Salmela Architect • This new classroom building, situated on a 55-acre nature preserve with old-growth hardwood trees and a pond, is just shy of 2,000 square feet, but it serves no fewer than eight departments at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The university asked David Salmela to design a building that would have minimal environmental impact and would be, in spite of the harsh northern Minnesota climate, a net energy producer. To meet the German Passivhaus standard and attain LEED Platinum certification, Salmela designed the building as a superinsulated, virtually airtight shell made of 16-inch-thick structural insulated panel walls and roof, recycled wood beams, and partially recycled zinc siding. The south-facing orientation maximizes solar gain in the winter while also providing the best orientation for photovoltaic panels. “It’s environmental and clear and simple,” juror Bill Valentine said. Outside, Salmela added a plaza with a concrete fireplace on one side and a facing enclosure for firewood, creating an outdoor teaching space that can be used into the cooler fall months. “The way it makes a place, it would be an enormous asset to any school,” juror Donna Robertson said.

Project Credits

Bagley Classroom Building, Duluth, Minn.
Owner University of Minnesota Duluth—John Rashid (project manager)
Architect Salmela Architect, Duluth, Minn.—David Salmela (principal); Carly Coulson (project architect)
Mechanical/Electrical Engineer
Gausman & Moore—Jim Keller (principal)
Structural Engineer Meyer Borgman Johnson—Paul Johnson (principal)
Energy Consultant Conservative Technologies—Mike LeBeau (principal)
Civil Engineer Sale Engineering—David Salo (principal)
Contractor University of Minnesota, Duluth—John Rashid (project manager); Kevin Claus (project superintendent); Carly Coulson (post-construction certification consultant)
Size 1,995 square feet
Cost $500 per square foot
Photography Paul Crosby