The remnant of a well-intentioned government program to use indigenous materials in constructing low-cost housing, Building 836 was intended to be built of rammed earth. Earth, when compressed, becomes hard as brick, and rammed earth has served as a construction material in various parts of the world for centuries. Danish architect Vetle Jorgensen conceived this project in 1968. The Alaska State Housing Authority provided $8,000 for basic materials, such as the roof and windows, and VISTA volunteers provided the labor.
In Kotzebue, however, the earth was too sandy to be used effectively as rammed earth. The 4-foot-thick walls were finished to a height of only 4 feet. The current owner bought the unfinished house for $500 in 1969 and completed it with standard wood framing.