Plan for environmentally sustainable housing on Pine Ridge reservation a design award finalist



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PINE RIDGE, South Dakota — A plan to build environmentally sustainable housing on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota has been named one of seven finalists for a prestigious design award.

Nick Tilsen's Thunder Valley Regenerative Community Plan was among 450 entries from 93 countries vying for the $100,000 grand prize in the Buckminster Fuller Institute Challenge.

The Thunder Valley Community Development Corp.'s plan is to build homes on the impoverished reservation that will incorporate Lakota culture with large common living areas, and have systems to filter and reuse water and to get energy from rooftop solar panels.

"What we saw in this project was the vision," Sarah Skenazy, a spokeswoman for the New York-based institute, told the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/1qViCuM ). It is "a super-compelling vision that brought the community into the plan and design."

The Buckminster Fuller Institute seeks out creative design solutions to global challenges. It's named for the late architect and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller.

Tilsen's group has a demonstration house under construction, and next spring it hopes to begin constructing the support infrastructure for at least two of 31 future single-family houses and 16 townhomes. The plan also calls for an emergency youth shelter, and a small community and workforce development center.

"As an Indian philosophy, we believe we are stewards of everything around us," said Tilsen, the development corporation's executive director. "We're not really trying to build as many houses as fast as we can."

Tilsen estimates the cost will be at least $10 million, to be paid through loans and state and federal grants. It will be a tall challenge, said Doyle Pipe On Head, a contracts officer with Oglala Sioux Housing.

"The idea of having a planned community, it's great. I like the idea," he said. "But, it's really hard to find new construction money out there."

Design is being handled by students from the University of Colorado and Oglala Lakota College. Tilsen said the corporation hopes to create a worker-owned company to handle construction.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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