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. 

Hoops Brewing to Open June 27th


Check out the story in Growler Magazine about soon-to-open Hoops Brewing.

Now Open (Or Damn Close)

Wagner Zaun Architecture is proud to be part of the team that made this project a reality.

Thoughts on to a trendy word

The Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced sort of like HUE-gah) has been in the press a lot lately. The word refers to the mood or quality of things being special, cozy, or pleasant. The New York Times recently ran an article on the notion here: Move Over, Marie Kondo: Make Room for the Hygge Hordes

A recent book “The little book of Hygge- The Danish Way to Live Well” extols the virtues of taking pleasure in the everyday act of living. It recommends, among other things, warm fireplaces, wool socks, books, comfy places to sit, candle light, wood finishes, and warm beverages. A lot of our clients seem to be after that feel, and I am glad to now have a word to help define it. I was also recently sitting on my couch, contemplating our new living space, and came to the conclusion that we have hygge down pat. – Elden

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

Just In Time for Winter

Work is well underway on the super-efficient Rice Lake Farmhouse.  We designed this low-energy home with the owner’s vision of a modern interpretation of the iconic and durable Swedish Farmhouse. The house sits on a 6.5 acre old homestead, surrounded by working farms. The house is nearly closed in, awaiting the delivery of windows, and you can easily see the iconic farmhouse form. We’ll continue to post as construction proceeds.

GBA Guest Blog – vol. 4

South Elevation

WZA’s energy geek Elden Lindamood shares more about this own house on Green Building Advisor. Elden has been sharing the background and the foreground about the design, construction, performance and operation of his own low-energy house.

You can read his 4th (and the other 3) blog installment here:

Relative Humidity and Makeup Air at a Tight Minnesota House

More to Learn with the Esko Farmhouse


It is so gratifying to learn from our past work. Of course we learn from our mistakes, but we also learn from our successes. And we build on that success as we strive to improve and innovate, using our own creativity and knowledge as well as information gained from other professionals and industry developments.

The June/July 2016 issue of Fine Homebuilding (FHB#160) features an article about the Esko Farmhouse, first published in a special Energy Smart Homes Issue of Fine Homebuilding. We designed this passive solar, low-energy home in 2009.

The owners of the Esko Farmhouse have been carefully tracking their energy use since they occupied the house, and they graciously share their data with us every year. I wrote a follow-up letter to Fine Homebuilding, providing some updated information about the Esko project, and also sharing some insight into the progression of our work since we completed that project.

You can read the specifics here:

Passive House and Wagner Zaun are featured in Business North Newspaper

EskoFarmhouseSustainable building continues its move into the general public. In the June, 2016 issue of Business North, writer Kitty Mayo interviewed Rachel Wagner to learn more about the concepts of the Passive House building standard and energy efficient design in general. Rachel is a certified Passive House designer, and she was happy to share the principles and philosophy behind Passive House and her firm’s embrace of an integrated approach to reduce the environmental impact of building construction and operation.

Click here to read the full article: Passive House Movement Catching on Locally