How it all began
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 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 a few 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 the program expanded yet again to build a home in Bluff, Utah and a new 2-story straw bale bunk house for interns in Moab. With partners at Architectural Nexus, Community Rebuilds registered to build the first, fully certified, Living Buildings in Utah. The homes are in the construction phase and nearing completion in Fall 2020.
In response to CoViD-19, we are operating a smaller build crew and implementing safety protocol by limiting the number of volunteers, sanitizing tools regularly, and requiring face masks on the construction site. By the end of 2020, Community Rebuilds will have collaboratively built 43 homes and educated over 300 young professionals!