Sample Entries: Sample 8

Judging

Photo of kids swimmingSample 8

Rez Protectors: Solving the Housing Problem

Coach: Jack Joyce
Community: Crow Agency, Montana
Status Achieved: Finalist and Columbus Foundation Community Grant Winner

Section 1: The Issue

The Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, home to the team members, has a housing problem. Many of the homes on the reservation are old, difficult to heat and not energy-efficient. In some cases, 10 to 12 people are crammed into a single, two-bedroom home. Other families have no homes at all. Because it can take up to 10 years for a new home to be built, many residents are moving out of the community. Meanwhile, piles of straw left from wheat farming are left to rot.

Section 2: Research

The team researched the history and benefits of straw housing on the Internet. For information on building straw houses, the team contacted Red Feather, an organization that helps solve Native American housing problems and that had already built one straw house on the reservation. Lastly, the team gathered opinions on straw housing from residents of the reservation. While some people had doubts, many others felt that straw homes could be an inexpensive but reliable source of housing.

Section 3: Testing

To test the durability of a straw house, the team built a straw wall. They securely wrapped a single bale of straw with wire and coated it with stucco. A cloth was placed inside the bale to test for moisture. The straw wall was allowed to dry for three days. The team then used a propane torch to test the wall's fire resistance. The wall did not catch fire despite being exposed to the flame for 30 minutes. Next, the team tested the wall's heat transfer properties by heating the wall to the boiling point on one side and checking the temperature on the other side. The temperature on the non-heated side remained the same, demonstrating that a straw house is capable of retaining heat in the winter and keeping heat out in the summer. Finally, the team ran a hose on the wall for two hours — the equivalent of 8 inches of rain. They then cracked the stucco, cut the wires and removed the cloth from inside the straw bale. Both the straw and the cloth were completely dry, proving that a straw house can withstand weather-related moisture.

Section 4: The Solution

Properly built straw homes are a safe, efficient and affordable source of housing. The team felt that by building a large straw structure on the reservation as a model for residents to tour, it would encourage the community to consider straw homes as a solution to its housing crises.

Visual Presentation:

Photographic series.

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