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Native Village of Unalakleet - 2011 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Unalakleet, Native Village of
Location: Unalakleet, AK
Project Title: Developing Viable Housing through Energy Retrofits
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-EE0005174
Project Amounts:
DOE: $61,983
Awardee: $4,300
Total: $66,283
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2011
End: December 2012


The Native Village of Unalakleet (NVU) project is a feasibility study for a retrofit of a tribally owned three-story 14-apartment complex, located in Unalakleet, Alaska. The 11,229-square-foot building was originally constructed as a two-story building in the late 1970s by the Unalakleet Native Corporation (UNC), on land conveyed to UNC through Alaska Native Settle Claims Act (ANSCA). A third floor was added in the 1980s, when the building was rented by the Bering Strait School District.

Project Description


The NVU was established as a sovereign tribe in 1934, and its Constitution and by-laws were ratified that same year by its membership. The tribal council, sometimes identified as the IRA Council, is known as Native Village of Unalakleet. Its mission is as stated below:

"To provide assistance to the tribal membership that will strengthen and preserve the social, economic, educational and cultural well being of the Native people of Unalakleet through self governance."

For many years, NVU has been extremely proactive is fulfilling this mission. Its social, cultural, and economic development projects, which have been operating for many years, include Elders Nutrition; a Housing Department that has provided homes and maintenance; home modification program for elders and the disabled; construction of a fish plant that is then leased to Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. for fish processing; construction of a multi-purpose community hall for the delivery of services and a place that the entire community can use for cultural and social occasions; partnering with the U.S. Air Force in remediation of a large White Alice site; assistance in developing an environmentally sound (fuel) tank farm; transportation projects; and assistance in securing funds for airport improvements, roads, and erosion control.

All projects have had four goals:

  1. To improve conditions for the tribal members
  2. To offer job training and job opportunities
  3. To be sustainable
  4. To align with the tribe's interest in preserving its environment and subsistence way of life.

To date, NVU has completed two highly successful smaller energy efficiency retrofit projects, one of which was supported by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Recovery Act grant. Based on those experiences, with energy audits leading to retrofits for its tribal offices and housing units held by tribal members as lease-to-purchases, NVU decided to have a contractor perform a comprehensive feasibility study on the buildings.

Project Objectives

The proposed study will include:

  • A plan for total retrofitting, including current appraised value and comparable costs of new construction This plan will help determine feasibility as low-income multi-family housing (the plan would also include 5- to 10-year projections on operations)

  • A plan for job training in energy efficiency applications for implementation of this project (if it is deemed feasible) and other work in Unalakleet and the subregion

  • Recommendations to develop greater sustainable energy efficiencies with the use of new technology

  • Recommendations for how this project might be used as a pilot/demonstration project for replication

  • Recommendations for how the project could be used to teach energy efficiencies to high school students and interested parties.

Project Scope

A physical inspection will be required to assess each building's physical condition and its viability in terms of a deep energy retrofit. Assuming the structure is sound, inspectors will collect the necessary data required to perform a detailed analysis of all the building shell/thermal envelope components. This includes, but is not limited to, exterior walls, floors, roofs, windows, foundations, and insulation components. Once the site inspections have been completed, the data will be used to create a baseline energy model of the structure as it performs in its current condition. Upgrades to the baseline model can then be made to simulate and determine the impact that various performance improvements would have on future energy use.

Project Location

Unalakleet is located in the Bering Strait region in northwest Alaska, just south of the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle extends from the village of Shishmaref on the northern shore of the Seward Peninsula to Stebbins on the southern coast of Norton Sound, and includes the villages on St. Lawrence Island and Little Diomede. This 44,000-square-mile area, bound by 570 miles of coastline, contains 15 rural villages. One city, Nome, Unalakleet (which translates to "where the southeast wind blows"), is an Alaskan Native community of 750 situated on Norton Sound at the mouth of the Unalakleet River, 148 miles southeast of Nome, and 400 miles northwest from Anchorage. Its area encompasses 2.9 square miles of land and 2.3 square miles of water.  Unalakleet experiences a subarctic climate with summer temperatures ranging from 47 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit and winter temperatures of -25 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Project Status

This project is complete. For details, see the final report (PDF 6.3 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2011 funding opportunity announcement "Energy Efficiency Development and Deployment in Indian Country" (DE-FOA-0000423) and started in September 2011.

The November 2011 and November 2012 project status reports provide more information.

Project Contact

Margaret W. Hemnes
Grants/ Planning
PO Box 270, Unalakleet, AK 99684
(907) 624-3622