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  • The University of Utah

    College of Architecture + Planning

    375 S. 1530 E., Rm. 332 Arch

    SLC, UT 84112

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    The emotions of home

    The single most important sustainable design idea for the Benally home was to build it from the prevalent local, hence accessible, resource-namely dirt. We found a pile of rejected road base material that matched perfectly the sand/clay/aggregate ratio necessary to make non-stabilized (no added concrete) compressed earth blocks, eighty-four tons worth. The exterior was rigidly insulated and plastered, and then capped with off-the-shelf sheet metal. Water, of course, is the enemy. The compressed earth block was left exposed on the interior walls, to pick up the passive solar strength along with a concrete, radiant heated, slab floor. Beauty, along with efficiency, we believe, cannot be discounted when the word sustainable is bantered around. A green house that won’t soar the spirit is about as valuable as a green company that goes belly-up. The central hearth is key to the traditional Navajo home, so the approach began at exactly that focal point. The exterior fire pit, situated north and aimed toward breathtaking sandstone bluffs is an inverted funnel scavenged from the local dump. The roof shading at the back also acts as a traditional Navajo “shade house”. Extending in the other directions (intending to be cardinal in the Navajo creation story), the abovementioned compressed earth block walls point directly from the hearth focal point to the four sacred mountains. The semi-circular layout is a vestigial Hogan that actually resided here before the mission arrived. Materials are all natural-the steel found on sojourns across the tops of the bluffs, where gravel pits had formerly operated. Horizontal lines of corrugation match the striations of the bluff’s sandstone, and give the home an impressive presence upon approach.


    University of Utah Students

    Chris Brown, Camille Coons, Monica Fischle, Hunter Gundersen, Eric Hansen, Lindsay Helloman, Ryan McMullen, Matt Swindel, Chris Talvy, and Atsushi Yamamoto