This is the Passive House in the Woods

Passive House in the Woods front entry perspective

The Passive House in the Woods is a 3-bedroom, 1,940 square foot, two-story single family home with walk-out basement level, and a rooftop terrace. It was commissioned by a private client and designed by TE Studio. It sits on just over one acre in the Town of Hudson, WI—minutes from interstate 94. Located on the outer edge of a residential development, the home overlooks the St. Croix river valley.

View over the St. Croix river valley

The building lot provides stunning views and prime passive solar exposure.

View of the woods

The property’s north boundary is heavily wooded and borders undeveloped land. The design of the house works with the natural landscape, and minimizes impact on the wooded character of the lot.


The project is designed to the Passive House Building energy standard, which currently represents the tightest energy standard in the world. Passive House in the Woods actually exceeds space-conditioning requirements for Passive House by 30%.

Passive House in the Woods window detail



Exterior walls, windows, doors, slab, and roof designed according to Passive House principles can radically reduce the amount of energy used to condition a building. The exterior wall assembly of the Passive House in the Woods consists of 11” Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) for structure, and an 11” Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) facade with an overall R-value of 70. Windows and doors are Passive House certified, come with high solar heat gain (64%), triple pane low-E coated glazings, as well as insulated frames for installed R-values of 8. The slab sits on 12” of extruded polystyrene insulation with an R-value of 60. The flat roof utilizes an average of 14” of polyisocyanurate insulation with an R-value of 95.

Passive House in the Woods, Inno-Products Duct System


The mechanical system in a Passive House is typically centered around a heat-recovery ventilation machine. In milder climates, this system provides all the necessary heating energy, as well as outside air needed for balanced hygienic ventilation. The heat-recovery ventilation system in the Passive House in the Woods consists of a high efficiency heat-recovery ventilator, combined with a 600 foot PEX-tubing loop field—buried on the property—to pre-heat and pre-cool the incoming air stream. This also dehumidifies moist summer air.

Passive House in the Woods Earthloop


In extremely cold climates, the paradigm of heating with ventilation air changes slightly. The overall annual energy goals for Passive House can be met but the extreme cold winter temperatures require a small additional heat source. Electric in-floor heating mats with local room-air thermostats are used to provide less than 3 kW or 10 kBtu*. That compares to the energy draw of two hair-dryers! No boiler or furnace are needed to provide these small heating loads.

Passive House in the Woods southeast perspective with solar tracker


Renewable energy systems are optional and not required by the Passive House standard. Our client chose to achieve a net energy positive energy balance and carbon neutral operation. A 4.7 kW photovoltaic system generates a surplus over the energy consumed on site, avoiding 2.78 tons of CO2 annually, and therefore providing carbon neutral operation for a household of two people*.

The domestic hot water system utilizes a 40 square foot hot water solar collector on the roof to pre-warm water in a 50 gallon storage tank. It is capable of providing over 85% of the hot water used in the home*. Backup heating is provided by a small electric on-demand water heater.

Passive House in the Woods front entry canopy detailPassive House in the Woods, grate at deckPassive House in the Woods, railing at deckPassive House in the Woods, stair tower with wind chimePassive House in the Woods, red columnPassive House in the Woods, earthen plaster and handrail


In addition to the performance, we also gave a lot of attention to detail—both outside and inside. The use of natural and durable materials will help graceful aging.

Passive House in the Woods, living spacePassive House in the Woods, kitchenPassive House in the Woods, master bedroomPassive House in the Woods, family room


We developed an earth-friendly, healthy and durable material palette in cooperation with InUnison Design to blend the client’s priorities of health and performance with his love of the outdoors and nature.

MNGreenStar Logo

Minnesota Green Star Certification

The Passive House in the Woods is registered with Minnesota Green Star and designed to achieve a gold rating.

The Team

Meet the design and construction team by clicking on The Team link at the top of this page.

The Scoop

Currently, there are only a handful of certified Passive House™ buildings in the U.S. The Passive House in the Woods is the first certified Passive House™ in Wisconsin, and one of only a few net energy positive and carbon-neutral buildings in the country.

It blends economy, ecology, health and durability in ways only Passive House can. The project sets out to demonstrate that this level of performance and quality can be achieved with today’s technology—even in an extremely cold climate. The Passive House in the Woods is a unique show-case.

Ground braking happened on December 3, 2009. The project was completed in September of 2010.

Passive House in the Woods southwest perspective

The Passive House Standard is the most rigorous building energy standard in the world. Consultants, projects or building components that have obtained the right to carry the logo have committed themselves to design excellence and the Passive House energy performance criteria.

*Performance figures are based on Passive House Planning Package 2007 calculations.


Walkout Level PHitW Walkout Level

Main Level PHitW Main Level

Upper Level PHitW Upper Level

Rooftop PHitW Rooftop Level


My vision is to build a house that is:

  • Efficient in the use of energy, space and water
  • Healthy in air and water quality
  • In harmony and and enhancement for nature outside while inviting nature inside
  • Sustainably built
  • Easy to maintain
  • Fun to live in

I believe Passive House design is the best tool to achieve my vision.

I never envisioned building a house.  I anticipated the process as too stressful in addition to the negative environmental impact of another piece of land being removed from it’s natural state to be developed.

My wife’s cancer journey, resulted in the selling of our home of 19 years and our planning on building a very healthy and energy efficient new house.  Although many we met believe that they design and build “green”; we did not find their definition sufficient.

A Minneapolis Star Tribune article in December 2008, referencing an earlier New York Times article, introduced me to Passive House.  I ordered the Passive House Institute’s book (Homes for a Changing Climate); after reading it I knew I found my house.  Resource listings in the book led me to Certified Passive House™ consultant and professional building designer, Tim Eian, located in Minneapolis.  Tim and his assistant, J Chestnut, have a passion for their work, particularly Passive House and sustainable living.

Tim’s passion for Passive House is infectious.  He has helped me assemble a team to build my house that has similarly become infected with this passion.  Being surrounded by such enthusiasm has resulted in a “fun” planning and building environment that has greatly reduced the stress of this process.  The people of Morr Construction have continued this “destressing” with their competency, honesty and experience.  I’d particularly like to mention Sean Morrissey, Josh Crenshaw and Steve Swanson; the latter two are the producers and stars of the construction videos on this web site.  Christine Frisk and her assistant, Erin Heikkinen of InUnison Design have been invaluable with suggestions about colors, styles and design in the interior and exterior.  Carol Chaffee of Chaffee Lighting, has been helpful with lighting both inside and outside, but lighting that will do the task creatively without using energy excessively.  Laurie McRostie of McRostie Landscape Architect, has been very helpful with integrating the outside of the building with the nature scape and providing a plan of restoration when the building is completed.

Passive House is a concept that has not been applied in my cold climate in reproducible, residential housing.  We are confident we will attain this goal and continue the process with the Appleseed project of North Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, my wife will not see the results of this effort as her illness overtook her last year.  But the initiative she started has led to a building that will be very efficient, very healthy and fun to live in.  I build with the hope others will learn from this building project about how they can enhance their housing options also.

Gary Konkol

Gary Konkol at the Passive House in the Woods, July 2012