Jeff and Salena Gallo not only feel good about their decision to build green, they also feel better physically. Salena has asthma and both had been plagued by allergies for years, yet after moving into their new sustainable home in Minneapolis, they no longer needed to take the medications they previously had relied upon to breathe easily.

We invested in the direction that technology is headed. Because we plan to add solar power generation in the future, we bought electrical appliances and equipment.
Jeff Gallo We invested in the direction that technology is headed. Because we plan to add solar power generation in the future, we bought electrical appliances and equipment.

This was an unexpected, pleasant side effect for a couple whose quest to construct a sustainable home began in 2005 when the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes rating system still was in its infancy. “We bought a hybrid car and that changed everything,” Jeff says. “We thought, if cars can be more efficient and better for the environment, so can homes.” Additional research led them to a local residential design firm with green expertise, Minneapolis-based Shelter Architecture.

“Salena and Jeff told us they wanted to build a LEED Platinum home on a small budget,” says John Dwyer, AIA, the project’s lead designer and co-founder of Shelter Architecture. “The major challenge was determining if we could meet LEED requirements and achieve Platinum without stacking the deck with choices they would not otherwise have made.”


The Gallos named their new home 5IVE to creatively express their street address and relate it to the five principles that guided their decisions throughout design and construction: healthy living, energy efficiency, water efficiency, responsible sourcing and use of materials, and space efficiency.

They selected a site near mass transit and community amenities to encourage walking and biking. And, because, as Jeff put it, “you only get one pair of lungs,” they made IAQ a priority. They collaborated with Shelter Architecture’s interior designer, Jackie Millea, ASID, associate AIA, to choose paints, stains and sealants with low or no VOCs; formaldehyde-free wood; and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene piping, which is a less-toxic alternative to polyvinylchloride piping. Ducts were sealed during construction to keep out dust and other contaminants. Walk-off mats were installed to capture dirt and dust from shoes.

A highly efficient furnace and air conditioner are linked to a whole-house heat-recovery ventilator. This device reclaims 60 to 80 percent of the energy used to condition interior air by channeling incoming fresh air and outgoing stale exhaust through different sides of a heat exchanger. An air handler distributes the heated or cooled fresh air throughout the home at the recommended rate of 0.35 air changes per hour. All air circulated through 5IVE is filtered.

5IVE’s fenestration also conserves energy while enhancing the living environment. Shelter Architecture chose large, floor-to-ceiling windows and strategically positioned them to bathe the interior with natural light, reducing the need for artificial illumination. During the cold winter months, these double-paned, argon-gas-filled windows transfer solar heat, decreasing 5IVE’s heating load and warming its occupants in a climate where exterior temperatures can plummet drastically.


Jeff Gallo

Great views of the low-maintenance, sustainable landscaping designed by Shelter Architecture’s Colin Oglesby connect 5IVE’s occupants to their surroundings and inspire them to spend time outdoors. “Jeff wanted a place to play catch with his future children, so we included a small pitching green,” Oglesby explains.

The landscaping features drought-tolerant, native plant species that add color, texture and natural beauty to what otherwise would be a mundane lawn. Bioswales collect most water that falls on the site and allow it to percolate to the water table. Runoff is harvested from the roof and stored in cube-shaped containers. Those features, combined with the use of pervious surfaces, such as the pea-gravel strips between the dry-laid pavers of the driveway or the blue-trap rock and stepping tiles of the courtyard, resulted in a 93 percent permeable site with zero stormwater runoff.


Jeff Gallo

“Because using solar technology wasn’t financially viable, we focused on designing a well-insulated, tightly sealed envelope,” Dwyer says. “The precast insulated concrete panel system we used is energy and cost efficient. It has an R-value of 31, twice that of a typical home. Salena and Jeff liked the modern look of concrete, so they saved the expense of adding finishes.” The R-60-rated roof has a thermoplastic polyolefin membrane with 16 inches (406 mm) of insulation beneath.

The Gallos countered what some perceive as the cold look of concrete by using warm-hued or darkly stained wood for cabinets, stairs and floors—all of which is Minneapolis-based Forest Stewardship Council-certified or reclaimed.

Jeff Gallo

“We’d hoped to reuse floors from an abandoned house on this site,” Salena says. 5IVE’s large, open floor plate required more wood than could be salvaged, however, so the Gallos called The ReUse Center in Minneapolis, which recycled 60 percent of the abandoned house before it was demolished. Then they purchased enough of a salvaged wooden gymnasium floor to provide a consistent surface throughout the second level and painted it black to contrast with the white walls.

Many of 5IVE’s distinct details incorporate recycled or recyclable content. The red pendant lights that punctuate food-preparation areas reuse traffic-light lenses. The photo/wall panels are made of a resin manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. The metal trim on the exterior of the house and concrete used for cladding and some interior surfaces, such as the kitchen countertop, are recyclable.

“5IVE earned a lot of LEED innovation points for the efficient and creative use of materials,” Dwyer says. The stair treads and stringers are made from wood trimmed off structural beams. Shelves in the pantry and closets are built from other leftover lumber.

“We were all vigilant,” Oglesby says. “Our holistic design team tends to feed off of each other’s waste streams. For example, the landscape plan didn’t initially include a corrugated rusty metal fence. When I realized some metal would be left over after the exterior trim was installed, I found a way to functionally and aesthetically integrate this into the landscaping. If anyone saw an opportunity to reuse materials that would otherwise wind up in the Dumpster, we’d figure out how to do this.”

The so-called waste used to construct 5IVE and its components was approximately 25 percent of that typically removed from a single-family residential building site.


Jeff Gallo

In their blog, the Gallos comment about how Shelter Architecture’s name resonated immediately. “[Shelter] was all we wanted,” Salena writes. “We didn’t need 4,000 square feet [372 m2]. We just wanted a place that had a soul.”

5IVE’s ultra-efficient layout accomplishes a lot in 1,760 square feet (164 m2) of finished space—three bedrooms, three bathrooms, two offices and a cluster of core living areas. “Nearly everything serves two purposes,” Salena says. On the main floor, a great room combines kitchen,

dining and living areas; built-in benches allow the vestibule to serve as a mudroom; and wall panels display art created by Jeff, a photographer, while separating the living room from a stairway.

Upstairs, the architects maximized usable space by providing storage along the hallway and using furniture, such as the large bureau placed between the master bedroom and bath, to provide privacy while retaining openness.


Jeff Gallo

In June 2008, 5IVE became the first newly constructed home in Minnesota to be LEED-H certified at the Platinum level. Because the Gallos couldn’t fully accomplish their wish list, they planned for the future. Exterior doors on the second floor ultimately will open onto an elevated deck. The carport is sturdy enough to support a green roof. Wiring was installed to make integrating solar technology easy when it becomes more efficient and affordable.

“We invested in the direction that technology is headed,” Jeff points out. “Because we plan to add solar power generation in the future, we

bought electrical appliances and equipment. This makes it difficult to compare utility costs with those of the house we owned before 5IVE, which was similar in size. We pay more for electricity now, but our natural-gas bill is negligible.”

Although the Gallos set out to build a green home where they could “live comfortably, longer,” they say what they learned along the way influences almost everything they do. They own one car and both work from home, which drastically has reduced their gasoline consumption. Having a pantry and limited storage space has encouraged them to buy less, transport items in cloth bags and store food in reusable containers. They drink tap instead of bottled water. “We recycle everything we possibly can,” Salena adds.

Dwyer is pleased that 5IVE achieved the Gallos’ specific objectives and he sees great value in the fact that it also has “become a model for others who would like to build and live sustainably on an affordable budget.”

The landscaping features drought- tolerant, native plant species that add color, texture and natural beauty to what otherwise would be a mundane, lawn. Runoff is harvested from the roof and stored in cube-shaped containers.
Jeff Gallo The landscaping features drought- tolerant, native plant species that add color, texture and natural beauty to what otherwise would be a mundane, lawn. Runoff is harvested from the roof and stored in cube-shaped containers.

HEATHER BEAL writes about architecture and sustainability from Edina, Minn.


• Owners Jeff and Salena Gallo, Minneapolis,

• Architectural, interior, landscape and lighting design Shelter Architecture, Minneapolis,

• Builder Elements of Earth Contracting, Minneapolis, (612) 817-5564

• Energy rater Chris Dantis, Building Science Inc., Burnsville, Minn., (952) 516-3426

• Mechanical contractor Apollo Heating and Ventilating Corp., Oakdale, Minn.,

• Structural engineering Ulteig, Minneapolis,

• Plumbing contractor Excel Mechanical, Watertown, Minn., (952) 393-2403

• Electrical contractor Bartz R Electric, Waseca, Minn., (507) 833-7731

• Custom cabinetry and millwork Arvid Larson Cabinets & Construction, Moorhead, Minn., (218) 233-5295

• Flooring and tile consultant/installer Steve Pasbrig, Minneapolis, (612) 532-4693

• Landscape installation Native Zen Gardens, Minneapolis,


LOW-VOC STAIN: The Sherwin- Williams Co., Cleveland,

LOW-VOC PAINT: Aura from Benjamin Moore, Montvale, N.J.,


WATERBORNE SEALER: Bona, Aurora, Colo.,


THERMOPLASTIC POLYOLEFIN ROOF MEMBRANE Firestone Building Products, Indianapolis,

RECYCLED STOP-LIGHT LENS PENDANT LIGHTS: Greenlight Concepts, San Francisco,


CONCRETE COUNTERTOP: Roehl Construction, Northfield, Minn., (612) 685-3040

LOW-FLOW FAUCETS AND SHOWER HEADS: Hansgrohe Inc., Alpharetta, Ga.,, and Kohler, Kohler, Wis.,

DUAL-FLUSH TOILETS: Toto, Morrow, Ga.,

RAIN-WATER BARRELS: Model RB-0 from Achla, Fitchburg, Mass.,

WHOLE-HOUSE HEAT-RECOVERY VENTILATOR: Constructo 1.0 from Venmar, Drummondville, Quebec, Canada,




WATER HEATER: Marathon from Rheem, Atlanta,

PRECAST CONCRETE PANEL SYSTEM: Forecast Concrete, St. Paul, Minn.,

METAL TRIM: Recla Metals LLLP, Montrose, Colo.,

CARPET TILES: Flor, Chicago,