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Bagley Classroom

Duluth, Minnesota

Forest Getaway: A classroom building brings an artistic touch to stringent efficiency standards.

January 2011
Salmela Architect

By Alanna Malone

Wood louvers let in winter sun, temper summer light, and prevent bird collisions, a specific request from the UMD professors.
Photo © Paul Crosby
Wood louvers let in winter sun, temper summer light, and prevent bird collisions, a specific request from the UMD professors.

We tour the humble LEED-Platinum classroom that has the ambitious goals of net-zero energy and Passive House certification. What exactly is Passive House? The standard's founder Dr. Wolfgang Feist explains.

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Location Duluth, Minnesota (Tischer Creek and Lake Superior watershed)

Gross area 1,995 ft2 (185 m2)

Cost $1 million

Completed June 2010

Annual purchased energy use (based on simulation) -8 kBtu/ft2 (-85 MJ/m2) 100+% reduction from base case

Annual carbon footprint (predicted) -4.3 lbs. CO2 /
ft2 (-21 kg CO2 /m2)

Program Multi-purpose assembly room, workroom, toilet rooms, and equipment mezzanine

Click to enlarge
Sky Conditions   Temp./Dew Points   Precipitation

Owner University of Minnesota Board of Regents
Owner's representative UMD Facilities
Management Department
Architect and interior designer Salmela Architect
Engineers Gausman & Moore (MEP); Meyer Borgman
and Johnson (structural); Salo Engineering (civil)
Passive House consultant Carly Coulson
Envelope consultant Conservation Technologies
Commissioning agent Hallberg Engineering
General contractor and landscape UM D Facilities
Management Department

Structural system Enercept, Inc. SIPs
Metal Rheinzink Salvaged Flatlock Zinc Tiles
Fiber composite Richlite/Intectural rainscreen & trim
Wood Custom FSC IPE screens
Cabinetwork/custom woodwork St. Germain's Custom low-emitting, FSC, recycled content cabinetry
Wood paneling Westby Hardwoods Custom FSC Basswood
Paneling Carpet Mats Inc. Supreme NOP
Chairs Herman Miller Caper Chair
Sealant 3C Productions CC Expanding Sealer
Ceramic wall tile Daltile
Wood sealers BioShield Penetrating Sealer #5
Carpet Mats Inc. Supreme NOP
Table Legs Turnstone Flip-top table leg
Ventilation mat Benjamin Obdyke Home Slicker
Roof pavers VAST Composite paver
Chairs Herman Miller Caper Chair
Sealant 3C Productions CC Expanding Sealer
Windows Innotech/Trocal InnoNova 70.M5 frames
Glass Cardinal Triple Pane #179 Lo-E Argon
with XLedge spacers
Doors Woodmax custom wood insulated core door
Low-slope roofing Firestone EcoWhite
Green roof LiveRoof CareFree Extreme Plant Mix
Concrete floor sealer Vexcon Starseal PS Clear
Paints and stains Benjamin Moore ECO Spec
Particleboard paneling Roseburg Skyblend FSC
Interior lighting LSI Industries Abolite
Exterior Hadco LED wall mount; Luce Plan SKY
LED PV bollard
Photovoltaics Sunny Boy Inverter;
Sanyo HIT 210N PV panels
Plumbing Envirolet VF Vacuum Flush
Composting Toilet System
Building automation system Siemens
Timber beams Duluth Timber Company
reclaimed Douglas Fir heavy timbers
Insulation Benchmark Foam recycled content
EPS; Bonded Logic Ultratouch
Vapor barrier film TenoArm
Waterproofing building envelope Innovations
Wet-Flash PM 7000
Plumbing Sloane SOLIS sensor & solar
powered faucet
Energy saving hand dryer TOTO Clean Dry
Energy monitoring system Square DPowerLogic
Ventilation system Venmar 700i HRV

Students at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) are fortunate to have access to Bagley Nature Area, a 55-acre parcel of land on the northwest portion of the campus that includes a pond, forest, ski and hiking trails, and open space. But while conducting research, observing wildlife, or absorbing the scenery, the students had no home base. To remedy this dilemma, the university commissioned local firm Salmela Architect to design a small LEED Platinum-certified classroom space on an existing clearing (an unused volleyball court). It was the team who decided to up the ante and simultaneously try for Passive House certification and net-zero energy. “We went for everything,” says David Salmela, FAIA. “Energy-oriented buildings tend to be driven by the technology rather than the architecture. What we wanted to do was combine all of those things together.”

The Bagley classroom was the team’s first attempt at LEED Platinum and once they evaluated the program, they saw the benchmark as a stepping stone to net-zero. “The loads were pretty simple, so we thought it was an ideal opportunity,” says project architect Carly Coulson, AIA, LEED AP, and certified Passive House consultant. (Coulson has since started working sing-ularly on Passive House projects.) “We were concerned that the renewable energy system needed to be integrated into the architecture because the aesthetics were so important to us. In order to get to zero energy with a small system, we looked to Passive House,” continues Coulson.

UMD fully endorsed the higher standard. Since the university’s facilities department constructed the building, the additional cost was minimal according to John Rashid, AIA, UMD director of construction: “We built it ourselves, and we did it in a cost-effective way.”

Originating in Germany some 20 years ago, the Passive House performance certification includes stringent benchmarks in three areas: air infiltration, heating and cooling energy use, and overall source energy use. “Heat recovery is important because in such an air-tight building, you need constant ventilation without losing heat,” says Jim Keller of Gausman and Moore Engineers. “An electric duct coil simplifies the mechanical system to offset the cost of the envelope.” Super insulation (12 to 16 inches thick) and triple-glazed windows reduce the heating load, while areas most apt to leak are sealed tight with special tape and gaskets. “The air seal details were probably the most challenging part of construction,” says Coulson.

There’s a back-up electric boiler and an in-floor radiant system, but passive solar heating from the large south-facing windows is a primary heat source. Though the windows are not Passive House certified, the glass has a high solar heat-gain coefficient. The team was able to make up for this discrepancy by adding more insulation to the envelope to meet Passive House standards. “Getting the right materials was definitely a challenge,” says Kevin Claus, UMD’s maintenance supervisor. The Passive House guidelines helped reduce energy use so only a small photovoltaic system was needed to achieve net-zero energy. “The PV panels ended up contributing to the design,” says Salmela.

Bagley Classroom opened in June 2010 and has since received LEED Platinum certification. It is still awaiting Passive House recognition, and will take a full year of operation before net-zero energy can be determined. To track the building’s performance, an advanced monitoring system was installed in November. “We just got the software and we’ll be using that to debug the building over the next year,” says Keller. The university also has surveys for occu-pant feedback on thermal comfort.

“Once you see how critical these [environmental] issues are, it’s hard to go back to standard construction,” says Coulson. “There is an elegance to a passive building...using basic components to nearly eliminate energy consumption. That simplicity is powerful and beautiful.”


This article appeared in the January 2011 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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