Biohaus: America’s First Passive Energy Home

Energy efficient homes, net zero homes, passive energy, renewable energy sources; environmental building practices and technology are developing at an exceptional pace. It’s difficult for the construction professional to keep abreast with new developments and almost impossible for the prospective home owner to know what their options are. Increasingly, it is falling to the architects and builders to inform people of their choices and to guide them through the process of building the most sustainable home their budgets will allow. Sustainability is more than a building method, it’s a principle we must aspire to. Concordia Language Villages aims to create architects, builders and construction workers who are responsible citizens of the world; people who aspire to the principle of sustainability.

Concordia is an English emersion language institute in the United States which aims to help people to understand languages and cultures other than their own. Concordia not only hopes to promote a respect and understanding of other cultures and traditions, they also hope to promote a culture of sustainability among the staff and students of their villages. Concordia’s first immersion camp was held at Waldsee in 1961. After many decades of successful language and cultural exchanges, Concordia decided to bring Waldsee to the US. The Waldsee Biohaus is a project spearheaded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, the largest environmental foundation in Europe, to act as a kind of trans-Atlantic bridge between the US and Germany. The house is used as an example of, and teaching tool for, sustainable building practices. The house is a passive house, which means it produces all of the energy it uses. The house was built in 2005-2006 and is situated in Bemidji, Minnesota. It was the first passive house on the continent. Biohaus serves as a residence and learning center for the students who come to learn about sustainability while immersing themselves in the German language.

The house boasts several impressive features including clear sections of wall and ceiling which allow students to study the energy saving technologies at work beneath the surface. All passive homes must have an insulated envelope which keeps heat inside or out, depending on the season. The walls of the Biohaus are built with Amvic insulated concrete forms (ICFs). ICFs form an insulated outer layer with reinforced concrete inside which gives them not only excellent insulating properties, but also exceptional strength to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. Large east facing windows provide an abundance of natural light and warmth. The air is 100 percent fresh and 100 percent natural. Geothermal technology provides heat and solar energy provides hot water. Energy efficient appliances reduce energy consumption while providing all the creature comforts. Biohaus utilizes the latest cutting edge technologies in all aspects of its construction. It utilizes 85% less than the energy requirements of the Minnesota building code and has the prestigious platinum LEED energy certification. It is hoped that those who study at Biohaus will become responsible citizens who understand and respect other cultures and live by and promote a culture of sustainability for all. Programs are available for children, teens and adults.

Website: Waldsee Biohaus Website
Website of programs on offer: Enroll in the Waldsee Biohaus project


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