started as a six-week project for engineering freshmen is helping
to create culturally sensitive and energy-efficient housing for
a small California Indian tribe.
yurt-style house design conceived in last springs E10, Engineering
Design and Analysis, was used as the base concept for several successful
housing grant applications by members of the Pinoleville Pomo Nation
(PPN), who will use the funds to build up to 26 new homes in the
Mendocino County community of Ukiah, California.
an acute need for housing here, says David Edmunds, environmental
director for the tribe, which has about 300 members scattered throughout
northern California. Housing is considered a linchpin for
a lot of things the tribe wants to accomplish.
is also important to tribal members, and this spring new teams of
E10 students are investigating the possibility of retrofitting existing
Pomo homes with solar hot water heaters, photovoltaic systems and
other energy-efficient improvements.
collaboration started last year when Edmunds and tribal representative
Linda Noel approached a Native American student group at UC Berkeley
for help. Their request found its way to mechanical engineering
professor Alice Agogino, who teaches an E10 section on human-centered
and sustainable design.
students, co-advised by graduate student instructor Ryan Shelby,
eagerly accepted the challenge. They made the 115-mile trip to Ukiah
for a day-long fact-finding meeting with 20 tribe members to solicit
input on the communitys needs. That kind of exchange is precisely
the idea behind human-centered design, Agogino says. Tribal
members know more about their needs than we do.
new design features a large communal kitchen and living room to
accommodate extended families and tribal gatherings, with five small
attached units that can be used for bedrooms and storage. The first
home, now under construction, incorporates sustainable features
like rainwater capture systems, passive heating and cooling systems
and plenty of natural lighting.
resembles our traditional roundhouse, says tribal Vice Chair
Angela James, and would strengthen our community, not only
economically, but traditionally. Centralized housing, the
tribe hopes, will unify the Pinoleville Pomo and help members take
advantage of job training and other services. Sponsoring the overall
effort is CARES (Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability),
a student-run community outreach program.
a real-world project that is going to directly impact the lives
of people, says Shelby, a third-year Alfred P. Sloan Ph.D.
student in mechanical engineering and CARES cofounder. Along with
supervising the students, Shelby is incorporating the work into
his doctoral research on sustainability and alternative energy.