Site Considerations

March 15th, 2010 by Tim Delhey Eian

Passive House in the Woods building site

The Challenge

The first person to join the Passive House in the Woods team was Laurie McRostie—a south Minneapolis landscape architect. Laurie brings years of experience with sustainable landscape design to this project. The site, while beautiful, provided a fair challenge for any professional. Heavy woods and shrubbery filled this southwest facing slope. A huge front setback governed by the Hudson Township pushed the area in which any building can be placed well down the hill from the front elevation. A hefty elevation change added to the challenge of placing a house, garage, and driveway in an earth-friendly manor.

Collaboration and Strategies

At TE Studio, we collaborated with Laurie and the client to complete a detailed analysis including the existing significant trees and plans, drainage patterns, slope and grade changes, soil types, and the location of views on an off site. We determined the easiest and most welcoming entry point to the site, while maintaining maximum solar exposure. The elevation of the building was set such that minimal grading and site disturbance would be required. We focused on our client’s needs to maximize the enjoyment and use of outdoor space.

The Result

As a result of these efforts, we were able to save significant trees and control tree loss. Kiln-dried wood from the site will actually go back into the building as trim and flooring. The access to the home is welcoming and clear. We captured maximum solar exposure and limited the amount of grading necessary. Our design captures stormwater for reuse and infiltration in rain gardens. The garage features a green roof to further minimize storm water runoff. Our client preserved plants for site restoration. Laurie’s new site plan includes native landscape preservation and restoration to prairie and woodland. In addition, the site will be used for intense, localized food production. The exterior deck structure and rooftop terrace capture dramatic views of the woods and the St. Croix river valley. The choice of materials is based on durability, local sourcing, and the use of recycled content.

Passive House in the Woods landscape master plan

We look forward to sharing impressions of these efforts later in the year.

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