Entry Title: "
Another Man's Ceiling"
Category: Professional, Design and Build
Designer(s): Hank Louis
The principal mission of DesignBuildBLUFF is to design and build safe, sustainable off-grid homes for needy families living on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in the four corners region located just outside of Bluff, UT. We are a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) supporting organization of the University of Utahs College of Architecture+Planning (CA+P). We were created in 2000 by architect and Adjunct Professor Hank Louis. Each spring semester, a group of graduate students enrolled in our studio at the CA+P leave the comforts of home to live dorm style in Bluff, near the Reservation, in a historic home purchased by Hank for this purpose. From January to June, they work together, under our direction, to design and build a home themselves, essentially out of nothing.
Our homes are as green as green can be, with no grid available and a budget of $50,000.00. We use what we have on-hand: the sandy desert earth. Rammed earth, earthen plaster, and adobe-like bricks are plentiful when hand-formed from the dirt. We salvage materials from the surrounding land and river bed: river rock to form gabion cages, floors and walls, and reed to cover doors and ceilings. We raid local dumpsites for tires and discarded construction materials; anything that can be put to use in our homes as supporting beams (logs, steel bars, scrap metal) or retaining walls (tires, corrugated steel pieces, gravel). As many recycled, reclaimed and donated materials as possible are used, including reject windows and doors and any other materials that for one reason or another, could not be used for its original purpose (one home is surrounded in beautiful and solar-friendly glass-a pool enclosure project gone south). To complete, we incorporate Photo-voltaic panels and rainwater reclamation roofs. Our processes have minimal impact on the environment, while still providing viable, sustainable structures.
Our first home on the Reservation was built in 2004 for Rosie Joe, a single working mother of two. The home employed passive solar, rammed earth, and a rainwater catchment roof double the square footage of the home itself. The Rosie Joe house became a recipient of both the 2004 AIA Utah Honor Award and the 2005 Western Mountain Region AIA Merit Award. In 2005, the Johnson family of six received a passive solar straw bale home and river rock gabion cage workshop. In June of 2006, the Sweet Caroline house was completed for a mother, her parents and her daughter using salvaged bedrock and reed from the local riverbed and Flex-crete, an innovative material locally produced by the Navajo community. Our 2007 project, the Dora and Baxter Benally home, employs hand-made earthen brick, cork, and a river rock passive solar trombe wall.
DesignBuildBLUFF aspires to open the minds of the students, as well as the global community, to alternative designing and building techniques that will ultimately lead to more environmentally sustainable building techniques, which we believe to be crucial to the future of humanity as a whole.