TerraHaus, the first Passive House-certified student residence hall in the United States, so impressed the Design Awards judges that they created a special designation called Student Housing. Built with comfort and sustainability in mind, the cozy space for 10 is a far cry from typical institutional living, they said.

The home’s lucky occupants benefit from its healthy and low-maintenance interior finishes, including Sherwin-Williams Harmony no-VOC paint, sealed concrete floors, formaldehyde-free IKEA cabinets, and colorful linoleum flooring in the bedrooms. “This is really durable stuff, but it doesn’t feel cold,” remarked one judge.

A 120-tube solar thermal hot water system, mini-split air-source heat pump heating, a Zehnder 88% efficient HRV system, and R-11 windows with 50% solar heat gain help to combat frigid (but relatively clear and sunny) Maine winters. Architecture and construction firm G•O Logic achieved an overall wall R-value of 50 with a combination of SIPs construction and blown-in fiberglass insulation, while insulating roof areas with blown cellulose from R-80 to R-100.

The building’s orientation makes use of passive solar gain to lower space heating demands, which allowed planners to reduce the cost and complexity of the mechanical systems. This basic Passive House tactic resulted in a big payoff for the college: Space heating costs for TerraHaus are less than $300 per year ($30 per student), a big improvement from the two poorly insulated housing units it replaced, each with an annual space heating cost of about $500 per student. It’s no surprise then that two more Unity College residence halls based on the TerraHaus design are in the works.