DesignBuildBLUFF Announces Completion of New Sustainable Home for Navajo Poet

University of Colorado students design and build home on Navajo Nation

BLUFF, Utah, Sept. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- For 12 years DesignBuildBLUFF has given students the opportunity to design and build a sustainable home for a deserving family living on the Navajo Nation reservation in Bluff, Utah. Today we are pleased to announce the completion of our latest home.


The Nakai House was designed and built by eight students from the University of Colorado Denver as part of the year-long DesignBuildBLUFF program.

The Nakai House, built for poet, farmer and entomologist Lorraine Nakai, was inspired by Lorraine's love for both the land and literature. On the outside, a parabolic roof that seems to move with the wind and the surrounding dunes rises above a rainscreen made from reclaimed spandrel glass that reflects the desert landscape. Vertical tongue-and-groove cedar, burnt to a charcoal finish, wraps the house above the band of glass and abuts to the knife-edge overhang of the Corten steel roof.

Inside, the house is divided by a large bookshelf running the length of the home, separating an open space for entertaining visitors and working from Lorraine's more private living spaces. A ribbon window next to the kitchen table frames the nearby Cedar Mesa perfectly, while a window seat projects outward beneath the shade of a tree, providing Lorraine with many places to read, write and be inspired.  

The project began last spring when DesignBuildBLUFF partnered with the Navajo Nation to choose a deserving family who wished for a home incorporating innovative sustainable design. The students then worked throughout the summer on the design phase at the University of Denver. Once Lorraine and the team agreed on a final design, the students left the comfort of the university and relocated to Bluff to build the house themselves.

The project was overseen by Hank Louis, architect and DesignBuildBLUFF founder, Rick Sommerfeld, Associate Chair and Senior Instructor at the University of Colorado's College of Architecture and Planning, and Andrew Foster, Chief Operations Officer and site foreman. Although they assisted and instructed throughout creation and construction, the lion's share of the design and labor was completed by the students, who live together in Bluff for the semester and are required to commit to the completion of the project.

The Nakai house completed construction in five months and was the first DesignBuildBLUFF project to end the semester with the lights on. With its location hundreds of miles from civilization, the DesignBuildBLUFF construction process is often as unpredictable as the weather in the Desert Southwest. The student project team successfully navigated all obstacles along the way, resulting in a home that reflects the very landscape it resides within.

DESIGNERS: Students of DesignBuildBLUFF Studio / University of Colorado, Denver
BUDGET: $25,000
CLIENT: Lorraine Nakai
PHOTOGRAPHER: Scot Zimmerman
AWARDS: 2012 AIA Colorado Young Architects Awards- People's Choice and Honorable Mention, Built Architecture


DesignBuildBLUFF is a non-profit organization that builds environmentally sustainable homes in the Navajo Nation. Our work introduces first-year graduate students in architecture to the culture and history of Utah's desert southeast, where they design, and ultimately build a home for a Navajo Family. The program exposes and encourages students to study the social implications of architecture, the appropriateness of alternative building methods, recycled materials, unknown and untried innovative solutions, and to soak up the knowledge, wisdom and motivation of visiting professionals. Our projects incorporate salvaged and found materials, modern technologies, and traditional building methods. With a focus on physically building the homes they design and integrating sustainability into every facet of the project, our vision is to not just build a home for a family in need, but to build the architects the future deserves. Learn more at

Media Contact: Whalen Louis DesignBuildBLUFF, 435.901.1533,

News distributed by PR Newswire iReach:




Alternative Energies, Green Technology, Construction & Building, Education, Environmental Products & Services, Higher Education, Aboriginal, First Nations & Native American

Need Help