U faculty help build sustainable home

Five faculty members worked on a home focusing on energy efficiency and sustainability.

St. Paul residents Pa, right, and David Otterness talk about building their dream home at the the new University Challenge Home on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. The couple says they are looking at houses for inspiration for their dream home and agree sustainability is an important aspect for them.

Amanda Snyder

St. Paul residents Pa, right, and David Otterness talk about building their dream home at the the new University “Challenge Home” on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. The couple says they are looking at houses for inspiration for their dream home and agree sustainability is an important aspect for them.

Julia Marshall

A 3,600 square-foot house typically has around $2,800 in energy bills each year — but five University of Minnesota faculty members helped build one that could cut those costs by more than 80 percent.

A team of University researchers helped design and construct a Challenge Home to set an example for energy efficiency and sustainability in residential buildings.

Faculty members from the College of Design, the College of Science and Engineering, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences worked with Amaris Custom Homes to help with design and construction.

“We’re here primarily to help the builders go through an assessment of the technologies that might be available or useful for them to implement into their home design,” CFANS associate professor Patrick Huelman said.

Huelman is also working with University students on a Challenge Home student competition, which will begin next year.

The U.S. Department of Energy selected the University group NorthernSTAR as one of 15 teams to participate in the Challenge Home program.

Project engineers focused mainly on reducing the house’s carbon footprint and installing solar panels to help curb dependence on coal, Amaris chief manager Raymond Pruban said.

“It’s not going to be generating a carbon footprint by using coal-generated electricity that comes from most of our plants in Minnesota,” he said.

St. Paul residents Pa and David Otterness toured the Challenge Home as a stop on the Parade of Homes.

The couple said they’re looking into building a new house and were inspired by the Challenge Home’s sustainability efforts.

“They fit a lot of square footage into a single-story home,” David Otterness said, “and the energy efficiency of it is really nice to see.”

Beyond the reduced energy bill, project leaders aimed to show sustainable building techniques, including installation of quartz instead of granite countertops and using reclaimed barn wood as window shades.

“If we can reuse products that we can find, we try to use them in a way that’s architecturally appealing,” Pruban said.