Cold Climate Housing Research Center

Crane crews unhook a 25,000 gallon tank after placing it in a hole outside the Cold Climate Housing Research Center on Wednesday morning, Oct. 16, 2013, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The center plans to use the tank as a solar battery, storing energy from solar arrays to use for heat through the winter.

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center lost $750,000 in state funding as part of 27 line-item vetoes listed when Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed the capital budget Thursday afternoon.

“That wipes out any state funding,” said Jack Hébert, chief executive officer and founder of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

The center is a nonprofit corporation that operates on land leased to it by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Its mission is to help research and develop energy efficient building technology for the circumpolar region.

With state funding zeroed out, Hébert said the CCHRC is losing funding for core functions.

“Well for the last 20 years the state support has provided funding for the core functions of the housing research center and those core functions are the resources that we use for our basic activities, which include leveraging monies to get other grants, other competitive grants, to operate the research center building itself,” he said.

The CCHRC receives other funding through contract work with various Native communities, which includes helping to develop energy-efficient, healthy homes, as per its mission. It receives other contracts through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, in order to look at housing finance needs for Alaska, as well as the impacts of weatherization efforts.

Their building is the farthest north LEED Platinum building in the world, Hébert said, meaning it’s considered the most energy efficient building at this latitude anywhere on earth.

“That itself creates a great deal of interest in our research and what we do,” he said.

The center also conducts a portion of its research in collaboration UAF, although it is a separate entity from the university.

Without state support, however, he said the CCHRC will not be able to continue services like facility tours or individual consultings, of which they had 1,400 last year. It also puts the center into the position of having to find ways to manage funding for grants they’d been awarded previously.

“We’ve got to find the money somewhere. You know, we don’t want to lose them and we’re not sure what direction to go at this point,” Hébert said.

While he finds the veto disappointing, Hébert said the center will find a way forward. The CCHRC has been looking into private donations, and wants to continue work on partnering with manufacturers and private industry for products and systems it has developed over the years.

“I think it’s a time in our state where we need to make some decisions about our future and one of the things that will define our future is the quality of housing, both the cost of building it and the cost of living in it,” Hébert said, “and in a harsh climate like Alaska this is something that we have to not disregard.

“I hope that we can find a way forward. I believe that we will find a way forward, but this reduction, at this level, this quickly is very disappointing considering what we’ve given to the state of Alaska over the last 20 years,” he continued.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal.