The first passive house residence hall in America

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Student housing at Unity includes TerraHaus, the first passive solar residence hall in the nation. Photo by Mark Tardif.

TerraHaus is a 10-person apartment-style Passive House residence which is located near The Cottages.

TerraHaus, Unity’s first student Passive House residence, is a two-story cottage with 4 double rooms and 2 single rooms. The 1st floor consists of the common areas, which are an open plan with a kitchen/dining/living area in the center and a single bedroom, double bedroom, mud room, and bathroom surrounding. The 2nd floor has the remaining 3 double bedrooms, a single bedroom, and a bathroom. Rooms are furnished with beds, dressers, desks/chairs, and closet space.

The energy specifications of TerraHaus are pretty impressive. The walls of the building have an R50 value, roof R80, floor R70 and the windows an R8. TerraHaus is designed to use about 186 Btu per hour, compared to the 11,000 Btu per hour a normal, similarly sized building would use. This comes out to about 14 Btu per square foot per year. After the passive energy gains, the building’s remaining heat needs will be met with electric heat, at an annual cost of about $335 at current rates.

The passive energy for the house is sunlight. The building has huge two-story windows situated for maximum sunlight in the winter. The roof overhang is designed so that the solar gain is much less in the summer, as one of the biggest challenges of the passive solar design is that the building could get too hot in the summer. But by situating the building and roof overhang to take advantage of the change in the angle of sunlight from summer to winter, the building stays cooler in the summer but still is able to provide nearly all of the heat needed in the winter.

Residents of TerraHaus are expected to live an energy-efficient lifestyle and will work with the director of residence life and the sustainability coordinator to fulfill the program goals of TerraHaus, including those related to building energy performance, sustainability education, and public engagement.

Building Energy Performance: Residents of TerraHaus are expected to be knowledgeable about the building’s energy performance and able to explain its systems to visitors and community members. TerraHaus residents will consider carefully how their daily behavior affects the energy performance of the residence.

Sustainability Education: Residents may be asked to host overnight prospective students who are interested in the College’s sustainability programs.

Public Engagement: Residents of TerraHaus are are expected to maintain the common rooms in a presentable manner for visiting classes, visitors, and other guests of the College. TerraHaus will be open for tours during Admissions open houses, previews, and New Student Experience. The College will notify the residents of pending visitors at least 48 hours in advance.

The bedrooms of TerraHaus are considered private and not open to visitors unless the residents agree. Except where designated, residents are not allowed to nail, screw, etc. anything to the walls of the TerraHaus, in order to preserve sound-proofing and energy performance. Residents of TerraHaus may opt out of the meal plan. Like Cianchette, housing selection for TerraHaus offers residents a choice of either a single room or a double room and a selection of a roommate.

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