Floorboards and wall paneling were milled from 10 sugar maples harvested from Middlebury forests. The exterior cedar siding also came from Vermont.

Floorboards and wall paneling were milled from 10 sugar maples harvested from Middlebury forests. The exterior cedar siding also came from Vermont.

Credit: Ian Allen

By incorporating features of a New England farmhouse into a novel 21st-century design, Middlebury College students intended this gable-roofed house called Self-Reliance to be a sustainable alternative to other traditional options in the housing market. Energy-efficient features include energy-monitoring software, high R-value insulation, and triple-paned windows. The team also chose cellulose insulation instead of foam, says student Joseph Baisch, the project’s architecture leader. “We found that foam is 50 times more expensive to produce, energy-wise, than cellulose. And the blowing agents in it have high global-warming potential.”

To keep costs down, the team used conventional construction methods and local, natural materials, such as Vermont slate. Floorboards and wall paneling were milled from 10 sugar maples harvested from Middleburyforests. The students used leftover material to build a dining table and desk. The exterior cedar siding also came from Vermont. From the outset, the students wanted to design a house that the public would relate to. “We tried to make a familiar space,” Baisch says. “Two years ago, we saw a lot of houses here with open floor plans and bedrooms right behind the kitchen, and we didn’t think that would resonate with everyone. So we tried to divide the public and private space.” The strategy paid off: Middlebury scored highest in the market appeal category.

Estimated cost: $282,570.07