Although my sights have been steadily focused on the 19 (down from 20 after Team Hawaii dropped out of the competition) innovative, energy-efficient homes participating in the 2011 Solar Decathlon, here’s a quick look at another remarkable collegiate home building project that won’t be appearing on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park come Sept. 23: TerraHaus, a just-completed residence hall on the campus of Maine’s deep green Unity College (AKA “America’s Environmental College”) that boasts bragging rights as America’s first college residence built to exacting Passive House standards.

Designed by award-winning green builder G•O Logic and housing a total of 10 very lucky students (four double rooms and two singles), TerraHause replaces two older and inefficient apartment-style student residences that housed a total of eight students while each burning about 700 gallons of heating oil each year (remember, this is Maine we’re dealing with). Superinsulated, solar oriented, and boasting a rooftop photovoltaic array and German-designed windows, the 2,000-square foot TerraHouse is projected to consume a measly $300 annually in energy costs. And get this: Unity plans to build two additional eco-dorms around TerraHaus as part of a sustainable student village dubbed SonnenHaus.

Achieving Passive House certification and complying with ADA standards didn’t come cheap: Unity spent $470,000 on the project. Still, college officials believe that TerraHaus is ultimately a money-saver. Says Doug Fox, director of the college’s Center for Sustainability and Global Change: “Preliminary data indicates that this type of construction is very cost-effective for college campuses — much lower cost per square foot and per student than reported for other new residence hall construction in the Northeast.”

The only apparent downside of living in a Passive House certified mini-dorm? When it comes to the walls, residents won’t be able to go tack, nail, and screw crazy — there’s designated areas for blacklight posters wall décor — in order to preserve the structure’s energy performance and sound proofing. TerraHaus residents are also expected to help the college fulfill the building's program goals of building energy performance, sustainability education, and public engagement. When I moved into my first dorm room a million years ago (also at a small Northeast college), the last thing I had on my mind were SIPs and Btus. I was mostly concerned about whether or not the college-run snack bar was open until 2 a.m. From the sounds of it, TerraHaus' inaugural residents are enthusiastic about their new digs and ready to embrace low-energy living head on. 

The Bangor Daily News recently published a new overview of the home but for particulars on the project, check out the TerraHaus blog where the building’s energy-saving systems are discussed in-depth. You can also view photos of the residence's grand opening here

Via [Bangor Daily News]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Unity College's deep green student 'hausing'
Unity College students settle into TerraHaus, the sustainability-focused Maine institution's new residence hall that's built to stringent, super-efficient Passi