Conserving Resources, Protecting Budgets: The EcoHouse Study

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The original EcoHouse prototype, designed for the Arizona climate.

Is it possible to design a highly-efficient, durable, and affordable house in a rural location? All too often, quality of design suffers due to budget constraints, and sustainability becomes an item buried on a long-forgotten wish list. Realizing the need to integrate sustainable initiatives with high-quality housing designs in rural locations, the Dyron Murphy Architects team set out to develop a housing prototype that Native Housing Authorities across the country could adapt to meet their needs. The resulting project was the DMA “EcoHouse”.

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Landscape, Art, and Culture: Inspiring Local Architecture

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The Navajo Nation Division of Transportation Office Complex (NDOT) draws inspiration from natural rock formations in the surrounding landscape as well as from traditional Navajo culture. The complex also integrates work from local artists, strengthening the ties between architecture and community. Continue reading

A School for the Community: Baca Dlo’ay Azhi

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Community, culture and sustainability – our first project celebrating Native American Heritage Month is a true example of how design can be influenced by local culture to produce a beautiful and highly-functional facility. Baca Dlo’ay Azhi Community School in Prewitt, New Mexico was one of the first education projects designed by Dyron Murphy Architects, and it was the first LEED certified building in New Mexico.

From the overall footprint of the building to the imprinted detailing on the walls, Baca Dlo’ay Azhi demonstrates the importance of local influences on building design.

Inspiration 3 - feather

The DMA team drew inspiration from Diné culture, symbolically incorporating functions and colors associated with the Circle of Life into the project design. The main entry faces east toward Mt. Taylor, which is one of the four sacred mountains to the Diné people. Other design elements addressed the four sacred directions with the four wings of the building radiating from a central core. At the central core is the library where students and staff can gather under the light of a central skylight.

Inspiration 2 - Corn

To connect the building to the site, the spaces between building elements are landscaped with native plants, creating an interplay between the man-made and natural worlds. Corn motifs are imprinted on exterior walls, noting another significant element in Diné culture.

Baca Dlo’ay Azhi Community School received a White House Closing the Circle Award Honorable Mention, Sustainable/Green Buildings Category, in 2005. The school also received the Department of the Interior Energy Award in 2004.

Learn more about our Native and Education projects on our website.

November is Native American Heritage Month


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As a Native American-owned firm, Dyron Murphy Architects spends each day celebrating the unique and vibrant cultures of Native people across the country through our architecture. We are honored to collaborate with Native communities to understand their history and culture, and use … Continue reading

A Fresh New Space for CNM’s Ted Chavez Hall

When the Applied Technology faculty of Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) realized that Ted Chavez Hall no longer fit their needs, they sought an architecture firm to re-design–and ultimately re-envision–their workspace.

Dyron Murphy Architects (DMA) assigned two of their best and brightest to the project: Oscar Tovar, Project Manager, and Vanessa Garcia, Project Architect. They met with CNM project managers and faculty to determine how to best address the faculty’s needs.

The consensus was that they needed to maximize the existing space in order to create more work stations, while simultaneously creating a sense of openness. In addition to creating more work stations, the client also requested a conference room and a collaborative work area. Aside from these requirements, the client didn’t have a specific vision in mind. While this presented Oscar and Vanessa with the challenge of determining which design would be the right fit, it also gave them wide latitude to come up with creative design solutions.

Our designers started with what they knew: The Applied Technology faculty often get their hands dirty, and some work with circuitry. These details influenced a number of design elements, including the color palette (grey accented by key lime) and the use of resilient flooring rather than carpeting (to make cleaning easier). They also incorporated industrial accents into the design: Metal accents and clean lines were softened by a wood partition that created a physical barrier between work areas and the break room without making the space feel smaller.

CNM Ted Chavez Hall Renovation Wood Screen Wall

A wooden partition separates the break room from work stations in the newly renovated Ted Chavez Hall at CNM.

Oscar and Vanessa also toured the campus’s new library and STEM building to get a sense of the architectural vision the campus had for its future and to ensure that DMA’s design reflected that vision. They also proposed various work station seating configurations to help CNM solidify their vision for the Applied Technology Department.

Another challenge for our architects was designing around the existing concrete masonry unit (CMU) walls; Oscar and Vanessa were tasked with creating more space without resorting to demolition. Ultimately, they enjoyed the challenge of working around the existing space to create a more functional, aesthetically pleasing workplace. They were also able to work around CNM’s academic schedule, quickly completing the design and renovations during the campus’s summer break.

The result? An invigorating space tempered by natural wood accents that invites collaboration, creativity and innovation.

CNM Ted Chavez Hall work stations

Space is maximized while maintaining a bright, open feeling with the addition of work stations and a conference room.

The faculty is thrilled with the renovations, as are the architects behind the design. For her part, Vanessa said she loved working on a smaller project because “you have more time to focus on the design and the details.” Oscar agreed and added that working with CNM was an enjoyable experience because they were “open to a sleek aesthetic and bright colors.”

CNM Ted Chavez Hall Conference Room

Large frosted windows infuse the conference room with natural light and make it seem more spacious.

CNM Ted Chavez Hall lighting fixture

Attention to detail, such as the conference room lighting fixtures, is one of the defining characteristics of the remodeled Applied Technologies Department of CNM.

Designing Facilities for Rural Communities

Since many of DMA’s clients are in rural communities, many of the projects we’re involved with require designing facilities that will serve a crucial need within those communities. Over the last several months, we’ve celebrated the grand openings and ground breaking of a number of such facilities. Take a look:


Nahata ‘Dziil Health Center

Recently featured in the Navajo Times, the community of Nahata ’Dziil, Arizona in the Navajo Nation celebrated the grand opening of the Nahata ’Dziil Health Center on May 15, 2015. This facility replaces a smaller, older one, and is capable of providing state-of-the-art healthcare services to a growing population. We’re proud to have designed a facility that will provide much-needed medical services to the community and outlying areas.

Shiprock Youth Center Ribbon Cutting

Shiprock Youth Center

Local children and community leaders prepare to cut the ribbon at the grand opening ceremony for Shiprock Youth Center in Shiprock, New Mexico, in the Navajo Nation on March 24, 2015. This 22,000-square foot facility provides a safe place for Navajo youth to play sports, access technology, learn, play games and hone their artistic skills. Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and provided the keynote address.

Tohajiilee EMS Building

To’hajiilee EMS Facility

On June 4, 2015, the community of To’hajiilee, New Mexico celebrated the ground breaking of the new Emergency Medical Services (EMS) facility. The building will serve both the public and staff with comfortable multipurpose spaces such as a conference room, living quarters, fitness room and two large apparatus bays that can house Type II ambulances.

An Architect’s Reward

Defining the “greatest” reward is difficult because the field of architecture spans many different facets of life. Is a Plexiglas trophy from the AIA “more” rewarding than a handshake and a heartfelt thank you from a grateful client? I am honestly not sure. All I can do is share one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my (admittedly brief) experience.

The project was to take a 50-year old brick school house and bring it up to 21st century standards. We replaced dilapidated finishes in the classrooms, improved safety features, and brought in natural light throughout the building. The before-and-after photos are striking, and the school administrators were extremely happy with the results. I’m sure that had a little to do with the fact that we renovated the admin area as well, but I digress.  Education is a cause that I care about deeply. Being able to make such a marked improvement in the daily lives of students and teachers (and being appreciated for it) is a truly special feeling.

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(Firm) Size Matters


Think that big-shot, big-box, big-office, big-staff architect is who you need for your project? Or maybe you’re looking for a job and you want the “prestige” of working for that big-name firm on your resume? Think again.

Sure, those big guys got to be where they are somehow. But it’s where they are now that matters and where they are now is (usually) at a point of segmentation. Meaning, there isn’t much cross-over of responsibility between the upper level management/senior architects, and everyone else. Each person specializes in something (which is good) but rarely ventures out of their area of specialization to take on additional roles (which is not so good).

That’s where the little firms step in. They excel at simultaneously specializing and multi-tasking roles. So when a client calls and speaks with a designer, project manager, drafter, or whoever and asks something unexpected like “and what about this LEED stuff?” The designer, drafter, or jack-of-all-trades administrator can respond with something reasonably intelligent if the LEED Accredited Professional is unavailable. It’s great for the client, because they can get the answers they need from any team member, not just the “specialist.”

A cross-over of responsibility is also important for team cohesiveness. When everyone understands where the others are coming from when making design decisions, the process goes much smoother. This is preferable to a scenario where each team member is the “master know-it-all” of a certain section of the project, with little to no knowledge of other areas of the project.

And for all of you aspiring architects searching for a job – think about the skill sets you’ll acquire at a mid-size firm compared to a large firm. When your role demands you know how to design, draft, write code, meet with clients, monitor project costs, factor in LEED and sustainability, and help with marketing initiatives… you’ll be prepared for whatever the industry throws at you. And you’ll know that if you ever want to strike out on your own, you can handle it all. We’re not saying you shouldn’t accept the fancy big-shot job, we’re just saying, look at your options and think about what you want out of your job. If you’re looking to be a specialist in one area go for it. But if you want to build a broad skill set, you might be better off practicing at a small to mid-size company.

Size matters, ladies and gentlemen.

Design(less) Build(ish)

In case you haven’t noticed, the building design and construction industry has been leaning more and more towards the Design-Build (D-B) method of project delivery. There has been a lot of politicking about how D-B is faster, cheaper, and in general, better than traditional Design-Bid-Build (D-B-B) projects. On the surface, those claims can be pretty easy to substantiate by picking and choosing a few moderately successful projects to showcase. However, once you dig a little deeper, you may begin to see that D-B is NOT for everyone. Now don’t get me wrong. D-B is perfectly fine as a method of project delivery, under the right circumstances! Continue reading