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Green Building News

Unity College’s TerraHaus Aims for Passivhaus

A focus on environmental principles drives a Maine school to design its new dorms to a very high level of energy efficiency

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Unity TerraHaus, the first of a trio of 10-person residential halls, called SonnenHaus Village, scheduled to be built to the Passivhaus standard on the Unity College campus, in Unity, Maine.
Image Credit: G•O Logic LLC and Ann Kearsley Design
Unity TerraHaus, the first of a trio of 10-person residential halls, called SonnenHaus Village, scheduled to be built to the Passivhaus standard on the Unity College campus, in Unity, Maine.
Image Credit: G•O Logic LLC and Ann Kearsley Design
One of the site plans for SonnenHaus Village, which is set to be built on the northwest corner of the Unity College campus.

Last fall, we tuned in to a Passivhaus project being planned for Unity College, a Maine institution with a curriculum emphasizing environmental studies. The Unity College campus is already home to Unity House, a 1,937-square-foot LEED Platinum modular home built by Bensonwood Homes in the summer of 2008.

Unity House serves as the residence for the school’s president. The Passivhaus project, however, will eventually include three 10-person student residences, collectively known as SonnenHaus Village. The first of the trio, called TerraHaus, is scheduled to be completed in time for the start of the fall 2011 semester, according to an online overview presented by Ann Kearsley Design (AKD), a Portland, Maine-based landscape and urban design specialist collaborating on the project with G•O Logic, a designer and builder based in nearby Belfast.

From poultry to Passivhaus

AKD developed a site plan and landscape model for the project. SonnenHaus Village will occupy the northwest corner of the campus; before the land was donated to the college, the area was used as a poultry farm. (Some of the first campus buildings were converted chicken coops.) The SonnenHaus Village residences will replace a grouping of six small student residences known as the Cottages. If the new buildings successfully meet the Passivhaus standard, they will be among the very first college residences in the U.S. to do so.

Students will be part of the labor force that helps build the residence halls, a prospect that meshes well with the mission of the school, which calls itself “America’s environmental college,” and with the green building and design specialties of G•O Logic and AKD.

“The direct involvement of college students in the design and construction of green student housing is a paradigm shift,” Robert Constantine, vice president for college advancement at Unity College, said in a statement cited by Earth Techling. Constantine added that the school hopes SonnenHaus Village becomes a model for how colleges and universities conceive of and construct campus buildings.

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