Seeing the Bones of A Sustainable Home

In southwest Iowa, just outside the town of Red Oak, a sustainable home is under way. Architect James Plagmann of Boulder, Colorado, designed the home using sustainable materials and practices.

Here we’re seeing the bones of a sustainable home as it’s being built.

passive solar green home under construction, seeing the bones of a sustainable home

The south-facing front facade admits light for solar gain.

green, sustainable home interior under construction, seeing the bones of a sustainable home

Concrete walls provide thermal mass and tornado protection, clerestory windows provide light to interior rooms.


Plagmann has designed a number of extremely green, energy efficient homes. He’s used many of those energy-saving features in this home, as well, such as:

  • Passive solar design, with broad overhanging eaves, south-facing windows, and thermal mass.
  • Poured concrete walls provide protection against tornadoes, along with thermal mass.
  • Daylighting to bring light into interior rooms.
  • A heat-recovery ventilator to capture heat that would be wasted, and combined with a heat pump, helps to obviate the need for a standard air conditioner.
  • A ground-source heat pump provides heat in cold weather and cooling in warm weather, and feeds radiant tubing within the slab floor.
  • A well-insulated shell maintains constant temperature and minimizes thermal bridging.
  • Air sealing to minimize drafts.
  • Partial earth-sheltering to minimize temperature swings inside the house.

At 2,640 square feet, the house is not tiny, but part of that area is a tool room and greenhouse. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished house!


The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

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