Staff

Jack Hébert
Chief Executive Officer

Jack Hébert is the Chief Executive Officer and founding chair of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). Jack spent his early years in Alaska wintering 60 miles from an Inupiat community in the mountains of the Northwest Arctic and summers in the “old” Denali Park. His mentors and teachers were the people that thrived in these environments, the First Alaskans that lived a traditional life and the next Alaskans, homesteaders and pioneers that brought change to a timeless land. His relationship and commitment to Alaska were born from these deep roots in the “Country.” For the past 36 years, Jack has been designing and building homes as a licensed general contractor in Interior Alaska through his companies Taiga Woodcraft and Hébert Homes LLC. His homes and planned communities have created many high-quality, well-designed, environmentally appropriate, and energy-efficient buildings over a long career.

Jack is a graduate of the University of Washington, a Certified Green Professional, and is trained in LEED standards. He has received numerous honors, including the U.S. Green Building Council Cascadia Fellowship in recognition of his contributions to sustainable building, design and science; the first State of Alaska Governor's Award for Excellence in Energy Efficient Design; and the Energy Rated Homes of Alaska President’s Award. He has twice been honored as the Alaska State Homebuilder of the Year.

As an active member of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Jack has held many leadership roles on local, state, and national levels including the NAHB Executive Board, National Vice Chair for the 5 Northwest States, President of the Alaska State Home Building Association and State Representative for Alaska. He addressed the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Energy on “Sustainability and Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment” and served as host and moderator of the Circumpolar Forum at the Sustainable Northern Shelter 2007. Jack has been an invited speaker at many conferences in North America and most recently in Scandinavia and Greenland. He helped raise five of Alaska’s next generation and look forward to watching their children’s children embrace a healthy, vital and sustainable future for the Circumpolar North.

Aaron Cooke
Project Manager/Architectural Designer

Aaron Cooke is an architectural designer and project manager at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks Alaska.  He designs, builds, and monitors experimental prototype buildings in challenging physical environments across Alaska, and has collaborated with design groups in Russia, Canada and Antarctica to test new methods of building durable and energy-efficient homes in the circumpolar regions.  He believes that northern environmental conditions and northern culture are inseparable factors that must both be equally reflected in architecture and design in order for it to be successful.

Aaron’s university studies emphasized a specialization in rural development and Arctic responses to architectural form.  This emphasis on northern built form led him to study at the Novosibirsk State Technical University in Siberia and at the Danish International Studies Institute in Copenhagen.  He received his Masters Degree in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati and completed his thesis work as the Design Lead on the Mertarvik Evacuation Center, where he worked with the community of Newtok to develop an environmentally and culturally sustainable facility that will serve as a place of refuge as the community relocates from their current eroding site to a safer location. He was born and raised in Alaska.

Birgitta Evans
Financial Administrator

Gitta was born and raised in Germany, and earned her Master’s degree in Audiology at the Technical Institute of Audiology in Lübeck, Germany. She moved to Alaska 14 years ago, and started her own bookkeeping business in 2003. She is the financial administrator for CCHRC. In her spare time she backpacks, hikes, motorcycles, reads, plays music, teaches and works with young people. She is the proud stepmom of six, and grand-stepmom of 12.

She is very proud and excited to work for an organization whose mission is promoting healthy and sustainable shelter for all Alaskans.

Bruno C. Grunau, P.E.
Research Engineer

Bruno C. Grunau is enthusiastic about life.  He is also passionate about developing and implementing socially conscious and sustainable technologies in Alaska and the North.  Bruno joined the CCHRC team in the winter of 2011 after serving as the chief engineer for a local renewable energy firm that specializes in the design and fabrication of solar and wind energy systems.  His efforts in renewable energy system design, consultation, and project management have been applied to on-grid residential and commercial systems, as well as off-grid remote applications. His experience installing and troubleshooting energy systems in Alaska constantly reminds him of the importance of a clean, well-planned, and functional system design.  His passion for sustainable technologies began when participating on Virginia Tech’s Solar Decathlon Team in 2001.  As an engineer, he spent six years at a shock and vibration test laboratory where testing and analysis were a part of his everyday life. Though he never knew it, these experiences were leading him to his current position, where the mission of the CCHRC merges with his passion. When not at work, he can often be found making music, dancing, and playing in the backcountry of Alaska.

By Valentine
Data Analyst/Sensor Technician

By Valentine joined CCHRC in 2011 after spending many years as a technician in the Glaciology Lab at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.  She has a BS in mechanical engineering and an MS in biological sciences.  By moved to Alaska with her husband in 1996, but previously lived in the Carolinas, California and Colorado.  Everywhere she has lived, she has thought about climatically-appropriate and energy-efficient housing design.  By firmly believes that housing can and should be safe, affordable, energy-efficient, and aesthetically pleasing.  Professionally, By likes working with data, solving quantitative problems, asking important practical questions and designing the tests to answer them. In her spare time, she likes playing with her daughter Laurel, gardening, woodworking, paddling, being outside, playing music and acting in plays.

Cathy Richard
Bookkeeper

In 2009, Cathy Richard, her husband Drew, and their three children moved to Alaska. Since Drew’s 30 years of military service and many moves later, Cathy and her family decided to make Fairbanks their home. Cathy enjoys working for CCHRC and is learning the innovative, healthy and sustainable lifestyle that she and her family can apply to their life in Alaska. She is proud to be able to contribute her knowledge to her family and friends. In her spare time Cathy enjoys cooking, baking, crafting and spending time with friends and family.

Colin Craven
Building Science Research Director

Colin moved to Alaska in 1991, leaving later to attend college, then returned to Fairbanks for work in 2001. He earned his BA in geology at the University of Colorado in 1998 and an MS in geochemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2000. During his studies, Colin conducted research on mineral surface chemistry at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Georgia Tech. From 2001 to 2008, Colin worked in the field of environmental restoration of contaminated sites with a focus on sampling design, remediation, and evaluating the fate and transport of chemicals in the subsurface and indoor air. Since starting with CCHRC in 2008, Colin has led CCHRC efforts on building science projects, product tests and the development of the Certified Alaska Tough program.

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Corey DiRutigliano
Project Manager/Architectural Designer

Corey was born and raised in beautiful Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Fairbanks in October 2011. He found his design and building calling at an early age with Lincoln Logs, K'nex, and through a collection of involuntary lessons in home repair. He tracked these interests through to a bachelor's in Architecture at the Ohio State University, and later a master's at the University of Cincinnati. During this time he developed a passion for problem-solving and has participated in a variety of design competitions around the world. From prototype research stations in the Antarctic and homeless shelters in urban Cincinnati, to solar-powered transportation infrastructure and recyclable cardboard furniture, he enjoys challenges of every scale and type. Corey enjoys applying his knowledge of visual representation, planning, and design as much as swinging a hammer and building prototype projects. He has assured his family back home that he will be careful around bears and moose.

Danny Powers
Intern

Danny works as part of the Sustainable Northern Communities program on project coordination and nonprofit outreach. Before coming to CCHRC, Danny received a B.A. in molecular biology and biochemistry from Middlebury College where he participated in several renewable energy projects. He was born and raised in Fairbanks and enjoys working to increase nonprofit access to energy-efficient building systems.

Dustin Madden
Policy Researcher

Dustin was born in Alaska and raised in Nome, with family roots going back to the village of Wales.  He found his passion for sustainable energy at Stanford University, where he earned a B.S. in Earth Systems in 2004.  He is excited to be working with CCHRC to help reduce energy costs and improve long-term sustainability in Alaska through data-driven policies and innovative design and technology.  Before coming to CCHRC he earned a master’s degree in teaching, taught science to Alaska Native students through Cook Inlet Tribal Council, traveled and lived abroad, and was adjunct faculty at University of Alaska Anchorage.  When he’s not analyzing data, you might find him trail running, dancing Argentine Tango, or harvesting wild foods.  

Ilya Benesch
Building Educator

Ilya Benesch was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. He joined the CCHRC staff in August 2008 after spending the previous 15 years working as a residential carpenter. His educational background includes two years in an accredited furniture-making program at the Oregon College of Art & Craft and an associate’s degree in Wood Technology with an emphasis in Residential Construction from Seattle Central Community College. He also completed an intensive three-month apprenticeship touring with the Timber Framers Guild of North America, which left him with a lifelong passion for antique tools. His professional experience revolves around all phases of home construction, custom millwork and finish carpentry which he does out of his cabinet shop. Ilya has traveled and worked in many places, but ultimately came to the conclusion that he is unfit to live anywhere but Fairbanks. He works in the CCHRC design group writing educational articles, researching building trends, promoting energy-efficient construction, and answering building questions from the public.

John Davies
Senior Researcher - Energy Policy

John Davies received a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1975. He served as the State Seismologist for the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys from 1981-1986 and was a principal in creating the Alaska Earthquake Information Center and the Alaska Volcano Observatory while serving as State Seismologist for the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (1986-1992). John was an elected Representative to the Alaska State Legislature from 1992-2002 where he served on the Resources, Legislative Budget and Audit, and Finance committees. Along the way, John designed, built, and has resided in two energy-efficient homes. John was the CCHRC Research Director from 2003 to 2009 and is now the lead researcher at CCHRC on topics related to building energy efficiency policy, specializing in work advancing the AHFC Building Energy Efficiency Standard (BEES).

Judith Grunau
Project Manager/Architectural Designer

Judith's career has focused on humanitarian relief, green building, and sustainable community design. She earned her Bachelors of Architecture at Virginia Tech. She was the Project Designer for Engineering Ministries International, Mussoorie, India where she designed orphanages, schools, and clinics. Judith developed her professional skills and green-building practices through internships in Virginia with SFCS, Inc; Dominion Development Resources; Sunbiosis, PLC; and in Fairbanks, Alaska with L64 Design. She is a LEED AP and a member of the Cascadia Green Building Council and the AIA. While her professional experience includes work on residential, commercial, and institutional projects, her passion remains in socially and environmentally conscious design. She continues to fuel her passion by leading projects in the Sustainable Northern Communities Program at CCHRC. Judith’s goal is to create holistic designs that help provide healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable housing for native rural Alaskans and people of the circumpolar north.

Kristen Thomas
IT Specialist

Kristen was born in Alaska but moved to Michigan when she was 18 years old for six years to attend school before joining the CCHRC staff in October 2007. While in Michigan, Kristen was a certified massage therapist, land surveyor, and computer technician. Kristen worked at the University of Michigan Health System at the computer helpdesk and then as an application programmer/analyst. In 2010 she received her BS in Information Technology with a focus in Website Development. Her personal interests include computer technology, roller derby, and photographing her two dogs - Kasey and Darby.

Michele Doyle-Brewer
Chief Operations Officer

Michele grew up in Western New York, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at SUNY Fredonia. She began spending her summers working at Denali National Park in 1992, and traveled during the winter. After the summer of 1994 she moved to Healy year-round. During her nine years in Healy she worked for the National Park Service and private tourism businesses. Afterwards Michele spent five years in Minnesota working for a contracting company specializing in cold storage construction. In Minnesota, Michele lived in, and was very closely involved in, the conception and construction of a highly energy-efficient and sustainable ICF home, the design of which also focused on function, air quality, aesthetics, and minimizing sound. In September 2009 Michele earned her MBA at the Minnesota School of Business. Michele came back to Alaska and lives in Fairbanks with her husband Sean and twin children Cierra and Hunter. Michele oversees the general operations of the organization. 

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Molly Rettig
Communications Manager

Molly Rettig grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania and attended the University of Richmond, where she played soccer and studied sociology. After graduating in 2004, she moved to Colorado to ski, and later earned an MA in Journalism with a focus on Environmental Policy.

She moved to Fairbanks to work as a reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in 2010, covering local government, science, education, and the environment. She became intrigued with the research coming out of CCHRC, publishing articles about sustainable prototype homes, energy efficiency, and other topics. At CCHRC she writes articles on building science and homeowner awareness, manages the website and public outreach, and produces video and other multimedia for the web.

Nathan Wiltse
Project Manager/Building Energy Economist

In December of 2007, Nathan Wiltse received his M.Sc. in Mineral Economics from UAF, where he worked closely with the Mining & Geological Engineering Department and the Economics Department. He has presented at the Alaska Mining Association Biennial Conference a number of times on such topics as, Assessing Risk in Achieving an Acceptable Rate of Return, and a Feasibility Model of a Rock Quarry. He worked on USARAK's pre-feasibility study for an All-Weather Crossing for the Tanana R. He graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield Minnesota in 2000 with a B.A. in Economics. He minored in Computer Science and Management. While at St. Olaf he spent a year abroad attending the University of Ottawa in Canada. He was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and attended West Valley High School.

Ness Spencer
Research Scientist

Ness began working for CCHRC as an intern in 2010. She was born in New Mexico, grew up in Texas, and then moved to Colorado in high school. She received a BS in physics from Texas A&M in 2004 and then spent 2 years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania before moving to Fairbanks. In Alaska, she earned a MS in physics from UAF while working as a teaching assistant for a distance education physics course. Her professional interests include all types of science education, sustainable housing and green energy. In her spare time, Ness enjoys paddling during the summer, skiing during the winter, and cycling year-round.

Robbin Garber-Slaght
Product Testing Lab Engineer

Robbin moved to Alaska in 1997 from Maryland, where she completed her B.A. in history, Spanish, and archaeology. She spent six years travelling and living in rural Alaska, in the process earning her M.S. in library and information science. In 2005 Robbin returned to school, finishing her B.S. in mechanical engineering at UAF in 2008. She is interested in ideas that will make living in Fairbanks more comfortable and sustainable.

Ryan Colgan
President

Ryan Colgan was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he planted his roots, learned, and has worked to address housing and energy challenges in Alaska. His professional experience includes working as staff in the Alaska legislature, developing and managing energy projects, administering nonprofits, and engaging in civic and volunteer activities.

Ryan earned the Foraker Group Certificate in Nonprofit Management, a Certificate in Applied Business Management through UAF, is completing a degree in Nonprofit Management, and has pursued applicable knowledge through several building science, nonprofit, business, political science, and economics courses. 

Ryan’s passion for Alaska extends to the outdoors where he enjoys travelling, snowboarding, and exploring the natural wonders of this great land.    

Sandee Mayo
Lead Administrative Assistant

Sandee grew up in California and moved to Fairbanks with her husband, Jim, in 1976. She worked in the banking industry as a secretary and was promoted to construction loan officer. She changed careers in the mid-80s and became a paralegal and office manager in the legal field, where she worked for 20+ years. Sandee is now part of CCHRC and wants to help make Alaskan homes more energy-efficient and affordable in our cold climate, especially in Fairbanks. Sandee earned associate degrees in Small Business and in Paralegal Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sandee is also a PADI MST scuba instructor as well as a certified first responder and CPR instructor. She has two children who have built their own homes in Fairbanks and two beautiful grandchildren.