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Green Building News

Gearing Up for a Passive House Residence at Unity College

G•O Logic Homes of Belfast, Maine, will lead the way in designing and building what could become the first college student residence in the U.S. to earn Passive House certification

This 1,500-sq.-ft. Passivhaus-inspired home was designed and built by Logic for the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, in Belfast, Maine, which will include 36 homes clustered on three acres of the community’s 30-acre site. The shell features R-40 walls and an R-80 roof, with solar hot water, and a roof-mounted solar power system.
Image Credit: G•O Logic Homes

We’ve seen plenty of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members get deep into design, construction, and logistics as they prepare 800-sq.-ft. homes for competition in the Solar Decathlon. But there are other academic forums for training your brain on energy efficiency and getting your hands dirty on a construction site, not the least being the “cottage style” student residence being designed for Unity College, in Unity, Maine.

Last month, the college announced that the project got a significant push thanks to a $389,000 grant from the Kendeda Fund, a Delaware-based charitable program dedicated to exploring how to use natural resources sustainably. Early this week the school, whose curriculum covers a wide range of environmental disciplines, added that a designer and builder had been selected for the project: G•O Logic Homes, based in nearby Belfast, Maine.

For students at Unity, this project could be one of the most instructive lab exercises imaginable, since many of them will participate in the design and construction of the building on the campus. Another key aspect of the project is that it is being designed to perform to the Passivhaus standard. Should the completed building earn certification from Passive House Institute U.S., school administrators say, it would be the first residence hall of its kind on a college or university campus in the U.S.

There also will be a permanent public educational component for the hall, Robert Constantine, vice president for college advancement at the school, told the Republican Journal.

High-performance credibility

Right now the project is in its preliminary stages of design, so the square footage, level and type of shell insulation, renewable-energy features, projected costs, renderings, and other details are not yet available. Buildings of this type are not brand new to Unity College, however: Unity House, a 1,937-square-foot LEED Platinum modular home on the campus, was built by Bensonwood Homes of Walpole, N.H. in the summer of 2008 and serves as the residence for the school’s president.

In addition, G•O Logic’s portfolio features a number of energy-efficient residential structures, including BrightBuilt Barn, a studio-size prototype built largely off-site that was developed in collaboration with Kaplan Thompson Architects, Bensonwood Woodworking Company, and a number of engineers. Another G•O Logic project is Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, in Belfast, Maine, a 36-home development (including a 1,500-sq.-ft. prototype whose design and construction incorporate Passivhaus principles), that is being built on three acres of the community’s 30-acre site. So the planned residence at Unity will fit in nicely with the energy efficiency inclinations of both the builder and the school.

“Not only is the Passivhaus standard at the very leading edge of the ‘what’s next’ for college and university campus construction,” G•O Logic architect Matthew O’Malia told the Republican Journal, “but this project is taking the concept one step further by involving students in all aspects of the project.”

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