Navajo Tribal Utility Authority's Office Blends Tubelite Systems with Culturally Inspired Design
July 27, 2020
The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority was established in 1959 to address the absence of utilities on the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, which extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. After 60 years, the NTUA has grown into the largest multi-utility enterprise owned and operated by an American Indian tribe.
The NTUA's new headquarters brings together administrative departments within its 80,000-square-foot offices located in Fort Defiance, Arizona. Dyron Murphy Architects, a Native-American owned business, said its design was inspired by Navajo cultural elements. Traditional building materials are complemented by modern, high-performance, aluminum-framed curtainwall, storefront and entrance systems manufactured by Tubelite Inc. and installed by Southwest Glass & Glazing.
The project broke ground in 2017 with a ceremonial blessing of the site, emphasizing the importance of the project's connection to the local community and Navajo culture. Construction was led by Flintco and was substantially completed in August 2018. Aligned with energy-efficient practices, sustainable features are incorporated throughout the building.
"The physical environments of indigenous communities tend to be harsher than an established metropolis or city might be," says Dyron Murphy. "When rural communities are involved, the environment takes over as a very important factor. If a building is not designed with environmental factors in mind, it might not perform well in the future against winds, rain, heat, cold, etc. A great deal of thought has to go into how the facility or the construction of the buildings is going to stand up over time in local climatic conditions."
Meeting the NTUA's unique project performance requirements, Tubelite provided its T24650 Series Thermal Storefront and its 400SS Screw Spline Thermal Curtainwall. These high-performance, thermal systems are engineered to support today's stringent energy codes. Even in extreme climates, these products provide superior energy and condensation resistance, while delivering structural integrity and aesthetic flexibility.
Optimizing thermal performance helps lower the load on HVAC systems and reduce associated energy costs, while keeping occupants productive at a comfortable interior temperature. Reducing condensation can improve a building's appearance, sanitation and indoor air quality, which contributes to minimal maintenance and better occupant health.
The curtain wall and storefront systems' lattice pattern of aluminum framework enhances the building's appearance. Presenting a clean, modern exterior façade, Linetec finished the aluminum framing members in Class I Clear anodized to highlight the natural metallic appearance.
Helping meet stricter energy codes, the high-performance, gray-tinted glass also reduces reflectivity and glare, and lowers the solar heat gain coefficient by 20 percent compared with coated clear glass. The decorative spandrel glass features a custom Burning Tomato color coating.
Bold red and blue accents on the building also are reminiscent of the NTUA's brand identity. Dyron Murphy Architects says, "A color palette of earth tones, drawn from the surrounding geography, seamlessly integrates the building into the natural environment."
In addition to the building's colorful, contemporary glass and metal exterior, Dyron Murphy Architects noted that the wood, stone and clay plaster materials used throughout the building emulate a Navajo Hogan. These traditional dwellings currently represent approximately 25 percent of the homes of the Navajo Nation. "Traditional forms and colors throughout the interior become important design elements that weave together the various departments within the building."
A new customer service call center within the complex also enhances the services provided by the NTUA. A new cafeteria, kitchen and conference center serves employees, as well as being available for the community's use. A training field and fleet vehicle parking has been included within the site development.
"The space planning and interior layout fosters human interaction and collaboration between departments that would otherwise function independently," says Dyron Murphy Architects. "Open spaces and meeting rooms are strategically placed at centralized locations to equalize access. Dedicated areas within each department provide space for focused work."
Self-sustaining and not-for-profit, it is organized for the operation, maintenance and expansion of electric, communications, natural gas, water, wastewater and generation, including photovoltaic services for the Navajo people at a low and reasonable cost.
In addition to providing multi-utility services, other objectives of the NTUA are to promote employment opportunities on the Navajo Nation, and to improve the health and welfare of the 186,500 residents of the Navajo Nation, while raising the standard of life.