Pueblo of Picuris - 1995 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Pueblo of Picuris
Location: Peñasco, NM
Project Title: Picuris Community Multi-Purpose Center "Tol-Pit-Tah" The Sun Center
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-FG48-95R810571
Project Amounts:
DOE: $129,197
Awardee: $27,299
Total: $156,496
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 1995
End: September 1997

Project Description


A desire to combine traditional tribal architecture with contemporary energy efficiency features led the 750-year-old Picuris Pueblo of northern New Mexico to undertake an energy study for their new community center building. A Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant is funding the basic building, and the Title XXVI grant is paying for an energy study and selected energy-saving hardware. The project's first phase, 10,000 square feet of new construction, will contain a multi-purpose gymnasium and associated facilities.

Phase II will increase the facility to 19,000 square feet and add space for daycare, classrooms, administrative offices, and an arts and crafts shop. The basically round building will obtain passive heat through a long south facade, and an 80-by-4 foot clerestory window will supply daylight for the gym and locker room. This will be supplemented by dimmable fluorescent lighting controlled by a light sensor. Current plans call for a passive solar hot water system using two 40-gallon tanks, which will be covered with a selective coating and mounted in a clerestory space to function as a pre-heater for the gas hot water heater. Additional features to be studied include: (1) solar hot water system with heat exchange in the slab; (2) ventilation heat recovery; (3) compact fluorescent lights; (4) increased insulation in ceiling, walls, and foundation; (5) low-emittance window coatings; (6) occupancy sensors, timers, and light level management. The tribe plans to use locally manufactured adobe for the structure as much as possible, in order to provide employment for tribal members.

The background photo shows the Picuris Pueblo mission church, which has just been restored by the Pueblo residents.  Two insets show  the south fa├žade of the community center, with the clerestory windows and passive solar water heater glass cover; and two members of the Pueblo standing in front of the large clerestory window.

The Picuris Pueblo of northern New Mexico received a HUD grant to build a multi-purpose community center, and a DOE Title XXVI grant to carry out an energy study and purchase selected energy-saving features for the building. The center features clerestory windows for daylighting, dimmable lighting controlled by a light sensor, and a passive solar water pre-heater.

Goals and Objectives

Energy enhancements to the facility will capture the solar resource of the region and retain heat through energy efficiency. The current design of the facility meets the minimum American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) requirements for energy efficiency, as well as HUD standards. It is the intention of the tribe to construct the most energy-efficient facility possible, incorporating passive solar design and active solar technologies.

The Picuris Tohl Pit Tah will not only be an energy-efficient structure, but a showcase example and educational tool for both energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. This center will serve as a model for the Picuris Pueblo through the incorporation of solar energy and maximum energy efficient design. This development will take tribal members one step closer to achieving economic self-sufficiency.

The reduced energy costs to operate the facility will have added benefit of keeping more money in the local economy rather than to purchase fuel and electricity from out-of-state sources. Furthermore, the energy-efficient facility will minimize the impact on the local environment.

Project Actions and Resultant Data

The Picuris Community Center was designed and built to take full advantage of the renewable energy resources of the region and utilize appropriate energy efficient technologies. Specifically, the center will use both passive and active solar designs for heating and lighting, as well as such energy-efficient measures as increased levels of insulation and energy efficient lighting. The solar-designed community center, located on the Picuris Pueblo, has been given the name Tohl-Pit-Tah, or the Sun Center, to reflect its focus on solar energy and community.

There are several specific needs of the Picuris and the New Mexico Pueblos that will be addressed during this project. The primary need is to provide and construct a model building that will demonstrate to financing organizations the business case for financing energy-efficient and solar designs. Many of the common buildings on the Picuris Pueblo and Pueblos throughout the Southwest are funded through federal HUD financing or state grants. Much of this financing places restrictions on how the money is used and many projects result in poorly designed structures that are hard to maintain and costly to operate. The Picuris and other Pueblos need to demonstrate to financing organizations the low-cost ability and cost-effectiveness of appropriate solar design and use of energy efficient construction and technologies. It is hoped that this project will jump start this awareness with financing organizations.

The second, more direct, need is to provide the Picuris Pueblo with an easy-to-maintain and low-operating-cost community center. Thirdly, use of natural resources, such as the sun, in building design is typically a low priority when designing modern buildings. The Anastasis paid more attention to the effects of sun, wind, and earth on their living space than modern day architects. The use of modern conveniences such as gas and electricity has replaced energy conscious design. Still, the objective is to demonstrate cost-effective energy features. The objective is not to implement solar designs at all cost. If it is cheaper to burn gas instead of installing a solar hot water heater over the life of the system then gas it will be.

The project was divided into four task areas: 1) work plan 2) feasibility analysis and resource assessment, 3) project demonstrations and performance measurement, and 4) community value-added programs. Each stage was further divided into subtasks as indicated below.

Task 2: Feasibility Analysis and Resource Assessment

  • 2.1 Development of design and technology alternatives for the community center.
  • 2.2 Estimation of costs for the alternative design configurations and features.
  • 2.3 Modeling alternatives in terms of their energy efficiency and cost effectiveness.
  • 2.4 Measuring and assessing the solar resource at the proposed site.
  • 2.5 Receiving input and approval from Pueblo members.
  • 2.6 Preparing design specifications and materials and equipment lists for the approved enhancements.

Task 3: Project Demonstration and Performance Measurement

  • 3.1 Procuring the energy-efficient technologies and solar-energy systems.
  • 3.2 Installing the systems using Pueblo labor and services where possible.
  • 3.3 Training operations, maintenance, and engineering personnel in the operation and maintenance of the community center.
  • 3.4 Monitoring and evaluating the performance of the energy-efficiency and solar-energy system through the energy management system.
  • 3.5 Developing system operational and performance summaries for the first year of operation.

Task 4: Community Value-Added Programs

  • 4.1 Developing programs to demonstrate the operation of the community center.
  • 4.2 Conducting tours for the Pueblo and educational programs that emphasize energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Results, Conclusions, Findings, and Recommendations

The multi-purpose community center enhances current solar designs to create a structure that is energy efficient and less expensive to operate. Features include a solar hot water system and ventilation heat recovery; daylighting (clerestory windows); high-intensity discharge lights; low flow showerheads; higher R-values in ceiling, walls, and foundation. Two maintenance technicians were trained in the operation and maintenance of the facility. One tribal member remains on staff as maintenance and engineering personnel.

Ground breaking ceremonies took place on April 15, 1996, and dedication ceremonies for Phase I of the multi-purpose community center took place on May 4, 1997. Tours were given of the facility, and it is open to the public for viewing. The Pueblo demonstrated its solar building as a model for the other tribes and Pueblos throughout the Southwest. Information and demonstration designs influence the design of homes, municipal buildings, and other structures throughout the Pueblo system.

Total construction took 11 months. The building is 9,050 square feet, which includes men's and women's bathroom with handicapped access; concession area with an electric range and refrigerator; office space for the youth coordinator, maintenance technician, and the ticketmaster. The gymnasium is equipped with two basketball goals on a full court, bleachers that seat 200 people, and scoreboard.

The Pueblo construction liaison, who was hired by the tribe, was able to maintain the project as scheduled. An interim planning director was hired, and by June the tribe had a permanent individual in place as planning director.

The Pueblo ran into a problem with the construction of the solar portion of the building. The blueprints did not specify that ducts were to be installed for warm air to circulate up to the solar water tanks. Therefore, these are suspended above the concession area.

The community center, located on the Picuris Pueblo, has been given the name Tol-Pit-Tah (The Sun Center), to reflect its focus on solar energy and community. The first phase of the project was built to enhance the current designs to create a structure that is energy efficient and less expensive to operate. The clerestory windows make it possible to hold activities in the gymnasium without the use of lights, which therefore cuts the cost of electricity. Energy enhancements capture the solar resource of the region and retain heat through energy efficiency. It was the intention of the tribe to construct the most energy-efficient facility possible, incorporating passive solar design and active solar technologies.

The gym meets an essential need for space to provide programs and activities that are critical to the continued existence of cultural traditions and practices as well as to the social development of the community. The gymnasium and indoor recreation is the primary new service for the Pueblo's community. Dances for the community and teens, planned educational training, exercise programs, community-wide workshops, and large social gatherings are taking place.

The Pueblo of Picuris will start construction on Phase II, a holistic healing room, in the spring of 1998. This proposed project is the second phase of a planned five-phase development of community facilities for Picuris Pueblo. The Tol-Pit-Tah Community Center has been designed so that each component can host distinct activities and services. When complete, the entire project will be a harmonious circular series of buildings surrounding the central gymnasium and meeting center built as Phase I.

Project Status

For current project status or additional information, contact the project contacts.

Project Contact

Picuris Pueblo
PO Box 127
Peñasco, NM 87553