College students build energy-efficient home on Navajo reservation

It’s not every day that college students get the opportunity to design and build an energy-efficient home, but two young men who enrolled in the engineering program at Southern Utah University (SUU) were fortunate enough to be able to do just that.

John Murray, an associate professor of integrated engineering at SUU​, had been working with an organization called DesignBuildBLUFF (DBB) since 2010. 

“Every year we give architecture students the chance to design and build a sustainable homes on the Navajo reservation,” states the DBB website. “In doing so, we don’t just create a home for a family in need. We create better, more compassionate architects for the betterment of our entire community.”

According to DBB, 40 percent of Native Americans live in overcrowded or dilapidated housing, and this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Murray was contacted by DBB last year to see if he had any students interested in helping to design and build one of those homes. When he informed the individuals in his class, Chris Hoffman and Mark Tervort, two of Murray’s top junior design students, expressed a desire to participate.

Murray, Hoffman and Tervort traveled to Denver to work with architectural graduate students from the University of Colorado on designing a home that would use solar power for cooling and heating. Then they set off for Bluff, Utah, to build it.

Tervort said that the experience helped him complete his graduate requirements and put what he had learned inside the classroom into action.

If you’re interested in making energy-efficient upgrades to your home, you’ll be happy to hear that the state of Maryland’s provides multiple rebate offerings, including those available from Pepco and Potomac Edison, which make the initial implementation more cost-effective.To get started, contact a home inspection contractor to perform an energy audit.