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Exousia partners with Native businesses to improve housing.

Structural Insulated Panels could help meet demand

Babette Herrmann -- Today correspondent

SUGAR LAND, Texas - As the technology of building homes and commercial buildings grows, so does the demand for environmentally friendly materials. Structural Insulated Panels, used in place of 2-by-4 and 2-by-6 dimension lumber, meet this calling. For starters, these custom-made panels dramatically cut down on construction debris.

This technology could be the solution to meeting the housing shortage on American Indian reservations if Exousia Advanced Materials Inc. has its way.

Exousia CEO Wayne Rodrigue said that the goal is to mass-produce the SIPs to keep the costs down. Costs are also reduced because it only takes about one week to construct the airtight SIP framing.

;'We do not reduce quality by being quicker,'' he said. ''We get quality, affordability and speed, and that is what Indian country has to have.''

In its search to partner with certified 8(a) companies, Exousia decided to work with Native-owned entities thanks to a recommendation from the Department of Commerce.

The first company it teamed up with was Nu'Eta Nation Tribal Builders, owned by the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota.

''Right now it's a teaming agreement with [Exousia], which means we're able to go after the 8(a) contracts through the government,'' said Nu'Eta CEO Daylon Spotted Bear.

Nu'Eta builds modular homes and offices on the reservation. Spotted Bear said that SIP panels are easy to ship and construct, and would sizably reduce the costs of construction

and transportation of traditional modular homes.

Exousia has partnered with the firm R-Control to manufacturer its SIPs. Reports state that SIPs are extremely energy efficient, saving up to 50 - 70 percent on energy costs.

''A typical home will lose 127 cubic feet of air per minute, said Elorian Landers, senior vice president of corporate development for Exousia. ''A SIPs house only loses nine cubic feet.''

Aside from the energy savings, the advantages of using SIPs for housing construction are numerous. They could be used for the construction of the walls, roofs and floors. Inside the wood facings are composite materials consisting of expanded polystyrene insulation sandwiched between sheets of structural sheathing.

The materials used to make the SIPs are environmentally friendly, producing far less carbon monoxide when compared to traditional housing.

In July, Exousia entered into an agreement with Cangleska Inc. to provide the SIPs for new construction. Cangleska is a nonprofit organization serving battered women and children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and in Kyle and Rapid City, S.D.

The new buildings on Pine Ridge include a men's resource center and a new administration building combined with a day care center. In Rapid City there are plans for five new buildings, including an administration complex, halfway house and counseling center.

Landers said that when these buildings are completed, he encourages tribal housing authorities from abroad to visit these sites to see the high quality of SIPs construction.

Ben Artichoker, finance officer of Cangleska, also operates Waeagle Construction with his partner, Butch Mousseau, to handle tribal building projects. In an effort to spread their wings and provide for housing needs on the reservation, they currently are awaiting approval on a bid from the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority to build 18 Housing and Urban Development homes made from SIPs.

''We're really excited about this relationship and about this construction,'' Artichoker said. ''With energy prices the way they are, it just makes sense to use SIPs.''

According to reports, more than 3,000 families on Pine Ridge are in need of housing, and 1,700 existing homes are in need of extensive repairs.

Mousseau said that the lack of adequate housing on the reservation has led to many of its social ills. Families are often forced to live in a small home with extended family, which raises tensions and leads to violence. He added that children living in a large household are often unable to concentrate on their homework.

''There are a lot of things that can happen when you put a lot of people into one home,'' he said. ''We are trying to make decisions that will benefit our grandchildren.''

In August, Artichoker and Mousseau, both Oglala Lakota, attended the United Native American Housing Association quarterly meeting and shared SIPs technology and their solutions to tribal housing shortages. Landers and Rodriguez were there to offer their support for the duo.

''The task now is to cut through the bureaucracy,'' Landers said. ''The interest in it is over the top.''

For more information, visit www.exousiacorp.com.