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Nudging Near Net-Zero

Wanting to get as close to net- zero as possible, our clients came to us with a desire to create a home that would accommodate their growing family while walking lighter on the earth and living in a healthier home. A collaborative process with the clients, architect and Meadowlark resulted in a stunning energy-efficient home that seamlessly melds with the aesthetic of the classic Ann Arbor neighborhood where it's situated.


Having lived in the home for almost 10 years, our clients loved their current neighborhood, but the home wasn't meeting the needs of their growing family, nor was it in alignment with their overall goal of living in a healthy, energy-efficient home. They contemplating remodeling or adding on to the existing home, but after extended discussions with their architect, they decided the best way to achieve near net-zero energy usage required starting anew.

The Team

Architect:  Architectural Resource

Project Manager: The Meadowlark Team

Designer:  Melanie Grabarkiewicz

Photography:  Joshua Caldwell


Schematic Design

To get as close to net-zero as possible, our clients looked to Passive House techniques to maximize the overall energy portfolio of the home. It was quickly determined that the placement of the existing home on the lot was not conducive to capturing the solar potential that was necessary for a near net-zero home. Thus the owners made the decision to carefully deconstruct the home to salvage as much of it as possible for re-use in the new home. They also wanted to utilize sustainable, energy-efficient materials and systems wherever possible. Key design goals:

  • Re-use as much of the materials from the existing home as possible
  • Donate or recycle materials that could not be re-used in the new home
  • Optimize site location to maximize solar potential for both passive and active energy-efficient strategies
  • Utilize healthy materials with a focus of healthy air quality
  • Get as close to net-zero as possible
  • Build to Passive House standards

Design Development

Solar studies resulted in placing the home on the back side of the property. This provided a beautiful front yard that was set apart from the neighborhood. It also provided lots of opportunities to take advantage of the large front yard for outdoor living. By minimizing the windows on the back side of the home, privacy is created from their closest neighbors and allows for larger windows to be placed on the front side of the home. Passive House wall construction techniques along with ultra-efficient windows and a high-efficiency HVAC system result in a home that is quiet, energy efficient and healthy for both the family and the earth.

  • ICF (Insulated Concrete Foam) foundation wrapped with 6" of EPS rigid foam
  • 8" Rigid XPS foam under basement foundation
  • Energy-efficient metal roof
  • Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) for healthy air quality
  • Low flow water fixtures and PEX plumbing
  • Gaulhofer ultra energy-efficient windows and sliders
  • Smooth Hardie Board exterior siding
  • Roof Solar Array
  • Designed and build to Passive House standards
  • Eco-friendly low-VOC products were used throughout the home
  • Carrier Greenspan heat pump HVAC system
  • Separate garage connected via covered walkway to improve comfort and energy efficiency of main house

The Results

The result of careful planning and a collaborative effort has created a beautiful home that meets the needs of a growing family and sips energy at a fraction of what a standard-built home would. The addition of a very modest solar array brings this home to near net-zero. Durable and sustainable products and systems were used throughout, making the home long-lasting, easy to maintain and provides healthy air quality for its occupants - all packaged in a aesthetic that blends seamlessly into one of Ann Arbor's oldest neighborhoods.

Do you have a home building or remodeling project you're thinking about?

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