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How Straw Bales Helped Solve an Indian Reservation’s Desperate Need for Homes

January 31, 2014
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How Straw Bales Helped Solve an Indian Reservation’s Desperate Need for Homes
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A non-profit is working with universities to build much needed energy-efficient homes on the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation.

On South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, 4,000 Oglala Sioux families are in desperate need of homes, and now several groups are working together to solve this problem in an environmentally-friendly way. The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation has teamed up with the University of Colorado’s Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative to build four prototype houses. South Dakota college students are helping to build homes insulated with straw bales or packed-earth blocks, with radiant floor heating that should save its future inhabitants money, as well as a shallow foundation that’s more energy-efficient than the drafty basements usually found on the reservation. They plan to build 100 such homes, and fulfill the families’ energy needs through solar panels and other energy-saving techniques.

Nick Tilsen, the executive director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation told Nate Seltenrich of High Country News, “We’re trying to build a net-zero affordable house. We’re looking for these 34 acres to be almost like a laboratory for Indian Country, for Pine Ridge, and for the country when it comes to sustainable communities.”

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