TerraHaus Keeps Students Eco Cozy in Freezing Maine | Home Design Find

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TerraHaus Keeps Students Eco Cozy in Freezing Maine

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The first ten Unity College students in Maine have just moved into their new college residence, and one with eco design at its core. Maine, which borders on Canada, gets extremely cold. It is also more dependent on oil for heating than any other US state (except, surprisingly, Hawaii) making it a prime candidate for the kind of eco design that can reduce energy use.

Unity College’s TerraHaus builds on the passive design of the Go Logic home in Maine that just won the USGBC award for project of the year, that we covered last year.

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Germany PassivHaus design principles address this kind of climate issue with super efficient construction, now becoming more widely used in Northern Europe’s similar climate. But TerraHaus will be the first Passive-House certified student college residence built in the United States.

It’s so superefficient that the school expects to pay only $300 in electricity to heat it for the entire year.

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The huge South-facing windows are key. For solar energy to heat our homes we need south-facing windows that transmit 60% or more of the radiation hitting them to make up for the heat loss from the same windows for a net energy gain.

Solar power is expected to warm the building to a comfortable 70 degrees even during the coldest Maine winters. Then, the heat is kept in by a combination of factors:

29% from extremely high efficiency insulation (R 50 walls, for example)
27% from improved air sealing
24% through carefully specified windows (reduced losses as compared to standard windows, standard glazing size and position, plus gains from solar)
10% from heat recovery ventilation

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TerraHaus replaced two of the popular but inefficient 40-year-old halls called the Cottages.

Each of those cottages housed only four students and burned an astonishing 700 gallons of heating oil each year keeping the four comfortable. That was hardly appropriate for Unity, which bills itself as “America’s Environmental College.”

Terrific detail on the eco construction technologies involved in the Unity College PassivHaus can be found at the students blog.

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The college was very fortunate to be selected to receive a $389,000 grant to cover the cost of the highly advanced building from the Kendeda Sustainability Fund, which is “dedicated to exploring how human beings can relate to one another and to this planet more mindfully and use resources equitably”.

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