Turtle Mountain Environmental Research Center
“The United States Government has condemned over 200 Indian homes on this reservation due to black mold infestation. Currently it is very common to find two or three families living in a two-bedroom housing unit … the people are ready for a change … The straw bale design is an opportunity to develop, efficient housing for the residents of the Turtle Mountain Reservation.”
— Richard Monette, Tribal Chairman, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
In the Turtle Mountain community of North Dakota more than 1,000 homes were already urgently needed when several hundred homes were recently condemned. In response to this shortage, the Environmental Research Center at Turtle Mountain Community College was designed as both a learning laboratory and a model for future home construction. The project features straw bale construction, which is an affordable and energy-efficient housing solution especially when built with a frost-protected shallow foundation. As an additional benefit, the building was constructed with community involvement, transferring straw bale construction skills to tribal members.
Designed through a participatory charette process, the building demonstrates the use of low-impact (on both health and environment) products, passive and active solar power, radiant heating, evaporative cooling, post-agricultural building materials, rainwater collection, within a barrier-free, culturally appropriate design informed by tribal college and community members.
The Environmental Research Center was constructed by Red Feather Development Group staff and volunteers together with Turtle Mountain community members and tribal college students.