These housing prototypes and building components grew out of a participatory design process with Navajo communities in the American Southwest. Facilitated by Indigenous Community Enterprises (I.C.E., a Navajo non-profit) and design director Nathaniel Corum, this collaboration with Navajo elders and other tribal members produced a range of culturally-appropriate home designs. Each prototype home features an octagonal hogan - a traditional form adapted to contemporary circumstances according to the desires and traditions of Dine (Navajo) elders - and materials that are native to place. For example, small diameter timbers stem from tribal forestry restoration. Concrete products and other materials come from Navajo sources, and wheat straw bales are from Navajo Agricultural Products Industry fields.
The barrier-free floor plan, comprised of a concentrated wet core within an insulating straw bale envelope, allows for an efficient layout within a small footprint. This system can scale up or down, orient to solar and wind patterns for passive heating and cooling, and be partitioned flexibly in order to adapt to changing inhabitant needs.
Straw bale construction is amenable to community and volunteer participation. The material is a non-toxic and readily available agricultural by-product, and acts as a super-insulating envelope to give comfort, beauty and efficiency in colder climes. In this load-bearing example the straw bale walls serve as both structure and insulation.