By Jason Hammond
It’s that time of year again, when thousands of people from all over, flock to St. Paul to the Minnesota State Fair. Somehow over the past several years between the funnel cakes, concerts, rides and events 350,000 people have taken the time to tour the Eco Experience in the Progress Center Building, making it the single largest event of its kind in the country. The Eco Experience is a collection of resources, experts and exhibitors showcasing a variety of cutting edge green technologies surrounding it’s key attraction the Eco House. The Eco House itself is a collection of green technology alternatives as they may appear in a real world application.
This year I had the honor of receiving a tour of the Eco Experience’s featured Eco House, just days before it’s opening to the public. The 2008 Eco House was designed by Minnesota based Architectural firm Sala Architects and is based on a 2000 sq. ft. modern style home, that SALA designed for a client who became more interested in green building during last years Eco Experience.
The Eco House (at roughly 980 sq ft) is a little more like a cross section or sampling of a home, then it is a complete home, but none the less extraordinary. Constructed in just three weeks, by Showcase Renovations Inc. and Panel Works Plus, the Eco house is designed to give visitors to the Eco Experience examples real life applications of ways that green building can be implemented in both new construction, renovation or remodeling. This years building features structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) to make up it’s core structure. It’s exterior is a combination of green friendly material including cementboard siding, Richlite, and glass. The structure is designed to be passive solar with the majority of it’s triple paned Marvin Windows facing the southern exposure. As well as active solar, through the use of solar thermal hot water heating, solar photovoltaic, and solar hot air systems provided by Twin Cities based Powerfully Green. Even the landscaping is designed to showcase green construction at its best. A permeable paver patio system, along with front steps made of Vast recycled rubber paver blocks, a rainwater capture system, rain gardens and a green planted roof. The interior, not to be outdone, includes Richlite, linoleum and Vetrazzo (crubside recycled glass) countertops, reconstituted veneer cabinets, bamboo and linoleum flooring and recycled glass tiles, all provide by Natural Built Home of the Twin Cities.
Although the home is filled with a collection of green friendly products, my tour guide for the day, Architect Marc Sloot (of Sala Architects), pointed out that green goes beyond substrates and surface materials, and directly to design itself. From site placement to key features, like a high usable ratio of square footage to wall and roof surface area, contributing to better energy efficiency. Additionally, Sloot observed that although any home style can utilize green building techniques, modern design often lends itself to the use of simple, readily available materials, resulting in reduced material use and waste. Sloot also noted that by making sure that the home is not only functional but beautiful, you will most likely better meet the needs of the home owners and give the home a longer lifecycle — definitely green.
So my big question of the day, and one I’m sure several readers are asking —so how is a temporary home green? Well even that question was something the people at the Eco Experience were ready for. Sala Architects paid careful attention to make sure that all the windows used in the Eco House could be re-purposed in the original projects layout. As well, all the SIPs panels, flooring, cabinets, lights and just about everything else outside of sheetrock and some cut pieces of flooring will be accounted for at the completion of the project. But maybe more importantly, the impact that this short lived project and it’s materials may have on the way people look at building in the future, makes it all a little more green.
A rendering of the Eco House at the Minnesota State Fair, Eco Experience.
The Exterior of the home on Minnehaha Creek that served as inspiration for this years Eco House.
The Exterior of this Years Eco House at the Minnesota State Fair Eco Experience features a modern design and green materials.
Triple paned Marvin windows and metal awnings help to harness and shiled the sun for a passive solar effect.
This Solar hot air panel is one of several active solar devices this years home will feature.
The kitchen will feature high efficiency appliances along with alternative cabinet materials such as reconstituted veneers, linoleum countertops and recycled glass tiles.
The fireplace was wrapped in thin steel sheeting (an inherently recycled material)
to give it a really cool visual effect.
When the project is completed on Wednesday and ready for fairgoers this wall section will be filled with a variety of green friendly alternative insulation —here you can see one example, denim insulation.