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Ross Street House

Madison, Wisconsin

Ross House 1This modestly-sized home on a small building lot employs many features to minimize its environmental footprint. It has earned the highest LEED rating.

The wood-clad house is positioned to take in as much winter sun as possible for warming, but is shaded from the summer sun for natural cooling. The sunlight is controlled by a fixed louver set just outside the south windows. The large windows also naturally illuminate the open living area, which is a bright and airy space. Although the interior is compact, light colors throughout make it appear to be larger.
Ross House 2

Water-saving features include rainwater collection and recycling (rainwater is used for maintenance, watering gardens, and car-washing), dual-flow toilets and low-flow faucets. Over half of the home’s energy requirements are met by solar electric panels.

Typical of sustainable building everywhere, the design of the site and landscape are very important. This site features a
Ross House 3minimum of paving to maximize onsite rainwater absorption, planting only with native plants and no invasive species, and no lawn areas, which require special care and watering. A rainwater garden collects water from the roof and paved areas so that no rainwater leaves the site. This is important because so-called “runoff” has been damaging nearby lakes. A vegetable garden is included as well as a butterfly garden.

Highly efficient and dimmable lighting is used throughout, as are energy and water-saving appliances. The house is constructed of eco-friendly, non-toxic materials that are locally sourced wherever possible.
An important feature of green building for homes is durability and versatility. This home is planned to include an elevator in the future, if the inhabitants will require that in later life. This will be the only home they will need!

Ross House 4

This house is a good example of the following concepts of green building:
  • Site Selection: The house is located close to shops and services, and public transportation, encouraging a healthy and energy-saving pedestrian lifestyle. The site is a small urban building lot – its neighborhood is compact and denser than suburban developments of single-family housing.
  • Site Design: The footprint of the house is small, and paving is minimized to allow natural drainage. Native plantings provide habitat for native insects and wildlife.
  • Energy Conservation: The orientation and form of the house makes the best use of the sun to warm the house naturally in winter, and solar panels provide a good deal of the electricity. Use of both heating fuel and purchased electricity are therefore reduced.
  • Water Conservation: Low-flow plumbing fixtures and water-saving appliances are used. Native plantings do not require irrigation. Rainwater is collected and used where possible instead of drinking water.
  • Materials and Resources: The house construction uses renewable materials that are produced locally wherever possible. Most importantly, the house is modestly sized.
  • Environment: This house provides a comfortable, healthy, well-lit and pleasant environment for its inhabitants. Non-toxic paints and other materials were used. The garage is detached from the house, avoiding car-related contamination issues. A central vacuum system exhausts directly to the outside, eliminating a source of dust.

A wonderful example of green building on a small scale, this house makes a comfortable, healthy and environmentally friendly home for a family, and our outdoor friends!

Courtesy Carol Richard, AIA
Graphics courtesy Richard Wittschiebe Hand Architects