Home, Sweet Made-in-Alaska Home
Building a real Alaska home
– with products made
right here in the state
Story by Jamey Bradbury • Photography by Photo Arts by Janna
Turkish ceramic bathroom tiles. Italian marble countertops. Bookshelves made from rich Peruvian mahogany. Visiting some houses is like taking a one-stop whirlwind tour of the world. But when you cross the threshold of the modest, blue-sided house in Anchorage’s Sonoma Glen planned community, you step into a celebration of Alaska-made products.
Prefabricated trusses for roof framing:
Alaska Sand & Gravel
Rigid foam board insulation:
Triple-paned vinyl windows:
Capitol Glass Northerm Windows
Thermo-Kool of Alaska
Kitchen & bathroom cabinets featuring some Northern Birch components:
Kitchen & bathroom recycled glass & resin countertops:
Cabinet door pulls:
Art accent tile in bathrooms:
Solid wood furniture:
Artwork & accents:
Alaska Council on the Arts; Blue Hollomon Gallery
The “Made-in-Alaska Home” is a natural extension of the Division of Economic Development’s (DED) Made-in-Alaska program, which seeks to promote goods made or manufactured in the state.
“The program, at its core, is a way for us to showcase Alaska products to consumers,” explains Jon Bittner, deputy commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. “But we realized it would be beneficial to show both home builders and home buyers how much of their homes could be sourced right here in the state. So we lighted upon the idea of an Alaska-made house, using as many Alaska-made products as possible.”
The DED collaborated with custom home builders at the Petersen Group to construct the 1,686-square-foot, two-story home, which features three bedrooms, two and a half baths and a single car garage. The simplicity of the floor plan doesn’t mean that the house is purely functional; surprising and elegant touches can be found in every room, from the handmade, two-tone northern birch cabinets in the kitchen, to the art tile accents in the bathrooms, depicting slender trees and autumn leaves.
And the majority of those elements are made right here in Alaska.
“We use a lot of made-in-Alaska products in our projects,” says Trevor Edmondson, vice president and general manager of the Petersen Group. The company jumped at the chance to demonstrate to homebuyers the local items that can be used and incorporated into Alaska homes. “There are actually more products for the home that are made in Alaska than people typically realize.”
In addition to cabinets made by Kodiak Cabinets and tiles from Brecht Studios, the house features Alaska-made or Alaska-sourced products like triple-paned vinyl windows from Capital Glass Northerm Windows, ceiling insulation from Thermo-Kool of Alaska and rigid foam board insulation from Insulfoam.
Benefits of Buying Local
The “locavore” movement has had people extolling the virtues of buying hometown-grown vegetables for years now, but the benefits of buying local also apply to home-building products. Purchasing locally made products helps Alaska’s economy as a whole, generating jobs and growing businesses.
But consumers and contractors also reap benefits from seeking out Alaska goods.
“If you look out of state to get new kitchen cabinets, you could be waiting eight to 10 weeks for those cabinets to ship up,” points out Tiny Schopf, manager of Kodiak Cabinets. His company sources raw materials from the Lower 48 and Canada, then builds cabinets and custom furniture in Anchorage. Schopf also employed a local Mat-Su Valley man to handcraft the doors of the Made-in-Alaska Home’s kitchen cabinets. “Buying out of state, it’s a long wait time. Whereas, depending on the style of cabinet you want, we can build an entire kitchen in anywhere from three days to three weeks.”
Some Alaska-made products can be pricier than those from out of state, Edmondson admits: “These are small companies, and our market is smaller, so they don’t have the volume that other US manufacturers have to help drive their costs down. But it depends on the product.”
The quality of the product, though, can make up for the extra expense. “The craftsmanship available in Alaska is really a benefit,” adds Edmondson. “Products made here are made well.”
Easy on the Eyes – and the Environment
The products used in the Made-in-Alaska Home aren’t just local – many of them are also ecologically green.
“Above and beyond just using Alaska-made products, there was a real theme of energy efficiency and recycling and reusing in the products that we chose,” says Bittner. “It isn’t just about buying Alaska; it’s also about making things earth-friendly.”
Products like the resin-based countertops from Glacierstone were created from recycled glass, while some of the insulation was made from recycled paper.
The house is also meant to be easy on a homebuyer’s pocketbook, says Edmondson.
“We designed this house to meet a lower price point,” he explains. “There are a lot of struggles in Anchorage right now in terms of affordable housing, so we developed this house plan to provide a more affordable single-family home option for buyers.”
Happily, the Made-in-Alaska Home won’t be the only one of its kind: The Petersen Group is using much of what it learned from this project in other builds. An identical floor plan, as well as a similar, “sister” floor plan, have already been used in other homes in the Sonoma Glen community.
“We worked with some new vendors and created new relationships that will be helpful in the future,” says Edmondson. “This project opened our eyes a little bit more to what’s available here in Alaska, and to products we’ll incorporate into future homes that we build.”
See for Yourself
The DED’s Made-in-Alaska Home will be featured as part of the Anchorage Home Builders Association’s annual Parade of Homes in September. For the occasion, the home will feature Alaska-made food and drink, hand-crafted furniture and art by local artists.
“This has been a fantastic collaboration,” says Bittner. “I think people are really going to be amazed at what Alaskans are making and at how much of your home can be sourced right here in the state.”