Living and Learning in TerraHaus: America’s first Passive House College Residence

October 2011 (Photo credit: Jonah Gula)

Passive House Certification, Passive House Institute US

2012 Evergreen Award, Eco-Structure

2012 Citation for Excellence, AIA New England

2012 EcoHome Grand Award, EcoHome

In the fall of 2011, ten Unity College students moved into a unique, award-winning  campus residence: TerraHaus, the first American college residence designed to meet thePassive House standard, the highest international standard for energy efficiency. Unity College supports David Orr’s contention that, “our buildings teach.” From design charrettes to a course that is developing educational materials about the dwelling, Unity students have been a part of the TerraHaus project from the start. Students who live in the house will commit to participating in educational programming, including tours of the house. The college is also partnering with a local energy group to use TerraHaus to promote green building practices, including those used in home weatherization.

This 2186 square foot residence is modeled to use the equivalent of 80 gallons of oil per year for space heating, less than 10% of the average heating load for a home this size in this climate. In fact, in zero degree weather, the heating load for TerraHaus could be met almost completely with a standard hair dryer (or 1 1/2 anyway). The house will achieve this remarkable level of efficiency from 1) superior air sealing, 2) super-insulation, and 3) solar orientation. Also noteworthy is its creative use of space, comfortably housing ten students in an apartment-style dwelling, reducing the area and energy use per person usually found in homes this size.

TerraHaus is the first of three residence halls that will make up the SonnenHausvillage of  highly energy-conscious dorms on the Unity College campus, breaking new ground for green building in college communities.

The purpose of this blog:

  1. To introduce the general public to the Passive House standard and to the TerraHaus project with an end toward encouraging others to build green.
  2. To document the design and construction process as well as the ongoing energy performance and livability of TerraHaus.
  3. To promote green building principles that are transferable to existing residences, particularly superior air sealing, super insulation, solar orientation, ventilation, solar hot water, and efficient use of space.

This blog was created by Hannah Kreitzer, Environmental Writing student, and Doug Fox, Director, Center for Sustainability and Global Change. Many of the initial articles were written by students in a class called The Environmental Citizen. Doug will maintain the site through the construction and first year of TerraHaus’ use.  

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