High-Efficiency Housing at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation: Opportunities and Lessons Learned

Lars Lisell, Jal Desai, Jesse Dean, Tim Rehder

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This project was initiated to provide design assistance in an effort to maximize energy performance for affordable housing at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation near Poplar, Montana. The Make It Right Foundation (MIRF) built 20 high performing homes (LEED Platinum) in 2015 and 2016 with three (3) different design options. NREL and EPA set out to provide energy analysis along with measurement and verification (M and V) of the homes to characterize energy use and provide clarity for future decision making with regard to tribal housing options. The results included herein summarize the energy end uses and documents projected energy impacts from various aspects of the MIRF home designs and construction. This report includes an analysis of energy use in 5 MIRF homes, comparing energy use across the different styles and configurations. Energy models were created for the 2 styles of MIRF homes, including renewable energy assessment for photovoltaic (PV) systems. Existing tribal housing has also been analyzed, with 5 housing units being analyzed for energy use and an energy model being created for 1 housing unit. The findings of this study highlight many of the challenges that arise when attempting to construct high performance housing in a region where such construction practices are still relatively rare. Homes in Poplar are well designed and, for the most part, and include climate specific design considerations appropriate for northeastern Montana. The most significant issues identified in MIRF homes were related to the work done to put the homes on the foundation, insulate the crawlspaces, and do final connection with the utilities. The Taxed II Credit homes are well designed and well suited to northeastern Montana, and with slight modifications to the design and construction could be very efficient. All occupant comfort and energy usage issues that were identified during the site visits can be remedied through retrofit measures that are relatively inexpensive. Energy efficiency opportunities were found that can be implemented in each of the homes. These retrofits are generally inexpensive and have a quick return on investment. While the MIRF houses as well as the Taxed II Credit homes can achieve high levels of energy performance with modest retrofits. Similar houses built in the future could achieve even better performance with minor design changes, and generally low incremental cost. Renewable energy systems are economically feasible in this area, but the payback is on the high side of what would likely be acceptable to homeowners. If the price of solar comes down to $2/watt installed, the systems will achieve a simple payback of 13 years, which is likely a return on investment that is attractive to homeowners. If the homes are made sufficiently tight to be high performance, energy recovery ventilators will be necessary to maintain acceptable indoor air quality. The Taxed II Credit homes are already equipped with heat recovery ventilators (HRVs), and they seem to function well. As PV prices continue to decline, start implementing projects as they become cost effective.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages119
StatePublished - 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-7A40-70617


  • eco village
  • high performance housing
  • housing lessons learned
  • Make it Right Foundation
  • Northern Plains
  • tribal housing


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