Zero Arctic

international consortium project


Zero Arctic: Concepts for Carbon-neutral Arctic Construction Based on Tradition

Download the full report: Zero Arctic

Download the fact sheet by the Sustainable Development Working Group: SDWG factsheet

Livady participated in the Zero Arctic report, an international peer-reviewed research project. The aim of the project was to find out how various applications of traditional knowledge in Arctic construction have supported the environmental sustainability of buildings and how these principles can be applied in the development of modern construction. The project consisted of case studies from northern Finland, Canada (Nunavik) and Japan (Hokkaido). Each case study consisted of a survey of traditional and Indigenous dwellings, of structural solutions and settlements, and a review of the energy consumption of the existing building stock in the region.

In addition to participating closely in conceptualizing and structuring the report, Livady led the research of vernacular architecture of Finland, designed the Finnish case study house and executed the layout and graphic representation* of the report. The research was conducted in close collaboration with the Sámi Museum and was overseen by the Sámi Parliament. The project coordination and research in Finland was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

(*not including the report’s title page, by the Arctic Council.)


Based on the research the Zero Arctic team propose the following recommendations for policy makers:

1. When considering sustainability of buildings the focus should be on the full life cycle impacts. This is an overarching goal, the importance of which cannot be understated. This target should be met when pursuing the following objectives.

2. Optimal energy efficiency should be targeted in new buildings. Energy efficiency should not be pursued at the expense of potential service life or air quality. If it is expected that the operational energy during a building’s life cycle is produced by burning fossil fuels, improving energy efficiency is even more essential. However, it is important to examine the full life-cycle impacts of buildings and energy efficiency should be considered also as a question of long service life, recoverability and reusability.

3. Renewable energy should be included in the micro-grid mix. The decision-maker of an individual building project can use renewable energy (with PV panels and collectors, pumps), which can have a major role in the carbon footprint of this building. Solar/PV collectors can be a good source of energy but the solar conditions they require are not available all year round in the Arctic. Also, investments in cleaner energy regionally would have a major impact on the GHG emissions (wind, hydro). It is important that new energy production is planned with respect to indigenous peoples and local communities and their needs.

4. Low-carbon materials, such as wood from sustainably grown forests, should be preferred. Wood is the only material that can compensate the emissions from construction and use. However, to reach the full benefit, the wooden materials should not be burned in the end of the building’s life cycle, but reused as much as possible.

5. The buildings should be designed to enable deconstruction (Design-fordeconstruction), reassembling and reuse. The building can be designed in a way, that the whole building could be moved to another location. This is possible for example in traditional log construction, such as the first Finnish case building. Considering the melting permafrost, relocating buildings might be an important issue to consider in Arctic areas in the future. The buildings and the building parts should also be designed for a long lifecycle, so that reassembling and reuse is possible.

6. The buildings should be designed for climate resilience. This may include low technology use, maintenance with simple tools use and easily adjustable dwelling operation to unexpected, rapid and extreme all-weather, all-seasons changes.

7. Occupants’ needs and profiles should be considered in the design and operation of the building. Different studies showed an important difference between the preconstruction energy consumption estimates and the measured performance, often due to wrong assumptions on how occupants would use the building. Better considering the occupants’ needs and profiles in the design and operation of the building, and raising occupants’ awareness regarding the environmental impact of energy use in buildings would certainly help to reduce energy consumption. Involving the inhabitants (for example Inuit in the Canadian case) in the design process of houses, conducting post-occupancy to understand how they feel about topics such as energy and buildings, and monitoring real buildings could be beneficial for this.

Watch the teaser video of the Zero Arctic report by Antti Seppänen:


Findings of the project will be exhibited at the Sámi Museum in 2021.