GRIC looking for construction innovations in tribal housing
December 16, 2016
Gila River Indian News
Two tribal communities partner with Arizona State University to explore different ways of building more affordable and energy efficient homes.
ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction students and faculty spoke about their findings at the Innovation in Tribal Housing presentation on Dec. 1.
In tribal communities the availability of homes is even more significant because of the need to provide a quality standard of living without sacrificing costs and quality.
Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis was present to talk about the Community’s collaboration with ASU through a new course offered by the school called: Indigenous Project Delivery.
The course explores ways of building affordable, sustainable and energy efficient homes in tribal communities through a semester long project with GRIC and the Tolani Lake Chapter on the Navajo Nation.
The Tolani Lake Chapter’s goal was to figure out how to improve approaches to home design-build projects at a competitive cost, while the Community looked to reduce energy consumption in residential construction and as an economic driver.
The project was overseen by the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment Professor Wanda Dalla Costa, who is a visiting eminent scholar from Canada.
Costa, who is a member of the Saddle Lake First Nations of Northern Alberta, sought the assistance of the Community and the Navajo Nation to help with the course project.
“I hope [this] is the beginning of future collaborations with tribal communities and the school [here],” said Costa, “I see a lot of opportunity to take [these] real-world projects that come from outside the industry and bring them into the academic settings so that we can begin to push innovation and success.”
Gov. Lewis said Gila River Utility Authority Chairman John Lewis contributed to the project from an energy cost perspective, because creating homes that rely on less power will eventually need to be addressed to make homes more affordable.
John said that the cost of living is very important, especially around utilities that need to be considered when building homes.
He said, “Not many people know about [these] types of things that needed to be factored in building homes, because there are a number of things tribes also have to provide for their people.”
Undergraduate Christopher Frettoloso, who is pursuing a degree in Urban Planning, said their team incorporated as much of the Community’s ideas on what it would like to see in an energy-efficient home.
“Initially [they] were looking for affordable options and sustainable solutions. Energy efficiency was a big concern to reduce the amount of energy being consumed by one home,” said Frettoloso.
He said there were other key elements to the design such as being culturally relevant and if possible use materials traditionally used by the people.
“We looked at everything that was recommended from a build design standpoint. We also looked at incorporating more social space, because we know social gathering space is essential to the culture of the Community,” he said.
Most of all Frettoloso said their project team wanted to explore economic development and job creation, which looked at the possibility of making bricks from recycled materials like paper.
Gov. Lewis said the project is about learning how to make homes that are sustainable in the long run, that would also create jobs for Community members.
“We are at an important position now that we have seen the conceptual design and modeling that allows us to look at the feasibility of how it translates to our Community and how it will become a buildable design,” said Gov. Lewis.