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horizon house, moorhead, mn (2013)

A home that respects the environment and local culture on a very tight budget.

2014 Recipient of the AIA North Dakota Honor Award (Residential)

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hallway view & diagram showing discounted windows

The clients for this suburban house wanted a simple home that respected the environment and local culture on a very tight budget. In response to the clients’ expressed needs, we designed the house to incorporate Passive House principles and cost-saving strategies.


The two volumes create a natural enclosure in the backyard while the home’s orientation maximizes winter solar gain. A rule enforced by the property developer required sloped roofs, which we interpreted as single-sloped surfaces channeling rainwater to on-site garden irrigation. Interior finishes were kept to a minimum, such as wood donated from a local farmhouse, and pre-manufactured cabinetry installed by the owners.


The windows represent a substantial cost-saving strategy that simultaneously achieves high energy efficiency. High-performance windows rejected from other projects due to mistakes related to color or size or operation were already in the window manufacturer’s inventory. We negotiated with the manufacturer to purchase the windows at a substantial discount. The design strategy responded with a simple organizational device of aligning lower-level window heads and allowing isolated windows to “float” in the upper-level wall.


A continuous layer of insulation as thermal break added to the home’s environmental performance. A concrete slab-on-grade with radiant piping constitutes the home’s single heat source. The house is pre-wired for future applications of solar and/or geothermal, and the total construction cost was roughly $200,000.

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