Progress on the North Shore

Site clearing started in mid-July on a picturesque site along the north shore of Lake Superior and work has progressed nicely despite less than ideal weather for most of the Fall. Trust shared between architect, client and pre-selected contractor has allowed the project to move smoothly throughout the construction phase and has us on track for a mid-January completion date.

Check back for more interior photos as the this project approaches completion.

Coming Soon to a Big Lake near you!

Construction has started on a new private residence on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The design program was to create a unique, modern home that would maximize views to the Lake, while also providing a calm, relaxing & restorative environment.

The home will comfortably weather the lake exposure and the extremes of our Northern MN location. The large glass areas were mitigated with the use of tri-pane, fiberglass windows. The flat roof assembly contains tapered rigid insulation with an average R value of 62. The thermally robust walls are a hybrid pairing of a 2×6 bearing wall with dense pack cellulose and 4” exterior nail base (SIP) panels for a combined R value of 36.

The home will have LED lighting throughout and will be heated via a high efficiency condensing boiler with in-floor heat on the main level and European style panel radiators on the 2nd level.

Other design features include a custom steel staircase and a “swiss army” entry storage, TV and fireplace room divider.

Check back for on-going progress notes and construction photos.


GBA guest blog – vol. 5

Elden Lindamood talks the talk AND walks the walk…

This week Elden has another guest blog on Green Building Advisor, about his own home:

A Follow Up from Northern Minnesota

This June Elden will share more about his experience with his own home and why it matters at another well-known forum, The Energy Fair in Custer, WI (formerly known as the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair).

Better Buildings: Better Business

On Friday, Elden will be a panelist at the closing plenary session of the Better Business, Better Buildings conference in the Wisconsin Dells. He will contribute to a conversation about how regional developers, builders, architects, and consultants are redefining quality and high performance in their projects.

Almost time for the Annual Geek-out!





The 2018 Duluth Energy Design Conference will be held Feb. 19-21.

This annual event features local and national experts in resource-efficient buildings, with a focus on housing. If you’ve never attended, this is a great year to start.

The conference will kick-off with a keynote session by Peter Yost, the Vice-President of Building Performance at Building Green.

Keeping it local, WZA’s Rachel Wagner and Elden Lindamood will each present a session this year.

We hope to see you there!

A likely spirited debate within the greater discussion of sustainability:

Author Gwyneth Cravens will give a talk entitled “The Truth about Nuclear Energy”

Tuesday, October 24th at 7:30 pm at Mitchell Auditorium, The College of St. Scholastica


Whatever your position on the topic of nuclear energy, we encourage your attendance at this lecture, the second of the season in the Alworth Center for Peace and Justice lecture series.


It’s Back to School Time!

This October 12 Rachel Wagner will join Pat Huelman and Michael Resech to present a full-day continuing education seminar hosted by MN Green Path.


Follow the link for more information:


(HERS) Score! The Rice Lake Farmhouse is complete and Certified Low Energy!

We just received a HERS score of 34 for this new house in Wisconsin with no renewable energy systems (yet). I couldn’t be happier about this, for a couple reasons. First, of course, is the fact that this passive solar designed, super-insulated home is predicted to use 66% less energy than a new home built to current WI code would use. And second, because the HERS score provided through the Wisconsin Focus on Energy Program confirms the estimations of our own in house energy modeling efforts.

So, for those of you (still) reading who are not energy geeks, you may be wondering what a HERS rating is, and why all the fuss? The HERS index is a nationally recognized rating system for single family homes that “rates” the predicted energy consumption of a new home relative to a baseline home (of the same design in the same location). A HERS score is obtained with a third party rater, who not only enters the building design and systems specifications into an energy model, but also makes periodic site visits during construction to verify the levels and quality of insulation, assembly details, products used, and air tightness of the building.

The lower the HERS score, the lower the predicted energy consumption of the home. A HERS score of zero indicates a home expected to be net zero energy (like the Echo Lake Home we designed, featured in Green Building Advisor). A score of 100 would indicate a home built to the current energy code. A score higher than 100 indicates a home less efficient than a new home built to code.

Our friends at Unity Homes in New Hampshire wrote a great blog piece explaining the HERS rating system:

Energy Ratings and Alphabet Soup: HERS, LEED, ZERH and more

We’ll write more in another post about the Rice Lake Farmhouse, once the owner has finished decorating and lets me back in for final photographs. The house isn’t just low energy, it is also a beautiful, modern home that takes its inspiration from the tradition of the Swedish farmhouse.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo taken on June 21, the Summer solstice. And note the shading across the south facing windows!

An Invitation to Participate in “The Challenge of Living Sustainably”

Defining what “living sustainably” means can be a daunting task. Acting on the definition can be even more daunting. But daunting or not, sustainability is a topic we all need to face, consider, and address.


At Wagner Zaun Architecture, we have a long history of considering the idea of living sustainably in our work (and in our own lives). This year, we’re furthering our involvement in the topic by supporting the Alworth Center for Peace and Justice 2017-2018 Lecture Series at the College of St. Scholastica. The theme of this season’s lecture series is “The Challenge of Living Sustainably.”

The concept of “living sustainably” is complex and can be controversial. One of the best ways to dive into the complexity is to engage in thoughtful, critical discussion of the issues.
The first lecture will be Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 pm. Journalist Andrew Revkin will set the stage with his expansive expertise about the climate, energy, and humanity.


You can read more about the series here:
We hope you’ll come to all the lectures, and join us in learning, lively discussion and stimulating interaction. 

Time for the Annual Duluth Energy Design Conference

January/February in Duluth: ice fishing, dog sledding, and high heating bills.

Wait – High heating bills in winter aren’t a given. You can learn about reducing and managing building energy use at the annual Energy Design Conference at the DECC, February 20, 21 and 22.

Wagner Zaun Architecture has been a proud participant in this conference for the past 12 years. This year, staff energy geeks Rachel Wagner and Elden Lindamood will give presentations about design and construction, including two case studies of recently completed super-efficient houses.

We hope to see you there (because sometimes you have to come in from the cold)!

Check out