FAQs from the Minneapolis St. Paul Home Tours

We had about 345 people tour our house during the Minneapolis-St. Paul home tour a couple weekends ago.  During the tour, we fielded many recurring questions about our home. Maybe you're wondering the same things too, so here are answers to the frequently asked questions about our nest.

1. Why is the porch roof at an angle? Does it have a function?  

It really just adds a touch of whimsy.  While designing our home, we told the architect that we wanted asymmetry in the design, and wanted a home that combines modern design with traditional elements, such as an open front porch. The angled porch roof was a unique design element that Tim came up with and we love it.  It wasn't meant to have a function, but ultimately we have noticed that the higher porch ceiling to the south allows more light into our large front window, and the lower porch ceiling over the front door makes it feel cozy and welcoming.  (Link to blog post)

2.  Are you happy with the house?  Does it perform as you expected?

Absolutely, yes.  It's probably impossible not to be happy with a house you put a lot of time and energy into designing, and the Passive House approach just makes it extra comfortable. As far as the utility bills, they are far lower than we used to pay next door, despite the much larger finished square footage and volume.

3.  It feels so spacious inside!  How many square feet is it?

The home is 900 square feet per floor, so a total of 2700 square feet.

4. Can you use the attic space?

Nope, there is a 24 inch blanket of cellulose insulation up there, providing an R value of at least 70.

5.  Do we recommend our architect/builder/designer?

We absolutely highly recommend our architect (Tim Eian), builder (Ryan Stegora) and designer (Christine Frisk).  To have a successful home project, keep in mind that you need a rock-star team, and as the homeowners, you are the leader of the team.  The more precise you can be about your design preferences, the better.  While exceptionally talented, they are not mind-readers, and so if you clearly communicate your expectations, everyone is happier and the project is a success.

6.  How much more  does it cost to build a Passive House?  

This is a hard one to answer.  Not only is our Passive House comfortable with low utility usage, it is also extremely durable and requires minimal maintenance over the long-term.  As far as up front costs for extra building materials and labor, the estimate is about 15 to 20% more expensive for the cost of construction.  

7.  Is the basement floor heated?

No, it's not heated but is does have 6 inches of foam insulation below the slab. This provides an R value of about 30.  The cement floor doesn't feel cold, which is why people ask.  This is just another example of a low-tech (simple) way to provide comfort without active heating.  It costs more up-front, but the difference is noticeable and will last the life-time of the building without maintenance.

8.  Do you have solar panels?

Not yet.  The angle of the south roof is the optimal pitch for flush-mount solar panels when the budget allows. For now, we have signed up for the Windsource program through Xcel Energy which means we pay a little more on the electrical bill to ensure the kWh we use is generated by wind, a renewable resource.  By putting extra money into the construction of a low energy home based on Passive House, we dramatically reduced our family's carbon footprint and that of future families that will call it home.  

9.  Why are there 2 back doors?

We asked for a design with a strong connection to the backyard.  One door is our everyday entrance to the mudroom.  The second door acts as a giant kitchen window providing a direct view of the backyard garden from the moment you enter from the front of the house.  This door also functions as the entertainment door to get to the backyard patio from the kitchen with ease.

10.  What would we have done differently?

It seems like there should be a few obvious answers to this question, but we both can't think of anything that we would have done differently.  

Have we missed a burning question of yours?  Let us know in the comments and we'll do our best to answer.  Thanks for reading!