OS House, Racine, Wis., Johnsen Schmaling Architects

A mix of floor-to-ceiling glazing, outdoor rooms, and open views lend an expansive sense of space to a compact urban-infill home along Lake Michigan in Racine, Wis. Johnsen Schmaling Architects designed the 1,900-square-foot OS House with an 8-inch-deep superinsulated exterior rainscreen to protect the building envelope and to improve indoor comfort for the family of four who live there. Agricultural-based closed-cell expanding foam insulation supplies an R-34 value in the walls and R-53 in the roofs. Window sizing and placement help eliminate the need for artificial lighting during the day. A geothermal ground-source heat pump with a vertical-loop system heats and cools the home, and a solar hot-water panel augmented by a tankless hot-water heater provides domestic hot water. Photovoltaic laminates on the roofing membranes combined with a freestanding PV array generate nearly 70 percent of the home’s electricity.

Innovative framing techniques reduced construction lumber by 30 percent compared to conventional construction standards and decreased thermal bridging. The house is able to grow with the family, with a basement that can be converted into a bedroom and outdoor rooms that can be enclosed. The building materials and rainscreen inhibit mold and mildew. The project earned LEED Platinum certification, and the PV and geothermal systems’ performance will be monitored over the next few years.