February 20, 2008 A non-profit organization has given architecture students a chance to learn about the practical, hands-on elements of their future profession whilst exposing them to the benefits of building low-cost, sustainable housing using materials sourced from the local area.
In 2004, eight students designed and built a home for a single mother and her Navajo family which incorporated a rammed-earth Trombe wall for temperature regulation. Other innovative and alternative building ideas included building the ceiling and roof from recycled pallets, constructing the exterior walls with straw and clear acrylic and cladding the interior with discarded road signs.
Due to a student housing crisis, this year’s focus for the DesignBuildBLUFF team is to design and build a workshop, student housing and bathhouse. The buildings will be designed around three discarded shipping containers and the bathhouse will be partially constructed from the sandstone earth from the Navajo reservation. The housing will sleep eight and the students will be able to use the workshop to prefabricate pieces such as passive solar rammed earth and water reclamation roofs for future housing needs.
The students of DesignBuildBLUFF in partnership with the Ssejinja Foundation, a Utah-based charitable organization, are currently fundraising for their latest housing plan. They have developed an innovative project to design and build a medical housing center for AIDS-orphaned children in the Ugandan village of Bira. The Ssejinja’s Foundation’s director, David Ssejinja sought the help of the students from the College of Architecture & Planning to design and build the structure,
“The students’ commitment to socially conscious projects and their ability to ‘build out of nothing’ made them natural partners for this project, which seeks to provide much needed structural solutions to this ravaged community,” said Ssejinja.
Students are already considering the difficulty of managing this project with the lack of construction materials in Bira and one initial idea is to combine the local rubber trees and the sandy earth to form a building material which will be rain-resistant. The team expect to have their first center completed by December 2008.
See DesignBuildBLUFF for further reading.