Writer: Billy Huntsman
A student organization at New Mexico State University is currently involved in helping a nonprofit real-estate developer construct a sustainable housing community for homeless veterans in Alamogordo.
The students and faculty advisers in Aggies Without Limits, formerly Engineering Without Boundaries, spent their summer helping the nonprofit Fox Hole Homes build the prototype the rest of the community will be modeled after.
“Sustainable housing means tiny homes,” said Kenny Stevens, AWL faculty adviser and professor in the Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering Department, “in the 120-to-150-square-foot range and made out of as many recycled materials as possible, and if not recycled materials, then materials that are available locally.”
The sustainable-housing model being used in Alamogordo is based off the ‘earth ships’ in Taos County, Stevens said.
“Earth ships are built using recycled materials, the walls are made out of tires filled with rammed earth,” Stevens said.
Fox Hole Homes has purchased a 160-acre parcel of land in Alamogordo, Stevens said. The sustainable-housing community will be built on this land, and each homeless vet, a goal of 120 total, will receive his or her own house.
The community aspect is as important as the houses themselves, Stevens said.
“You can’t address homelessness just by providing more homes,” Stevens said. “That doesn’t work. You need to create a community.”
AWL got involved with Fox Hole Homes in spring 2016 through the rotary club in Alamogordo, Stevens said.
“Word got to Fox Hole Homes that there was a student group on campus that did construction, design, moving activities – that we provide workers and money through fundraising activities,” Stevens said.
At the same time, AWL had two other projects to decide from to spend the summer working on: building a bridge in Nicaragua, or building a school in Mexico, Stevens said.
“The students decided, ‘Let’s stay local,’” Stevens said.
Victor Meraz is president of AWL.
“The reason we’re all involved with AWL is to give back and help our local communities,” he said.
Among the contributions AWL has made to the project so far include helping to design blueprints, compacting earth and making adobe, and constructing walls to test the feasibility of using nontraditional building materials.
Stevens said three to four senior students in AWL will perform their senior projects while on-site.
“They’re going to come up with ideas to improve heating and cooling and water supply and distribution for Fox Hole Homes,” Stevens said.
Fox Hole Homes and AWL are currently awaiting approval from the state regarding the construction of the prototype. Stevens said approval is expected to come by spring 2017, when construction on the full community will begin.