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Minnesota's first 'Challenge Home' to be unveiled at Twin Cities Parade of Homes

September 6, 2013

Media note: The home can be seen at a media availability and tour beginning at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at the home, 1017 Oak Bluff Circle, St. Paul. There will be a short presentation at 11:00 and leaders from the U of M project,  Amaris Homes, and key industry partners will be on-site to show the home and answer questions.

The first Minnesota "Challenge Home" – a home on the leading edge of energy efficiency and sustainability – will be part of this year’s Parade of Homes  presented by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. Researchers from the University of Minnesota, partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy Building America program have helped develop and evaluate the technologies and processes  used to design and construct the home as part of an ongoing project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.  This home also meets the strict requirements for the MN Green Path (Master Certified) and the LEED for Homes (LEED v4 Beta Program) which is also a first in Minnesota.

The home shows how attractive design can be blended with the latest standards for energy and sustainability, said Pat Huelman, who directs the university’s Cold Climate Housing center and leads the multi-state "NorthernSTAR Building America Partnership" funded by the energy department. That project’s goal is to help develop cost-effective solutions that dramatically reduce the average energy use of housing while improving comfort, indoor air quality, and long-term durability and lowering the overall cost of ownership.

The 3,600-square-foot rambler exceeds both state and federal guidelines for energy efficiency, Huelman said, "and it hits the sweet spot – it’s an example of how you can have a very attractive, affordable home, but also go well beyond the current codes and standards." The multi-year energy department NorthernStar project began in 2010 and is a partnership between university researchers, consultants, and home-builders, along with product manufacturers and suppliers.  

The Parade of Homes begins Sept. 7 and runs through Sept. 29.  Visitors can walk through homes such as the Challenge Home at 1017 Oak Bluff Circle in St. Paul to see this year’s design and construction trends along with the state-of-the-art technologies and systems, designed and built by local builder Amaris Homes.

With a goal of zero net-energy use, a DOE Challenge Home combines proscribed materials, techniques and products that offer superior energy efficiency and a renewable energy-ready design (like solar), along with indoor air quality, comfort, safety and durability, plus effective water and resource conservation.  When the planned solar photovoltaic system is added in 2014, the St. Paul home will be able to give back to the electrical grid almost as much energy as it uses, Huelman said.

Along with energy efficiency, DOE Challenge Homes like this one are quiet and comfortable; built to last; and include a healthier indoor environment that minimizes pollutants and ensure quality ventilation, he added. Efficiencies developed through research like this are a benchmark for leading builders now, but eventually may become standardized throughout the industry, and part of state or federal building codes.

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