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Emily Niehaus is the founder of Community Rebuilds. The organization began in the mid-2000s when founder Emily Niehaus, a loan officer at the time, realized that there was a lack of affordable housing in the Moab community. Many of the neighborhoods supplying “affordable” homes were comprised largely of manufactured housing, or trailer homes, built prior to modern building codes. Not only are these homes no longer financeable, they are also poorly insulated and induce high energy bills. With a lack of quality housing options available to the Moab workforce, replacing trailer homes with modest, natural, energy-efficient homes seemed like the logical solution.


Community Rebuilds' first straw bale home, completed in 2010. Photo of the pre-existing trailer home in the foreground.


Emily was interested in straw bale building because of its simplicity, beauty, and low-carbon impact. The main difficulties with this building typology are the labor intensity it demands and the lack of straw bale building expertise in the construction realm. The answer: create a natural building internship program that sources volunteer labor. Most courses or workshops offered on natural building are extremely costly, thus creating a barrier for people to enter the field. Community Rebuilds provides the opportunity to learn these skills while supplying a free construction crew for the build, making straw bale building possible and our homes more affordable!


  • Community Rebuilds launched in Moab, building our pilot home in 2010.

  • After five successful builds in Moab, the program expanded in 2013 to Gunnison County, CO to assist more families struggling to find affordable housing in a tourism-based economy.

  • In 2015 Community Rebuilds expanded our model again through a partnership with Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture, to support them in replicating the student education program on the Hopi Reservation and build homes for low- and very-low-income families.

  • In the fall of 2018, our program expanded yet again to build a home in Bluff, Utah.

  • Lead by intern alumni, CR constructed a 2-story straw bale bunkhouse to house current interns in Moab.

  • Community Rebuilds registered to build the first fully certified Living Buildings in Utah.

  • In 2020, we finished construction on our four Living Building homes and began the performance period in 2021.

  • Community Rebuilds began working with the Moab Area Community Land Trust to construct 12 homes at the Land Trust’s Arroyo Crossing development.

  • We have set a new goal of constructing 12 homes annually.

  • Community Rebuilds’ four Living Building homes will be fully certified by 2022.




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