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The Nauhaus: Out to Save the World

The-Nauhaus-Prototype-2_300.jpgBy Daniel Flahiff

As public support for sustainable residential architecture grows in the U.S., the number of green-building demo projects continues to proliferate. The challenge for both consumers and builders is to cut through the hype to find the tools and techniques that make sense both environmentally and economically.

Stepping into the breach is a new firm out of Asheville, NC, The Nauhaus Group, which unapologetically states, "It’s no secret that the Nauhaus Group is out to save the world." Their demo project, The Nauhaus Project (NHP), broke ground on September 1st in an unusual fashion. Instead of the traditional shovel of dirt and opening ceremony, The Nauhaus Group decided to hold the official ceremony two months later on November 6th, the date at which they hope to install an innovative hemp wall system. According to Michael Figura, one of the organizers of the event:

"We thought it would be more appropriate because our building’s paradigm is constructive, not destructive. Considering the unique features of the home we decided to hold a public event at a time in the construction process when people could view and experience some of the more exciting highlights of the prototype."

Included in the seventeen-point NHP "basic housing components" list are techniques both well-known and exotic including the hemp wall system which will be the first U.S. application of Tradical® Hemcrete® a bio-composite, thermal insulating material made from hemp, lime and water. Hemcrete® has been used in Europe and elsewhere in a wide array of applications from roof insulation to wall construction to flooring. It is waterproof, fireproof, insulates well, does not rot [when used above ground] and is completely recyclable.

The NHP components list also includes passive solar and super insulation technology that meets Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) standards, heat exchange ventilation via an UltimateAir® RecoupAerator® ERV, locally sourced materials and on-site renewable energy production. The net result of the NHP approach will be a home that needs no furnace or air conditioning, is 90 percent more energy efficient than present code mandates and achieves LEED Platinum certification with 20 points to spare.

The U.S. Green Building Council estimates that buildings account for thirty-eight percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S. alone. It's now more important than ever to develop projects like the Nauhaus that shift the design and construction paradigm from the reckless practice of the past to an environmentally sustainable and economically viable model for the future. I think the NHP is one of the better, more realistic demo projects I've seen. I'll be keeping an eye on NHP as Nauhaus ushers it from concept to reality.





Daniel Flahiff is a writer, designer and filmmaker based in Seattle. He is a co-founder of Big Fig Design Group, a multi-disciplinary group of artists, designers and roustabouts who like to make all sorts of things. Daniel’s film and video work has been screened at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Los Angeles Times Media Center, and at the 2000 Telluride International Experimental Cinema Exposition. His essays, interviews and criticism has appeared in Inhabitat and (incli)NATION.

Photo credits: The Nauhaus Group© All rights reserved.

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How can low dense development be considered green? While the building's footprint is relatively small, it is really only a single story---suggesting a suburban density paradigm which is not sustainable. Show me a green 3, 4, or 5 story infill row house. Or, even better, show me a green retrofit of an existing historic building.

Posted by: Robin on 10 Sep 09

Actually, it's a very small urban infill lot. The house has a walkout basement with a small apartment in it to maximize flexibility. If a large family lives in the house that space can be used as two additional bedrooms, but when the kids move off to college, it can serve as a 1 bedroom apartment with it's own outside entrance.

The Nauhaus Group is dedicated to increasing density including deep energy retrofits where they make sense. We are also focused on multifamily and mixed use development, but a single family house is the appropriate scale for a prototype trying as many innovative ideas as this project is.

Posted by: Jeff on 10 Sep 09

To the first commenter--- Dude, did you even look at the plans above? Its clearly two(2) stories, on a small lot.

Point well taken on the "prototype" paradigm from the second poster; but lets imagine for a moment if the "density challenged" neighborhoods employed these methods in their building--- what a huge impact that would make! Lets face it there will never be a day when everyone lives in high density.

Hopefully I can get up to NC and check out that opening event--- thanks Daniel for posting about this [before] the event!


Posted by: Constance on 11 Sep 09

I was not aware this was designed for a small urban infill lot. Why include such a large set back in the design? This is out of character with an urban space I have ever been in.

Posted by: Robin on 11 Sep 09

It was necessary to put the house on a larger than usual setback because we are having to put a well between the house and the street(the city would not let us tap into their water lines because it is a 1.5" line). We have to have the house outside of the well perimeter, which is 25'. However, the house next door is on the same setback, so it will not look out of character with the urban fabric of the neighborhood.

I appreciate your comments about this being a low density project. It is our goal to do PED and TOD development, but we originally purchased this lot to complete a greenway trail, and we had to monetize the lot to get our $70K back, so we had to build a house on it and put the greenway trail to the side of the lot. Notwithstanding, the house is less than a mile from downtown west Asheville, which is outside of the 1/4 mile "lazy American" walking perimeter, but is within the Eco Warrior walking perimeter!

Posted by: Michael on 11 Sep 09

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