Heat in the high desert
The overriding aesthetic intent of this project was inspired by the vernacular pole barn. Accidentally, there exists a second iconography to the innately cultural hogan on the Navajo Reservation, namely the single-wide trailer. Much more architecturally provoking in it’s simplicity, and adaptability to the east/west elongated rectangle which provides a longer south-facing aspect for glazing and low-tech, vernacular passive solar orientation. The raised house allows the ubiquitous ‘blow-sand’ to pass beneath it, rather than quickly pile up alongside. Interestingly, the air that flows in the shade beneath the home cools, and it pleasantly refreshes the back deck, an abstracted version of the traditional “shade structure” to which the indigenous peoples move as the seasons switch from high desert brutally cold to high desert brutally hot. Only four feet off the ground it also encourages an inordinately greater amount of natural ventilation. The southern exposure is calculatedly glazed for optimum passive solar heating, exposing the sun’s reach to the in-floor radiantly heated concrete thermal mass. The exterior of the Whitehorse home is raised by recycled telephone poles, clad by recycled sheets of aluminum accented by recycled, discarded and aesthetically reconstituted shipping pallets. Natural plaster completely covers the interior, altering color by naturally mixing different deposits of back-breaking, hand-shoveled 5 gallon buckets of clay. The large singly shed roof is guttered, which slope toward the center on the north side and downspout into a 2,000 gallon buried cistern. The most sustainable building resource on the Navajo Reservation is earth. Hence, the idea to build a “rocket stove”, which burns kindling size pieces of wood, provides a heating “stove”atop a 55 gallon barrel in line with the 20 feet of flue which heats a “cob” bench, which in turn thermally heats the home. Moreover, the idea has proven to be the primary heating source for the entire home, nearly rendering unnecessary the in-floor radiant heating, which itself begins with vertically-oriented solar hot water panels that provide the south wall of a shed harboring the hot water reservoirs. So, mere kindling the size of wood shims provide the family of five comfort during the brutally cold high desert winters. Enough “cob” -- clay, sand, straw and water -- was produced purely by heart and hand (and feet boot-crushing tenacious clumps of hand-and-shovel harvested clay) by a three-person team to cover the hand-made compressed earth bricks built up to correctly position all of the hand-made (on-site, student-welded) components -- combustion cylinder, clean-out chambers, lids and insulated handles, the aforementioned drum and interior cylinder leading to the horizontally winding flue. Decidedly low-tech, quasi-vernacular and eminently scalable. There is no HVAC system -- really no mechanical system whatsoever, just the sun and a little bit of wood, and the breeze.
Mike Anderson, Brian Backe, Sean Baron, Scott Bingham, Cynthia Bithell, Eric Boam, Jason Brownfield, Thomas Cohen, Katie Cressel, Tara Davies, Jeff Douglas, Matthew Griewski, Sung-Kuen Hong, Erika Ikeda, Justin Lyons, Nick Peterson, Kinley Puzey, Christian Salazar, and Zachary Tanner