Back in May 2010, 22 grad students from the University of Colorado Denver started planning Maxine Begay’s new home and then started construction on it in September. This is the first semester a student group outside of the University of Utah designed and built a house on the Navajo Nation and the results were just as successful. The Windcatcher House relies on local clay for its hand built compressed brick and rammed earth walls on the south and east sides of the home. Thermal mass, shading and careful placement of windows help keep the home nice and cool during the hot, dry summers and soak up heat during the winters, which can get surprisingly cold. The rest of the exterior is clad in your basic, inexpensive cement board and cleverly attached to the structure of the home.
The 1,100 sq foot, 2 bedroom home, located on Begay’s family’s homesite, also features a carport alongside the home. The family doesn’t actually have a car, but plans to use the carport as a barn for their animals. Rainwater is collected off the carport’s roof and pours into a trough and a irrigation system for the garden. As with all homes on the Navajo Nation, the Windcatcher House is totally off-grid – as there is no grid anywhere close enough to connected into.