Historic Native American Architecture Successful with SIPs

By Premier SIPS on October 26, 2012 in Building Envelope, Native American, Schools

Zuni Christian Mission School Dedication

Last month, students, staff and the Zuni Pueblo community in northwestern New Mexico dedicated the new Zuni Christian Mission School that we had the pleasure to work on.  Before giving background on the project, I want to start off by sharing the letter we received after the dedication from one of the Architect’s on the project, Larry Hibbard of Hibbard Architecture & Planning.


“I don’t know if you have had any communication with the Zuni Missions School project that you helped with, but the following  is part of a letter I just received.  I thought that you would be interested, especially after the contractor, Rick Murphy agreed to use the panels very reluctantly.
“YOUR building is truly amazing!  High quality…low profile (despite the 7 feet of elevation gain)…inviting feel…highly functional…very “Zuni”.   We were extremely pleased that Kathy Bosscher (at the dedication event…attended by 200-300 people) specifically acknowledged you by name and emphasized the critical role you played in making the project possible.  Interestingly, we had a very brief meeting of the capital campaign “committee” with the folks from Van Lunen and Devos Foundations at the meeting, the “replacement” architect indicated just how pleased/impressed he has been by the use of the SIPs panels even though he was extremely skeptical at the outset about them.  He noted that they were so effective throughout the winter in keep the building warm and keeping the building cool throughout the summer during interior construction.  He (and Murphy) were so impressed that they fully intend to use them in the construction of the ministry center and in the on-site residences.  
I attached one picture that I took during the weekend celebration (of the library fireplace).  Kathy confided to us that Rick badgered her several times about the advisability of the fireplace space and his desire to cut it out of the design when it was determined that some costs needed to be cut in the total project…but Kathy was so captivated by the concept that she insisted to keep it in the plan…so it stayed.  In fact, one of the very first celebration events was an evening story-telling presentation by a noted literary author about the history of the mission and which was conducted with 50 people clustered around the fireplace.  What a piece of architectural genius!  And the whole building design seemed to follow suit.
Since separating myself from the project, I have had no official connection with the construction, but have gotten reports from time to time from people on the fringes of the project.  There were a number of things that were changed for various reasons, that would have made it more authentic and efficient.   They had their dedication last week-end and the letter I got was from a person who attended the dedication.”

Zuni Christian Mission School, SIP Wall Installation


The new Zuni Christian Mission School is an environmental friendly facility that replaces portable buildings that have been used since a fire destroyed the school more than forty years ago.  With twice the space, the 18,000 square-foot two-story pueblo-style building used Premier structural insulated panels (SIPS) in place on conventional wood framing to reduce air leakage and heat loss.  Heating the entire building will cost less than what was spent to warm the portable classrooms.  Other green features include solar water heating, interior lighting with natural sunlight and rainwater collection from the roof.

And it doesn’t end there for the new Zuni!  Construction is just about to start on housing for the staff of school and church and the GYM/Sanctuary/Family Life Center.  We are very excited to be part of this ongoing project.

“New Mexico’s high-elevation desert climate with its extreme temperature swings throughout the day and across the seasons makes it essential to have a tight building shell to achieve energy efficiency,” says architect Larry Hibbard. “It was an important criteria of the school’s building committee to minimize energy costs, use resources responsibly, conserve water, and remain true to the Zuni Indians’ pueblo design and environmental values, while still staying within a limited budget. The structural insulated panels combined with the steel frame construction provide a creative way to meet these goals. In addition, the system is not weather dependent and can be erected and enclosed in a minimal amount of time.”


Zuni Christian Mission School, SIP Wall Installation



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