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Case study: First LEED Certified Home in Minnesota


This is a story about the science of construction: of building green by building intelligently; of creating a truly high-performance house that delights the eyes and is a lasting pleasure to live in. A beautiful home on the shore of Gull Lake, near Brainerd, Minnesota, was the first LEED-certified residence in Minnesota.

With an eye toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, builder Steve Northway worked closely with a LEED consultant focused on building homes that are well made, durable and highly energy-efficient. Gaining LEED certification is not so much about using exotic recycled or reclaimed products, which are actually a small part of the LEED equation and they can drive up the cost of a home considerably.

In the Gull Lake home, traditional woods and other conventional materials are used in the interior and exterior. The state-of-the-art insulation values of the home come in large part from building the foundation and walls with insulated concrete forms. Northway notes that there is a lot of hype about green construction these days. He prefers the term “high-performance” to green. It’s a better definition from the builder’s point of view, he believes. The key to achieving high performance, he says, is taking a whole-house, “building science” approach to construction.

A large part of the building science equation is choosing high-quality insulated windows and doors.  The windows’ main asset for LEED purposes is their low U-value — the measure of their high energy efficiency. Marvin’s Energy Star-rated insulated windows used in this house incorporate Low E II with Argon technology. Low-E (low-emissivity) glass coatings reflect up to 90 percent of long-wave heat energy, while allowing shorter wave, visible light to pass through the pane. The result is a window that lets in the warming rays of the sun during the colder months and deflects them in the summer to help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Windows are everywhere in this Arts and Crafts/Cottage-style home. Marvin’s Ultimate Double Hung, Awning and Casemaster pine wood-clad windows and both sliding and inswing French doors are used throughout the house for a rich, warm, traditional look. The living room features a virtual wall of windows, opening up the house to the beautiful natural setting and making the most of the lakefront view. Simulated divided lites in the upper sashes and awnings lend character and reinforce the architectural style of the home.

This Gull Lake home stands as testimony that a beautiful, traditionally-styled residence can meet national standards for energy efficiency and resource conservation.