New green home features near net zero energy usage

| by Teena Hammond
New green home features near net zero energy usage

In the summer of 2008, a storm destroyed the entire back woods area of Dave Solner's 5-acre property in Apple Valley, Minn. This event set into motion the design and construction of a new home for the LEED-accredited architect and his family.

"The storm, originally perceived as a devastating event, turned into multiple design opportunities for our project. The sightlines to the lake in our back yard opened up, and the trees that the storm took down soon became lumber to be used as material for stairs, furniture and decor in our new home," Solner said. Solner is an architect with Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A.

The resulting 6,200-square-foot home incorporated sustainable strategies, materials and systems. The house is sited to accommodate the existing topography and maximize the available daylight. Two gardens are located inside the home to connect the indoors with nature. There is also an exterior fireplace in the living space to make the home transparent, further blending indoors and outdoors.

Summer energy costs are close to zero as a result of the effectiveness of the geothermal heating and cooling system, Solner said.

The home has these green features:

Mechanical System

  • 10-ton geothermal heating and cooling system (10 vertical wells; 180 feet deep)
  • Radiant floors (eight zones)
  • Electric hot water

Building Envelope

  • Structural Insulated Panel Construction (SIP) — building envelope exceeds code by 28 percent
  • Low sloped white Firestone Ultra Ply TPO roof
  • Roof structured to incorporate LiveRoof, a green roof system
  • Low-E energy efficient windows

Green materials

  • Siding: recycled stainless steel shingle; James Hardie lap siding and panels
  • Recycled ceramic tile floors
  • Engineered wood floor with capabilities to refinish if needed
  • Recycled glass countertops in kitchen
  • Reclaimed lumber from the site

Lighting and appliances

  • Low voltage Halo lighting fixtures with dimmers 
  • Dual flush toilets
  • Low flow showers
  • Energy Star appliances

Green design strategies

  • Daylighting strategies used throughout house (skylights, clerestory windows)
  • Interior gardens
  • Orientation of house on the site
  • Use of topography


A slideshow of images of this green Minnesota home shows a mix of interior and exterior views.


Topics: Building Green, GREAT GREEN HOMES, Heating & Cooling, Lighting, Roofing



Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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