Ionia is growing and in need of more family homes. Some new tiny homes are underway already. The Ionia Barn is a perfect set-up for natural home building, complete with huge carpentry shop for frames and beams and mechanized “train” for creating natural clay/straw insulation, bricks and plasters. We are learning and teaching how to build beautiful small homes with local materials, and want to create low-cost, breathable heat efficient model homes that anyone can build for themselves with a little bit of commitment and investment.


Shelter is a basic human need and when ones’ home is threatened, it can be incredibly difficult to successfully navigate ones’ future, be resilient in crisis, or raise kids who are secure and happy. Alaska is rich in natural resources and has a cultural history steeped in doing for oneself and living off the land. However, common barriers for low income Alaskans to building their own home are skills, support, and funding. When Ionia’s founding families moved onto our Kasilof land in 1986, they bought a 5 acre parcel of raw spruce forest for $300 per month, which they could afford; however they had no experience with construction, no idea what to build, nor excess funds. They lived in tipis in the first year with many children, and they understand housing challenges in the cold winter from the inside out. Having discovered how to support each other, build together, and create a simple, sustainable village, we now want to expand our peer-to-peer village. We want to create an accessible pathway for impoverished families to build graceful, low cost, high performance homes using local materials.


We want to build homes which are both luxurious and up to Alaska’s four seasons; homes which will make good use of small spaces, passive solar and open floor plans, naturally address air quality, light/color quality, and use a combination of thermal mass (clay soil) and thermal insulation (fiber) to create a comfortable interior climate and high level of energy efficiency. Clay paints and plasters create a handsome protective finish that allows free flow of vapor through the wall, adding to our comfort and health. As our European predecessors have proven, natural materials can last for centuries if they are protected from the elements with a good “hat and boots”: a roof overhang which protects the building from driving rains and snow, a well drained site with concrete or crushed rock foundation.


Ionia has found that building ones’ own home is a powerful source of dignity and pride, security and, often, wellness and recovery. This project will be the first design step in providing impoverished families the means to build a home; and be the next vital step in expanding our capacity for village support, creating an accessible building funnel for naturally high performance homes.


The Gardener’s Hut: