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Green Crossing

Green Crossing was the green building exhibit at the 2011 Eco Experience. It featured a variety of green options for the home and yard. For information on previous green building exhibits visit the About the Eco Experience webpage.



Common Cottage

The Common Cottage demonstrates how to improve the house you have. It’s about simple methods that make your home more sustainable. Learn about energy upgrades, see savvy re-use of materials, and get ideas for your green kitchen.

Design for our climate. This home has overhangs designed for Minnesota climate — to welcome sunlight in the winter and keep the house shaded during summer. An abundance of windows, including clerestory windows near the ceiling, allow for cross-ventilation and ceiling fans keep air moving for summer cooling.

Use renewable and recyclable materials. This home features sustainably harvested wood siding and a durable metal shingle roof. Metal roofing can be replaced less often than asphalt shingles, can be made from recycled steel, and is easily recyclable. Wood siding is a renewable material that contributes to the local economy and stores carbon during its useful life. 

Use reused materials. This home uses reclaimed and reused materials, including windows and cabinets. The patio shade is made of salvaged fabric from the damaged Metrodome (Mall of America Field) inflatable roof.

Improve the energy efficiency of your home. An energy auditor is visiting this home, and you can see the equipment used, like a blower door and infrared camera. Learn how to schedule an advanced energy audit that will give you sound advice about what your home needs to function efficiently and safely.

Learn how to pay for energy improvements. Find out the many options available for financing your energy improvements, from loans, rebates, tax credits, or grants. Visit websites full of information from government, utility companies, and community organizations.

Design for green behavior. This indoor-outdoor kitchen is designed for recycling and composting. See the entire food cycle in a small space: Grow your own herbs year-round in the bay window, feed your kitchen scraps to the worms or chickens, and turn all the leftovers from you, the worms, and the chickens into compost to grow more herbs.

Keep indoor air clean. The finishes in this house don’t release toxic fumes and help keep your house free of allergens. The cabinets are formaldehyde-free and paints are no-VOC, which means they don’t emit any “volatile organic compounds”—unhealthy stuff to breathe. Hard surface flooring like the natural linoleum in this house makes it easy to clean up dust, dirt and spills.

Avoid wasting water and materials. Upper cabinets in this informal kitchen are eliminated to give a more open feel and use less material, and salvaged cabinetry keeps material out of the landfill. Low-flow plumbing fixtures are used, and appliances are Energy Star rated or super-efficient. Look for the 65 percent recycled stainless steel sink and recycled glass counter tops.

Enjoy the outdoors. From the patio you can see how rain is channeled away from the foundation of the house and through the shading trellis for reuse in a rain barrel or capture in a rain garden. A natural gas grill connects directly to the home’s natural gas line, which means less air pollution than charcoal and greater convenience. Get a glimpse of the simple green roof system on the top of the chicken coop.

Act now to reduce ice dams. Look up on the roof of the house to see how a retrofit roof assembly can provide an air barrier and insulation to tackle ice dams even when interior access to the attic is limited. Find out what causes ice dams and what you can do about them.

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Design and Build

Energy efficiency and conservation

Interior finishes

Landscaping and patio

Tech Tower

Tech Tower

The Tech Tower exhibits ways to be sustainable using technology in the home. This building can be thought of as a new home or as an addition to your existing home. Check out the green gadgets and new ideas for everyday living.

Create multipurpose spaces. Simple ideas can transform the rooms you have, to the rooms you want, without adding on. This multipurpose room is a family gathering space that doubles as an office and guest room. It includes a dining and study table, Murphy bed for visitors, and a media center for keeping track of your efficient home and busy life.

Design for passive cooling. This house is designed to take advantage of the stack effect for natural cooling. The tower draws warm air through slatted walls, and out the automated windows at the top. Solar shading devices help screen out the sun’s heat in summer months.

Use energy- and resource-efficient materials. The well-insulated and air-tight shell makes for a very energy-efficient house. The walls are made of structural insulated panels (SIPs) and insulated concrete sandwich walls. The pre-manufactured panelized SIPs system allows for precise air-tight construction, minimal thermal bridging, and little job-site waste. SIPs are covered in metal siding and roofing, which can be made of recycled material and is recyclable. The insulated concrete wall system shows a good material option for Minnesota basements, because the insulation is integral and protected, the composite ties provide a full thermal break, and the concrete walls do not need additional insulation or interior/exterior finishing. Note the triple-paned fiberglass windows, as well.

Include renewable energy. The Tech Tower focuses on energy efficiency first — with LED lighting, a handy wattage meter and smart power strips. Then, it integrates three types of solar electric panels for renewable energy production: traditional PV modules, double-paned glass modules, and solar shingles. The energy monitoring system shows exactly what is happening at your electric meter — anywhere you have access to the Internet.

Update the old wood fireplace. An old wood fireplace sucks warm air out of the house in winter and releases large amounts of fine particulate air pollution. This home displays a natural gas fireplace insert with electric ignition to update an old wood fireplace. This type of insert will increase the energy-efficiency and indoor air quality of your home by stopping warm air from being drawn up the chimney, and burning much cleaner than your wood fireplace.

Replace old heating and hot water systems. Sealed-combustion equipment such as a high-efficiency furnace, boiler, tankless water-heater or fireplace insert will improve indoor air quality by preventing back-drafting of unhealthy combustion air into your home. If your current furnace is more than 20 years old, it’s time to upgrade to a 95 percent efficient or higher unit. You can see a high efficiency natural gas boiler with side arm water tank in the Tech Tower.

Energy efficient commuting. Energy efficiency doesn’t stop in the home. The house features handy bike storage to keep energy conservation and pollution reduction at hand and on the mind.

Don’t forget the finishes. This house features cork floor, zero-VOC paint and natural clay plaster wall finish. These materials keep the indoor air quality and keep the area easy to clean.

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Design and Build

Energy efficiency and conservation

Renewable energy systems

Interior finishes


Community Corner

The Community Corner includes neighborhood features to support sustainable living, such as a bus stop, bike rack, a solar-powered charging station for electric vehicles, and a community garden for producing food and spending time outdoors.

Go by foot or bus. Our vehicles are a major source of air pollution. Grab a carpool buddy, walk to places less than a mile away, use public transit and try biking. Resources for all these options are available in the Community Corner.

Discover electric vehicles. Check out the new Nissan Leaf, Zero Motorcycle, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle conversions. Full EVs do not run on an internal combustion engine and emit no tailpipe exhaust. Increasing the portion of EVs on our roads will positively impact air quality—a benefit to our health and environment.

Look for charging stations. As EVs become more common, charging stations will appear at workplaces, park-and-ride facilities, retail centers and other public spaces. The Twin Cities are part of a cutting-edge project called the Energy Innovation Corridor, a sustainable energy and transportation showcase that includes charging stations like the one in the Community Corner.

Charge with solar. If electricity to charge EVs comes from solar or wind power, there is little or no air pollution created. The solar carport in the Community Corner is made of beautiful double-glass panels made in Mountain Iron, Minnesota.

Start a community garden. Community gardens provide access to fresh, healthy, local and culturally-appropriate foods; provide a venue for physical exercise and an outlet for stress; improve mental health and physical well-being; and reduce our environmental impact by sequestering carbon, addressing water runoff issues, attracting pollinators, and creating a forum for peer education on environmental topics.

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Carport and renewable energy systems


Passive House

Passive House


The name Passive House is derived from the German term “Passiv Haus,” which describes a building with an extremely reduced heating and cooling system. A certified Passive House is required to meet rigorous energy-use standards and requires that several passive and active energy reducing strategies are optimized and work in harmony with each other.

Passive House energy modeling allows the comparison of various strategies whether they are passive, active, small, or big to provide measured results and optimize strategies of initial costs and investments.

Though cutting edge, the lessons of a Passive House can be applied to all existing homes.

Address energy efficiency first. In every home, heat is lost through the shell of the building. Passive House dramatically reduces that loss by using super-insulated walls and highly efficient windows that prevent the transfer of heat and cold between inside and outside, paying special attention to penetrations and joints. Furthermore, only the most efficient appliances, electronics and lighting are used in a passive house. Every home, however, can have its air leaks sealed, insulation added, and lighting and appliances updated to become more energy efficient and meet the Passive House retrofit standards.

Use passive design strategies. Energy from the sun is used to heat the passive house. Specialized windows allow for optimal solar heat gain and retention. Large, super-insulated, air tight windows are located on the south to catch the winter sun, while windows are smaller on other sides of the house to reduce overheating and minimize heat loss. Every house can use shading devices, window films, and the solar-heat-gain-co-efficient (SHGC) of windows to allow in, or keep out, heat from the sun, specifically tailored to the direction each window faces.

Find heat sources in unexpected places. Since Passive House is so well insulated, it can be heated by all the things inside a house that generate heat, including people, pets, household appliances, computers, TVs, other electronics, and lights. When these sources are combined with passive heat from the sun, the house has no need for a furnace. Every household can remember to power off computers, TVs, other electronics and lights when not being used, especially in the summer to reduce AC loads.

Combine air-tightness with continuous ventilation. A passive house needs to retain a great percentage of all the heat (in the winter) and coolness (in the Summer) that are passively captured. To do this, the building envelope is built much more air-tight than average construction. However, to keep the air quality fresh, ventilation allows Passive Houses to have some of the best air quality measured in buildings. Every house can use a combination of passive ventilation from windows and active ventilation from bathroom/kitchen fans or a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to improve indoor air quality.

Use cooling concepts for your region. Architecture of the region usually includes strategies for cooling, such as shading from a screen porch, deciduous trees species, night ventilation, and other such strategies. In a Passive House, these elements are carefully modeled and designed to use their full advantage. The Passive House has only 2% overheating above the desired temperature over the course of the year.

Consider renewable energy. A passive house does not need to have renewable energy, but including relatively small solar hot water, solar photovoltaic (PV), and earth loop systems can make a passive house totally energy independent. The Passive House on display features a solar thermal panel for hot water. Heating water accounts for 14% of the energy your home uses. Using less hot water, and heating hot water with the sun, saves energy in every home. Our Passive House is also displaying a small earth loop used to pre-temper the fresh air coming into the house.

Use reused, repurposed and recyclable materials. This home features reused wood siding from an old barn. Reusing building materials extends the life of the product and prevents the use of new materials. Wood siding also is renewable. Other materials were repurposed for building, such as the use of wine bottles as aggregate in the concrete panels and the use of coffee jute sacks as screens and guardrail material.

Read about the exhibit being built at

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Design and Build

Renewable energy systems

Interior finishes

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Created with flickr slideshow.


Last modified on Thursday, January 08, 2015 15:04

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