Bridgette Meinhold

INTERVIEW: Architect Hank Louis on 'Design Build Bluff' and Sustainable Homes

by , 05/19/11

design build bluff, indian reservation, native american reservation, navajo reservation, affordable housing, student design program, university design build program, hank louis, bluff, utah, green building, sustainable building, green homes, green design, eco design, design for health,Photo credit: Katie Eldridge

Once the students move in, they have to get right to work — they have less than 4 months to finish designing the home and building it so the family can move in. Tasks and projects are divided up among various teams, and they work on everything from design optimization, to funding, material procurement, construction, and even interior decorating. The houses are certainly not elaborate, complicated nor richly furnished, but they are all beautiful and designed to function in the hot desert climate of Southern Utah. As you might suspect, solar passive design, natural ventilation, insulation, and energy and water efficiency play huge roles in the design of the homes.

Surprisingly though, each of the seven houses that have been built are completely different. Each year’s group of students seems intent on creating a home completely unique from the others. While they may utilize some of the information or ideas from previous homes, generally they are all new. For instance this year’s home, Studio 23, which was completed in the middle of May, is a combo straw bale/SIP home that uses reclaimed materials extensively. Previous homes include rammed earth, straw bale, and flex-crete construction. One of the groups even spent a whole semester building more student housing out of shipping containers — they fondly call them “Mantainers”, because the boys live there.

The latest home built on the reservation is a 1,400 sq foot two-story, two-bedroom home, which includes a one-story building close by that functions as a pottery studio. The residence is constructed using SIP panels and reclaimed barn wood for the exterior, while the studio is constructed with load-bearing straw bales and mud plaster. A photovoltaic system provides power for the home, rainwater is collected and a grey water system provides water for landscaping. A number of reclaimed materials were used throughout the house, including steel scrap on interior walls, an old door transformed into a desk, and an old car engine, which was repurposed into a sink for the studio.

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  1. Helical Earthbag Shelte... November 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    [...] year a number of students at Taliesin take part in the design/build shelter program in order to get a hands-on learning experience in building what they design. Many students as of [...]

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