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Invisible Sustainability

Using integrated passive design and advanced energy modeling, this small firm strives for simple methods and design freedom while meeting the 2030 Commitment.

Imagine it is minus 40 F. From a space of perfect thermal comfort, a blizzard dances around you, as if you were in a snow globe. You feel a seamless connection to your natural surroundings, yet no active heating is being used. In fact, this near-zero-energy building meets AIA’s 2030 Commitment without high-tech gadgetry or renewable energy systems. The focus is purely on the poetic sense-of-place that the architecture and landscape create.

I like to call this “invisible sustainability.”

COULSON Disappear Retreat, designed by COULSON, is a triple-zero building: zero energy, zero waste, zero water.

From the extreme cold climate of northern Minnesota, my architecture and research firm COULSON has been refining this approach since 2008, meeting the highest levels of sustainability using simple, invisible methods, without impacting the aesthetic creativity and elegant simplicity we strive for. We began with the groundbreaking design of the University of Minnesota Bagley Classroom, a LEED Platinum and AIA COTE Top Ten Award recipient, and have gradually advanced to achieve greater design freedom, transparency, cost control, and minimalist details in our recent residential, office, educational, and cultural projects.

As an AIA 2030 signatory firm, we are committed to meeting 2030 targets for all our work; we have a portfolio average of 89 percent pEUI overall and 100 percent for 2016. For comparison, the 2016 target for firms was 70 percent. Our passion for the environment is not only technical but extends to the experience of nature, which is an essential element in our designs. We insinuate our buildings into the landscape to live seamlessly and lightly with its magnificent beauty, while using passive and natural methods to achieve resiliency and energy freedom.

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