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.