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TerraHaus / Unity, Maine

  • TerraHaus is built to the Passive House standard, which requires a space-heating load reduced by 90% from code-compliant construction. The building is sited to ensure optimal solar access to the south while making use of an orchard at the propertys northern boundary to temper prevailing winter winds.

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    TerraHaus is built to the Passive House standard, which requires a space-heating load reduced by 90% from code-compliant construction. The building is sited to ensure optimal solar access to the south while making use of an orchard at the propertys northern boundary to temper prevailing winter winds.

    Trent Bell Photography

    TerraHaus is built to the Passive House standard, which requires a space-heating load reduced by 90% from code-compliant construction. The building is sited to ensure optimal solar access to the south while making use of an orchard at the property’s northern boundary to temper prevailing winter winds.

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    The solar thermal system comprised of 120 Apricus evacuated tube solar thermal collectors and two 119-gallon Caleffi hot water storage tanks was engineered to provide about 80% of the buildings domestic hot water demand.

    Trent Bell Photography

    The solar thermal system comprised of 120 Apricus evacuated tube solar thermal collectors and two 119-gallon Caleffi hot water storage tanks was engineered to provide about 80% of the building’s domestic hot water demand.

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    The stair screens the public spaces from the large south-facing windows, creating privacy for residents while utilizing solar gain. It is composed of durable vinyl treads, painted steel handrails, and lobster cage mesh for the guardrails.

    Trent Bell Photography

    The stair screens the public spaces from the large south-facing windows, creating privacy for residents while utilizing solar gain. It is composed of durable vinyl treads, painted steel handrails, and lobster cage mesh for the guardrails.

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    The first floors exposed concrete slab acts as a thermal mass to store passive solar energy and then re-radiate it at night.

    Trent Bell Photography

    The first floor’s exposed concrete slab acts as a thermal mass to store passive solar energy and then re-radiate it at night.

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    The kitchens cantilevered concrete island helps optimize the buildings thermal mass.

    Trent Bell Photography

    The kitchen’s cantilevered concrete island helps optimize the building’s thermal mass.

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    Weathered barn boards on the north wall and ceiling of the kitchen add warmth and definition to the overall common area.

    Trent Bell Photography

    Weathered barn boards on the north wall and ceiling of the kitchen add warmth and definition to the overall common area.

 

TerraHaus, the first Passive House-certified student residence hall in the United States, so impressed the Design Awards judges that they created a special designation called Student Housing. Built with comfort and sustainability in mind, the cozy space for 10 is a far cry from typical institutional living, they said.

The home’s lucky occupants benefit from its healthy and low-maintenance interior finishes, including Sherwin-Williams Harmony no-VOC paint, sealed concrete floors, formaldehyde-free IKEA cabinets, and colorful linoleum flooring in the bedrooms. “This is really durable stuff, but it doesn’t feel cold,” remarked one judge.

A 120-tube solar thermal hot water system, mini-split air-source heat pump heating, a Zehnder 88% efficient HRV system, and R-11 windows with 50% solar heat gain help to combat frigid (but relatively clear and sunny) Maine winters. Architecture and construction firm G•O Logic achieved an overall wall R-value of 50 with a combination of SIPs construction and blown-in fiberglass insulation, while insulating roof areas with blown cellulose from R-80 to R-100.

The building’s orientation makes use of passive solar gain to lower space heating demands, which allowed planners to reduce the cost and complexity of the mechanical systems. This basic Passive House tactic resulted in a big payoff for the college: Space heating costs for TerraHaus are less than $300 per year ($30 per student), a big improvement from the two poorly insulated housing units it replaced, each with an annual space heating cost of about $500 per student. It’s no surprise then that two more Unity College residence halls based on the TerraHaus design are in the works.