This past weekend was the big Minneapolis-St Paul home tour and I fully took advantage of the opportunity to poke my head into a couple amazing projects.  The first one that I want to highlight is the 5ive house by Shelter Architecture, a LEED Platinum mod project that was jam packed with eco-features… Here’s a shot of my rockin’ lil Smart car in front of the concrete and glass residence located in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis… Bryn Mawr I might add was recently named one of the ‘Top 10 Cottage Communities in the U.S.” by Cottage Living Magazine… just throwin’ that out there!

I’d followed the project’s blog, 5ive: Diary of a LEED Platinum Home by the architect, John Gavin Dwyer, and homeowner, Jeff Gallo for a while and was eager to check it out for myself.  Well let me tell ya, it didn’t fail to inspire!… The home is a pristine example that you can build green and modern on a tight budget.  Dwyer mentioned to me on the tour (without throwing numbers around) that the project came in at about half of what other custom modern homes cost… With a limited budget in mind, the Shelter team did a lot of things right, maintaining precedence on a very tight building envelope while utilizing cost cutting interior elements.  5ive also happens to be the only Platinum certified home in the country that doesn’t have on-site renewable energy, a testament to many smart decisions made along the way.


As a designer, I was particularly jazzed to see the warmth and livability of the interiors.  Colorful elements like pendant lights and furniture helped balance the starkness of the unfinished cement walls.  I also loved the addition of custom 3form ecoresin wall panels embedded with photos from the homeowners’ honeymoon along the stairwell.  What a great way to bring some personality into a space, eh?!?


Extra little pieces of the 3form were incorporated in the upstairs stair rail, which also featured rebar and salvaged wood…. great use of FLOR tiles as well.


An important aspect of 5ive’s design was its functionality and adaptability.  The ground floor was laid out so that it could be fully utilized by someone in a wheelchair.  God forbid an accident happen to one of its’ residents, the home would be able to accommodate its changed needs.  5ive is also prewired for solar, and the Gallo’s (homeowners) are waiting for nanosolar technologies to enter the scene for an improved ROI…. All in all, the home encompasses 1700 finished square feet that includes 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and 2 offices… pretty effective use of space I must say!

Other features of the 5ive project include:

  • Whole house heat recovery ventilator (HRV)
  • FSC Certified woods
  • Stair treads made from construction waste wood
  • Dual Flush toilets
  • Prefabricated insulated concrete wall panel construction
  • Energy Star appliances
  • Locally harvested hardwood flooring
  • Concrete countertops

It was great getting the personal tour from Dwyer, the project’s architect.  We had a cool discussion on how easily attainable LEED Platinum can become if you know what you’re doing and plan accordingly.  A couple years back Platinum was the beacon, the unattainable, and now it seems like the information is out there that could make this the norm.  Pretty exciting stuff, right?… maybe it’s just me!

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…another amazing project born from the environmental commitment of a few individuals.  I’m sure the Gallo’s would be the first to say that it wasn’t easy, but long term energy savings and tip top indoor air quality will make them happy campers for the long haul.

I wanna wrap this puppy up with the $$ shot of the main living space, which comes alive at night with the color changing LED backsplash in the kitchen…. LOVE IT!!!



About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.