Olivia Bejarano has spent all of her life in a white house in the town of Guadalupe, nestled between Tempe and Interstate 10.
More than 60 years old, the graying house on South Calle Vano Nawi that her parents bought for just $250 holds memories for four generations of her family.
On Monday, Bejarano and a group of volunteers began tearing it apart. With flourish.
Wood groaned and creaked as Bejarano ripped the staircase from the backside of the house. She was cheered on by claps and shouts from volunteers of the town’s YouthBuild organization and Arizona State University.
Together, the organization and ASU’s Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family are building Bejarano and her husband, Aurelio, “Willy,” a new home. It will be energy-efficient.
When Bejarano learned about the Stardust Center’s housing program for lowincome families, she applied, uncertain whether her home was a good candidate.
She said it was in desperate need of repair. She was afraid her husband, who suffered a stroke a year ago, would hurt himself in the structure, which started out as a two-room house and grew into several rooms with a second story. Her father had added to it over the years with wood collected from a nearby lumberyard.
Bejarano, now in her 50s, is ready for a change. She recently obtained a $105,000 loan for the home.
The new design — similar to traditional Southwesternstyle homes — will save the Bejaranos thousands of dollars in utility costs, promised Daniel Glenn, design director for the ASU center.
He pointed to drawings that show it will be built with energy-efficient materials, such as Navajo Flexcrete — an aerated concrete ideal for the desert climate.
Solar panels will help power the home, while an alternative-energy air conditioner cools the house using water, instead of the chemical freon. Ponderosa pine beams will stretch across the ceiling of the dining room area. A courtyard with a fountain will keep the house cool, drawing in cooler air from outside the home to push out hot air.
The design also incorporates pieces from the Bejaranos’ old home, helping to save money on project materials. And the Bejaranos can build on top of the home and add rooms to it because of its simple boxy style.
All of the labor is donated, and so is the design. ASU will monitor the home’s performance, collecting data for further research.
Gail Acosta, in charge of Guadalupe’s housing programs, said the Bejarano project is being closely monitored by YouthBuild as a potential model for future projects.