Back in December, I blogged about what's perhaps the most formidable energy-efficient home design challenge that I’ve ever come across: The Cascadia Green Building Council’s Living Aleutian Home Design Competition, a competition in which the international design community was invited to create an ultra-efficient three-bedroom home for Jimmy Prokopeuff, one of 58 residents living in the remote fishing outpost of Atka in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. In a nutshell, the challenge was conceived to dare “the building industry and all inhabitants of the built environment to rethink how buildings are designed, how materials are sourced and how people interact with the built environment,”

Designing an eco-friendly home to be built in one of the most sparsely populated locales in the non-contiguous United States where there’s not a Home Depot for over a thousand miles and where there’s only one word and one word only — harsh — to describe the weather? Sounds difficult enough as is, right?

Well, there’s a twist: The prototype home had to be designed in adherence to the principles of the Living Building Challenge, the world's most notoriously stringent, hard-to-obtain green building standard. It’s tough to attain Living Building Challenge-dom anywhere (only three buildings have reached "Living" status to date), let alone a settlement located on a remote chain of islands in the North Pacific dubbed “the Birthplace of the Wind.” Key here, in addition to making the home weather-resistant, easily replicable, and costing no more than $400,000 to build, was to incorporate elements that would bring Prokopeuff’s $600/month-on-average wintertime (a six month affair) heating bills down to $0. In other words, it had to be net-zero energy home.

Over 100 entrants from across the globe stepped up to the challenge and last week the winner was announced at the Living Future 2012 unConference in Portland, Ore. Interesting enough, the winning team, Finnesko 13, is based in a city as about as far away from the Aleutian Islands as you can get: Madrid. That's the team's winning design pictured up top. What’s more, tying for third place was the Universal Serial House from 2SIS Arquitectes, another Spanish architecture firm. Honorable Mention also went to Studio 24, a firm based in, you guessed it, Spain. A home dubbed “House for a Windy Island” (pictured below) took second place. Jesse Belknap and Joseph Swain, a duo hailing from a slightly more regional locale, Seattle, designed that home.

Finnesko 13, a team comprised of three members of an experimental architecture collective called Taller Abierto (“Open Studio”), will win a $35,000 cash prize and have the chance to work alongside the Aleutian Housing Authority to bring their winning home to completion. And as mentioned, the winning home will be built as a prototype and serve as the new residence of Prokopeuff, whose current dwelling is in desperate need of replacement. The Aleutian Housing Authority will then replicate the design and use it in other villages across the Aleutian Islands in an effort to “demonstrate to others, in rural areas everywhere, that there are ways to radically reduce energy consumption and make the switch to renewable energy, in safe, healthy, affordable homes.”

Says Dan Duame, director of the Aleutian Housing Authority in a press release announcing the winners of the challenge: “The winning design was culturally relevant, incorporating traditional Aleut aesthetics as well as technical, aerodynamic and site specific aspects. Its shape will deal with the wind very effectively. Most importantly, I can build this house, while at the same time contributing to the sustainability movement in Alaska.”

A heary felicitaciones to Finnesko 13 and all of the (mostly Spanish) winning teams — if you can design an affordable and efficient home for Atka, Alaska you can truly design an affordable and efficient home for just about anywhere.

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