New Paradigms in Tribal Housing
The muliphased Owe’neh Bupingeh project allows contemporary life and cultural traditions to comfortably coexist and brings families back to live in the sacred core of the Pueblo. Image courtesy of Kate Russell. This article is second in a series highlighting best practices that have emerged from the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative’s 2013 Case Studies Project. Best practices highlighted in the first article focused on design, site location, community outreach, and innovation.
The project teams highlighted in the 2013 Case Studies Project typically encouraged input from potential residents, community members, elders, youth, and cultural leaders. In the Penobscot Nation, community work sessions helped define the tribe’s housing, health, and wellness needs and how meeting these needs could strengthen the tribe’s connection to its cultural heritage. The Penobscot decided to incorporate a trails network and cultural elements into site planning, both to honor the community’s connections to the river and to encourage walking. The Puyallup Tribe took its traditional housing form, the longhouse, and reinterpreted it in a contemporary context. The Teekalet Village Housing project features watershed protection systems to shield the nearby salmon hatchery.
The case studies offer many examples showing how green building can help Native American communities achieve affordable, healthy housing. Some, such as Puyallup, Devine Legacy on Central, Kumuhau Subdivision, and Penobscot, sought LEED certification for their homes. Other teams obtained certification through Enterprise Green Communities, a credential developed specifically for affordable housing. All of the projects take comprehensive approaches to green building; in most cases, cultural and economic sustainability were as important as environmental sustainability. Tribal enterprise and employment are crucial to economic sustainability, and many projects incorporated locally produced and traditional materials such as Navajo Flexcrete, earth, straw bales, and structural insulated panels. Buildings in Couer d’Alene and Northern Cheyenne feature super-insulated wall systems constructed from straw bales. The project team for Kumuhau Subdivision modified the AirScape whole house fan to produce a quieter ventilation system called the Kohilo fan. At the Penobscot, Kumuhau, Passamaquoddy, and Pinoleville sites, the teams installed photovoltaic panels in their buildings, and the Puyallup tribe installed ground source heat recovery systems in the first phase of its project.
Devine Legacy is a 65 unit, mixed income, transit-oriented and LEED Platinum housing development strategically located for residents to gain access to work and school, with a light rail station half a block away, and downtown less than 3 miles to the south. Image courtesy of Perlman Architects of Arizona. These exemplary projects can inspire and educate others beyond the tribal housing sphere. Several of them have been catalysts for other community revitalization projects, and many are considered national and regional models. The Place of Hidden Waters and Owe’neh Bupingeh are recipients of the international Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) award as well as other national awards for design, planning, and green building. Devine Legacy on Central was the first mixed-income, transit-oriented development built along the light rail line in Phoenix, Arizona.
Many projects connect to long-term planning and tribal initiatives, incorporating training and tribal employment. The Navajo Housing Authority Sustainable Community Planning Manuals were designed to improve the development of more than 34,000 new homes, and more than half the homes in the sacred and cultural core of Ohkay Owingeh have been rehabilitated by tribal members who relearned the traditional method of building with adobe and mud plaster.
The projects highlighted here demonstrate that high-quality housing from within tribal communities can provide hope and strength in sometimes desperate conditions. Through the dissemination of this research, more tribal communities will be able to create their own culturally appropriate and environmentally responsible housing.