Last year Wisconsin experienced one of its roughest winters in years, but Sonya Newenhouse and her family scarcely felt the affects in their German-certified passive house. While snow covered the ground and fierce winds whipped around the trees, this 970-square-foot home stayed warm using less energy than it requires to run a hair dryer! Despite exterior temperatures that hovered at 30 degrees below zero, interior temperatures averaged between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit - an extraordinary feat made possible by air-tight insulation, triple-paned windows and doors, and strategic passive design. Approximately 80 to 90 percent more efficient than the standard home, NewenHouses are exceptionally well-designed, and by the end of next year, they will most likely be available in three different sizes - all below 1,000 square feet. Inhabitat spent the night in Viroqua, where we enjoyed a nice warm shower despite a gray cloudy day and homemade scones filled with fresh raspberries from the organic garden. Hit the jump for more information about the many facets of this home's superior performance, and flip through our gallery of images for a virtual tour.
Sonya’s house is instantly recognizable from the street. Located in a quiet neighborhood in a productive (and beautiful) agricultural area just over an hour west of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s iconic Taliesin, the home is distinctive not only for its striking color and rooftop solar array, but for large windows on two floors that offer a sneak peak inside and a flood of natural light. The second thing you notice inside, apart from Sonya’s inspired interior design largely influenced by her Dutch and Finnish heritage, is how warm and airy it is – even as the temperatures outside turned decidedly cold in the last couple of days. With 18-inch-thick walls, no energy escapes this home, which is heated with four small heaters that generate a combined 1300 watts.
Almost all of the interior furnishings have been either recycled, salvaged or sourced from sustainably-managed forests, including tiles made in part with ground up porcelain toilets, and the home conserves water, energy and space at every turn. In addition to built in bookshelves and benches, storage is built into the bottom steps, and then instead of installing a basement, Sonya built a ‘stuga’ – a separate storage area / guest room inspired by Swedish tradition that even has a root cellar for storing winter vegetables. Connected to the main house via a breezeway (complete with an outdoor shower!), this space is heated with a wood-fired stove – but only when necessary.
It’s complicated to achieve current Passive house standards, especially in northern climates, but Sonya’s home was certified by the German Passivhaus Institute all the same, and the next generation of kit homes will meet the main performance standards. They will also come with an edible landscape plan, and should cost roughly $175 per square foot (which includes the solar panels and stuga storage space.)
“For me, the goal isn’t certification,” Sonya told Inhabitat in reference to the unique challenge of meeting Passive House standards in Wisconsin with a small home, adding that for her “it’s a no-brainer that a smaller house uses less energy.”
The first NewenHouse was designed by Dina Corigliano and Carly Coulsen was the passive house consultant on the project. If you’d like to talk to Sonya about her home and upcoming kits, or if you’d like to stop by for a visit, she welcomes you to contact her either by email at email@example.com or by phone at (608) 220-8029.
All images by Tafline Laylin