DIY Trombe Wall Made From River Rock and Wire

designbuildbluff trombe wall photo
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Images credit DesignBuildBLUFF

While researching The Trombe Wall: Low Tech Solar Design Makes A Comeback I stumbled over the work of DesignBuildBLUFF, the principal mission of which is to "design and build safe, sustainable off-grid homes for needy families living on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in the four corners region located just outside of Bluff, UT. "

The Dora and Baxter Benally home employs hand-made earthen brick, cork, and a river rock passive solar trombe wall.

designbuildbluff house photo

First year graduate students at the College of Architecture + Planning, the University of Utah design and build the homes. In their entry for the GreenDot Awards, they write:

We use what we have on-hand: the sandy desert earth. Rammed earth, earthen plaster, and adobe-like bricks are plentiful when hand-formed from the dirt. We salvage materials from the surrounding land and river bed: river rock to form gabion cages, floors and walls, and reed to cover doors and ceilings. We raid local dumpsites for tires and discarded construction materials; anything that can be put to use in our homes as supporting beams (logs, steel bars, scrap metal) or retaining walls (tires, corrugated steel pieces, gravel). As many recycled, reclaimed and donated materials as possible are used, including reject windows and doors and any other materials that for one reason or another, could not be used for its original purpose (one home is surrounded in beautiful and solar-friendly glass-a pool enclosure project gone south). To complete, we incorporate Photo-voltaic panels and rainwater reclamation roofs. Our processes have minimal impact on the environment, while still providing viable, sustainable structures.
designbuildbluff trombe wall photo

Wow. The last trombe wall we showed was made of concrete and slate; This is nothing more than a gabion of wood and wire mesh, filled with river rock. But it does the same thing, creating a thermal mass that absorbs heat all day and releases it at night.