also couple of two story houses. As there is a huge urge for expansion, we couldn’t find an explanation for why construction companies don’t provide multi-story houses.

Storage space is generally in great demand, people build their own storage houses or use containers to shed their snow-gos (snow gos request plug ins on the outside of the house, so that people can warm them up before they leave).

The stormsheds, “the arctic entrance”, (an entry vestibule used to shut out cold air, high wind, drifting snow after the exterior door closes and before the inside door is opened) is mostly built by the tennants themselves and should be located on the windside of the house, so that the wind carries away the snow piling up in front of the door. Old houses which have their foundation on the floor are more likely to get covered in snow whereas new houses due to the snow being able to exceed, are more easily to be taken care of. Although we were told that there is no difference between the eastern and the western side of Kivalina regarding wind and snowdrifts tell otherwise, we were also informed that houses on the eastern side of the village, on the lagoon side, were in winter oftern covered up, so that people would need to hire others via VHF to shovel.

People tend to take off their shoes before they walk into the living area because of the enormous amount of gravel in town. A best-practice example would be the houses that have metal shoescrapers in front of their entries or entry vestibules to keep their houses clean and to prevent the floors to be damaged.




Not long ago NWIHA recently started providing the elders with ramps and handreels.


The roofs can be deficient because of gasket screws which are often used to prevent leaking, but as the plastic around the screws breaks after a while it is then very likely that the leaking starts soon after. The ClipRib-system is used f.ex. at the new „Water Treatment Plant“. Also the ventilation system on this building is taking account the snow drifts and wind in this region.


When electricity came to Kivalina, lamps powered by gasoline were exchanged. Today, all the houses use flourescent bulbs, because “(…) they are more convenient.” There are only some light bulbs f.ex. in the bathroom. A few years ago, the cable connections were ended, and now every household owns a satellite and a TV. Until Facebook came up, people would send messages over a message channel.

Households spend at an average between 300 $ and 600 $ on electricity and about 800-900 $ per month on heating oil. 362 $ is the cost of a drum, which would last for 2 weeks for the average house, resulting in 800 $ bills, especially during winter time. There is heating assistance which everyone is reling on. Generally people keep their houses between approx. 68 and 75 Fahrenheit. People use laser stoves driven by heating oil, some in combination with wooden stoves – which they lit with driftwood. Driftwood is used after being air dryed a couple of days; during summer time you stock up the driftwood (either under the house or on the ice) and save it for the winter. Some people also have additional gasoline driven stoves. Most of the ovens are powered by propaine, which is kept in barrels on the outside of the house. Some houses own boiler systems with pipes filled with glycol. But as the boilers require maintenance by a specialist, the system is too expensive, the boilers would probably work fine with a specialist around. Explanations, instructions, training and coucelling are missing.

Dream housings ranged from „would want a four-bedroom house with a walk-in closet. Lots of heavy coats and jackets.“ to exercising rooms, „a swimming pool for the children, so they can take classes and learn how to swim, since we’re surrounded by water“; especially children and young adults asked for leisure and sport facilities such as a basketball court, a skate rink and a dance hall. Also a „kitchen seperate from the living room because the smells stay in there and you have to ventilate“ and a „bedroom to be away from other bedrooms“ were mentioned.

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