Peter Kerze Photography

The farm house is one of the most iconic and familiar architectural styles in the U.S., but anyone who’s ever lived in one knows that they have inherent problems that make them less than comfortable.

“It’s true that old wood-framed and fieldstone foundation farm houses were notoriously drafty, as they were built from available lumber by frugal, self-taught, do-it-all farmers,” says architect Mark Larson, a principal with Minneapolis-based Rehkamp Larson Architects. “Often in the Midwest, a ‘shelter belt’ grove of trees was planted to the northwest to help protect the farm buildings from the fierce cold winter winds but allow the summer southern breeze to blow free to help in cooling.”

Fortunately, modern building materials and techniques can eliminate the problems that come with living in one of these buildings. So when Rehkamp Larson was designing this weekend home for a family of three, the firm took advantage of readily available technology.

Larson and co-principal Jean Rehkamp Larson, who together literally wrote the book on the subject—The Farmhouse: New Inspiration for the Classic American Home—started with a thermal mass foundation, which features foam insulation sandwiched between concrete. The architects also used structural insulated panels (SIPs) for the walls and the roof.

“SIPs are well suited for a farm house as they provide a tight, very well-insulated wall system, [resulting in] almost no thermal bridging, and easily accommodate the punched windows common of the building type,” Larson says. “They must be carefully detailed and documented, however, because once they are delivered to the site they are not as easily modified or adjusted as conventional framing.”