Since its formation in May 2006, the Newtok Planning Group, including the Newtok Traditional Council (NTC), has recommended and sought funding for the development of emergency, pioneer-level infrastructure at Mertarvik. Pioneer-level infrastructure, including an evacuation shelter, would provide a safe place at which the Newtok community could seek refuge in the event of severe flooding following a serious storm. Pioneer-level-infrastructure could support construction activities while the new village is being developed. In addition to serving the village's emergency and construction support needs during the relocation process, the evacuation shelter could later serve as a community center in the fully developed community.
In 2008, the NTC received a community planning grant through the Alaska Climate Change Impact Mitigation Program for the conceptual design of the Mertarvik Evacuation Center (MEC). The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) was hired to prepare the conceptual design, which was completed in July 2009. The conceptual design incorporated innovative approaches to make the evacuation center more affordable, sustainable, energy efficient, and to reflect community and cultural values (see drawing below).
In fiscal year 2011, the NTC was awarded a $4 million grant by the Alaska legislature for the design and construction of the MEC, the design of which would be based on the conceptual design prepared by CCHRC. The NTC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT/PF) to manage the design and construction of the building. DOT/PF hired the architectural firm Bezek Durst Seiser to design the MEC. The CCHRC was hired as an adviser to the design process and the NTC continued to work closely with the design team.
The design was completed in February 2011 (see drawing above). Work on the foundation of MEC was completed in the summer of 2011, with construction activities being carried out by Cornerstone General Contractors, Inc., hired by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilites, and the military Innovative Readiness Training Program (see photo below).
In late 2011, the NTC made the decision to take over the MEC project. The NTC hired a contractor from Colorado to re-design the MEC to be constructed with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs - see drawing below). Community members plan to build the MEC in the summer of 2013.
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development