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: Keith Carlsen

Funding for the non-profit organization comes largely through private donations, along with a recent HUD grant, which will provide enough money to build three more houses on the reservation. Since the students are doing this for University credit, technically they pay to be there and provide free labor, which helps to make the houses super affordable. Additionally, many materials are donated from suppliers and reclaimed and scrap materials are used wherever possible to cut down on cost. With a budget of $50,000 for each house, the modestly sized homes generally cost less than $40/sq ft, which in comparison blows other University design/build programs budgets out of the water. Compare that to a green designed, off-grid prefab home for the Solar Decathlon with a budget closing in on $1 million or more. Louis says that the Solar Decathlon program produces some exciting homes and is really good for education, but thinks the money they spend on the houses is extravagant.

Upcoming for DBB and Hank Louis is an exciting expansion of the program, which will include the inclusion of two other universities. Starting next fall, the University of Colorado Denver will have it’s own semester in Bluff, designing and building a home for the reservation. This summer the U of Co group will select a family and start designing the home, and will spend the fall building the home. University of New Mexico Albuquerque is also interested in participating and they hope to take the summer semester to focus on prefab housing. The U of NM team will design and construct a prefab home during the spring semester of 2011 and transport and erect the home on site during the shorter summer semester. With the inclusion of the two other universities, the DBB program is transitioning into a year-round program, making better use of their facilities in Bluff and building even more sustainable houses for people who really need them.

+ Design Build Bluff

Photos courtesy of ©Keith Carlsen and ©Katie Eldridge

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