Bringing Green Housing, And More, To The Reservation

To address the need for sustainable housing in all senses of the term, a collaborative design-build project was born that not only builds energy-efficient housing, but also focuses on learning and education to create an ongoing, sustainable building process. The Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative (NASHI) program at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, S.D., have teamed up to design and build green homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The project found support from the Oyate Omnicye Regional Planning Project and the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit on the reservation also trying to addresses issues of housing for Native American community members. Says Executive Director Nick Tilsen: “Lakota tribal members on Pine Ridge not only face an overall severe lack of housing, but a majority of the homes in existence are substandard, plagued by black mold, are energy inefficient resulting in high heating/cooling costs in our harsh temperature extremes, and are not designed to withstand the high number of occupants crowded under the same roof as it is common for extended families to share living space.”

NASHI Project

image via Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative

On the design side of the process, undergraduate environmental design students at CU-Boulder will study sustainable materials, Native American issues for the region, and culturally relevant case studies to gain an understanding of NASHI’s central principle to “design for people and place” – also a central tenant of sustainable design. Simultaneously, students at Oglala Lakota will study sustainable construction, and the two groups will come together during the summer to put all that sustainable knowledge into practice by building the sustainable and culturally relevant housing.

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies