Seeing is believing!

After several sunny, warm spring-like days, clouds moved across the area today, scattered rain is in the forecast, and a possible late-winter rain/snow/sleet event may be in the offing later in the week. But spirits are high as work resumes this week on the ceiling, painting, exterior siding and more. We’ll have a few catch-up posts over the next few days to bring things up to date.

Christi and Lou brought some ‘sunshine’ of a different type into our lives last week. After a nearly four-hour journey from Madison, WI, architects Christi Weber and Lou Host-Jablonski were welcomed by an ensemble of builders (and owners) ready to share the pride we’ve all experienced in breathing life into this housing project!

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It was Christi’s first in-person visit to our Root River House—her design—and it finally made ‘real’ the house that for her has only had a virtual life on a computer screen since its inception. For Lou, it was affirmation that more than 30 years after he launched into designing sustainable housing, there’s renewed promise for the future. For the rest of us, it was a ‘family reunion’ of sorts that brought key players together, several for the first time, under this new roof.

Nancy and I first met Christi and Lou at their Design Coalition offices in Madison two years ago after refocusing our initial house-building interests on Passive House designs. In that time we’ve had dozens of meetings (mostly by conference call), shared hundreds of emails, and revised multiple concepts and drawings, but only in recent months has the house risen from the earth.


“Wow…it’s not just SketchUp anymore,” Christi exclaimed as we approached the house, referencing the computer’s virtual design. As the lead designer, it was Christi’s listening and interpreting of our vision and dreams that led her to this design. Yes, she also brought many of her own concepts and aesthetics to the project—not the least of which was her Passive House-certified training and experience. So it was a relief when, after standing and pondering it for a moment, actually seeing it in real—not virtual—3-D, she broke into a huge smile!


A year ago, we were putting the finishing touches on the designs. Now, ten months after breaking ground, Christi and Lou were curious about how the design worked, what didn’t, what was modified in the process, how accessible special materials were, where there might have been any mechanical (air exchange, solar, wiring, plumbing) issues, and so on. Considering the scope of the project, there have actually been very few—and no major—issues, so we spent the time touring, reviewing systems, documenting details, and sharing stories—lots of stories!

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Above left, Christi and I are checking out the mechanical room, specifically the maze of tubes connecting to the ERV—Energy Recovery Ventilator—that provides controlled air exchange and heat recovery for the house; behind her is the house electrical panel and the solar hot water tank. Above right, Christi and JR are reviewing details of the exterior.


In the midst of working hard to complete construction, taking a break to celebrate all that’s been accomplished so far made for a really great day; being surrounded by good, talented people made it all the better (clockwise from upper right): friends Barb and Joel Mielke who are considering their own new home design; lead builder Jeff Vilen, Christi, Troy, Nancy, Lou, JR and me.


Just before parting, Christi, Lou and Nancy took in the day’s warmth—much of it from the sun, but a whole lot more from the people and spirit that surrounded the day!




Lanesboro, Minnesota
Climate Zone 6 (cold/moist)
Latitude: 43° 44' 18'' N
Longitude: 91° 54' 48'' W

House Size

Net Treated Floor Area: 1,514 SF
Gross Square Footage (House only): 2,210 SF

Building Envelope

Roof: R-99
Wall: R-61
Ground: R-53

Windows & Doors

Glazing: U-0.10 BTU / hour / sq. ft.
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC): 0.48”
Frame: U-0.19 BTU / hour / sq. ft.

Modeled Performance

Specific Primary Energy Demand (Source Energy Demand): 12.1 kBTU / sq. ft. / year

Specific Space Heat Demand: 7.0 kBTU/sq. ft. / year

Peak Heating Load: 7,047 BTU / hour

Space Cooling Demand: 0.44 kBTU / sq. ft. / year

Peak Cooling Load: 3,625 BTU / hour

Pressure Test Goal: Whole House Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) = 0.4 ACH 50


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