A Sampling of Minnesota’s Sustainable Building History

The Weidt Group
on behalf of the USGBC-Mississippi Headwaters Chapter
  • Andersen introduced the Pressure Seal double hung window, which uses a removable sash and pressure-seal weather-stripping to keep out wind and precipitation.

  • The Perm-Shield System, by Andersen, made its debut. The patented, tough vinyl exterior for wood windows was low maintenance and energy efficient with insulating glass.


  • The University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture designed and constructed the Ouroboros House, a self-sufficient house with passive solar systems, integrated composting waste systems and a green roof, in Rosemount.


  • The Minnesota Energy Agency was created.


  • The first State Energy Code went into effect with design requirements and criteria for new buildings, additions and remodels.
    Williamson Hall Bookstore opened at the U of M as one of the first commercial earth-sheltered buildings featuring deep daylighting, green roofs and active solar collectors.


  • The U.S. Department of Energy and partners commissioned The Weidt Group to perform research on the performance of wall and ceiling insulation materials. Findings lead to restrictions on the use of urea formaldehyde foams and stricter federal and state code requirements for the thermal and fire retarding values for all insulation materials.


  • The Department of Energy and partners commissioned The Weidt Group to perform air infiltration studies. Publication of results created broad code changes reducing the acceptable air-leakage limits of installed windows.
  • The 4,000 SF, earth-sheltered Taft Residence was built in Edina in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s, utilizing passive solar features that reduced energy costs and consumption.


  • The Underground Space Center was established in Civil Engineering at U of M. The Center researched and published seminal works on earth-sheltered, passive solar buildings and other energy efficient technologies.
  • The State of Minnesota opened a new alternative energy initiative using waste wood to heat a 22,000 sq.ft. building.
  • The Regional Headquarters for the Minnesota DNR opened in Grand Rapids, designed for maximum solar orientation and winter solar gain, including a wood burning heating system.


  • The Minnesota Legislature established requirements for electric and gas utilities to perform pilot conservation programs.
  • The City of Minneapolis took its first efforts to address energy challenges by establishing the Energy Futures Committee and the Minneapolis Energy Plan and Energy Action Program.
  • The Center for Energy & Environment (CEE) established the House Doctor program, performing diagnostic tests, conducting homeowner education workshops, and providing materials and assistance for residential energy efficiency improvements.


  • The Civil/Mineral Engineering Building opened at the U of M, featuring the world’s first Passive Solar Optic and Active Solar Optic Systems, hybrid Trombe wall technologies, and ground source heat pumps.
  • Minnesota began the monitoring of wind speeds around the State for wind energy development potential at 30-meter heights.


  • Andersen introduced low-emissivity (Low-E) High-Performance glass with a specialized metallic coating that retards the loss of radiant heat from the inside in the winter and the gain of radiant heat in the summer.
  • CEE initiated a multi-year program of field tests of energy efficiency strategies for multifamily building mechanical systems, which later became the basis for multifamily efficiency programs throughout the country.


  • The Regional Daylighting Center was established by the U of M’s School of Architecture, in collaboration with The Weidt Group, as a resource to the design and construction community.
  • The City of St. Paul installed its district water heating system.


  • The Minnesota Building Research Center (MNBRC) was established at the University of Minnesota to coordinate building research, including indoor air quality and models of professional practice for design team integration.
  • Three 25 kilowatt grid-connected wind turbines was installed in Crookston-the first small, commercial scale wind turbines in the state.


  • AIA Minnesota established its Committee on the Environment (COTE) following the formation of the national COTE in 1989.


  • Xcel Energy launched its Energy Design Assistance Program, then known as Energy AssetsSM. By 2003, the program had addressed over 230 projects and reduced air pollution by over 209,000 tons per year while saving building owners more than 20 million dollars annually.
  • Johnstech International created the Healthy Office with low VOC materials and IAQ HVAC performance specifications.
  • The OEA held a Buy Recycled Workshop and Product Show, attended by 150 business and government professionals, featuring a session with nationally recognized experts.


  • The American Lung Association of Minnesota completed the design of its first Health House, one of the nation’s first single-family healthy demonstration homes.
  • Xcel Energy installed an interactive photovoltaic system exhibit at the old Science Museum to educate visitors on energy from the sun and to collect data.


  • The State of Minnesota’s Office of Environmental Assistance (OEA) published the Resource Efficient Building Guide.
  • Hennepin County made its Public Works facility a sustainable design pilot project which led to the development of the County’s sustainable design guidelines, incorporating on-site wastewater treatment, graywater recycling and recycled materials.
  • Several northeastern Minnesota counties developed a mock house (trailer) that displayed recycled content building products.


  • The Material Reuse Center, a retail store that handles salvaged building materials, was opened by the Green Institute in Minneapolis.
  • Xcel Energy completed eighteen 2 kW photovoltaic systems for the Solar Advantage green-leasing program.


  • The Green Institute Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center (PEEC) was constructed with award winning green building features including operable windows, a demonstration green roof, geothermal heating and cooling, 100% on site storm water management, and many salvaged materials including structural joists.
  • Northland College developed the Environmental Living & Learning Center, a student housing live-in learning center that demonstrated energy efficiency, composting toilets, wind power and 3 types of photovoltaic power monitored by the students.
  • Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Plymouth completed construction of a 32,000 SF project incorporating a 100-ton loop field geothermal heating system.


  • OEA held a green building workshop at the U of M for local government officials.
  • Great River Energy installed three 660 kW wind turbines in Chandler for the State’s first green pricing program.


  • The Millennium Star Energy House was built in Duluth, demonstrating advanced energy techniques with an interactive educational website.
  • The West Metro Education Program (WMEP) completed its Interdistrict Downtown School, a “green living school” achieving energy efficiency 40% above MN code with Daylighting, recycled content materials, superior indoor air quality and incorporating the SolarWall product.
  • Six state agencies collaborated to form the “Smart Buildings Partnership” and produce “High Performance Building Goals.”
  • Minnesota Solar Resource Assessment Project began to collect data on solar potential in Minnesota.


  • The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) published an educational monograph on Sustainable Design.
  • Minnesota installed more wind energy capacity from 1995-2000 than any other state.


  • The Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) was established at the U of M.
  • The OEA funds LHB Inc. to develop a predesign manual titled, “Sustainable Schools Minnesota.”
  • The State of Minnesota passed legislation requiring sustainable guidelines be applied to all projects receiving funds from state bonds.
  • Carleton College in Northfield adopted the MN Sustainable Design Guide for all new and renovated projects on its campus.
  • Offering green pricing as an option to customers was made mandatory for all Minnesota electric utilities.


  • The Metropolitan Council built a new Demonstration Administration Building for its Eagle’s Point wastewater treatment plant that was 70% more energy efficient than code, using strategies including Daylighting and the effluent tank as a source for geothermal energy.
  • Minnesota Planning published “Return on Investment-High Performance Buildings” which called for the State to improve standards of its buildings through high-performance measures.
  • OEA’s Green Building Website was launched (pca.state.mn.us), search ‘green building.’
  • The Minnesota Solar Electric Rebate Program began, reducing the cost of grid-connected photovoltaics by 20-25%.
  • The first Living Green Expo drew 5,000 attendees to the State Capitol to learn about sustainable lifestyle choices.


  • The Science Museum of Minnesota opened the Science House, a Zero Emissions Building.
  • Minnesota’s U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) members formed a committee to establish a Minnesota Chapter of the USGBC.
  • The American Lung Association of Minnesota built a new national demonstration Health House, using geothermal energy and Masterfit, a waste-free wood structural framing system.
  • The City of St. Paul added new efficient burners and biomass to its downtown district heating system.
  • MN Power and the Duluth Zoo built three renewable demonstration projects, including photovoltaic recharges for vehicles, solar water heating for the farm animal barn, and geothermal cooling for the polar bear pond.
  • OEA awarded a grant to U of M to develop a database of green affordable housing technologies.
  • Lebanon Hills Trail Head & Visitor Center was completed using Dakota County Sustainable Design & Construction Standards.
  • MN Health House townhouses at Jackson Street Village opened, featuring geothermal, waterproof exterior technologies and resource efficient materials.
  • The Living Green Expo moved to the State Fairgrounds and more than doubled attendance to 11,000 attendees.
  • Clean Energy Resource Teams in seven regions of Minnesota were formed to promote grassroots education and project development.
  • The Weidt Group received the 2003 Firm Award from AIA Minnesota for having “led the local, national and international architectural profession in one of architecture’s most significant changes in the last 26 years: the formal incorporation of sustainability into the design process.”


  • The Minnesota Building Materials Database was completed.
  • Sustainable Building Guidelines (B3) Version 1.0 were developed and in effect for all projects using funds bonded by the State of Minnesota.
  • Phillips Eco Enterprise Center installed a 34-kilowatt photovoltaic system, the largest solar array in the 5-state area.
  • EnvironDesign8, Affordable Comfort, and Energy Smart America national conferences came to Minnesota.
  • The U of M Graduate School approved the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture’s proposal for a new MS program with an option for an emphasis in Sustainable Design.


  • The “Green Remodeling Group” was created by members of the remodeling, design, trade association, and building supply communities to develop sustainable, green remodeling standards. The group evolved to become Minnesota GreenStar, a voluntary, third-party green certification program for new and renovated homes.
  • Minnesota Green Communities was created to foster the development of affordable, healthy, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly housing in Minnesota.


  • The first Eco Experience displays were set up at the Minnesota State Fair held in the Progress Center.
  • Minneapolis City Council voted to use LEED standards for all new or significantly renovated municipal facilities 5,000 square feet or greater.


  • Legislature passed the Next Generation Energy Act, mnclimatechange.us


  • Great River Energy opened its new headquarters in Maple Grove. The building was the first in Minnesota to receive LEED Platinum certification from USGBC.
  • Minnesota Sustainable Building 2030 (www.mn2030.umn.edu/download/SB2030_OnePager.pdf), a MN legislative initiative patterned after Architecture 2030, was launched.


  • St. Paul City Council adopted a Sustainable Building Policy governing all new private development projects that received more than $200,000 in city funds.
  • The new TCF Bank stadium at the U of M received LEED Silver certification.
  • Excelsior & Grand development project in St. Louis Park, a pilot project of the USGBC’s LEED for Neighborhood Development was officially certified.


  • Target Field, home of the MN Twins and the recipient of a LEED Silver certification from the USGBC, opened in the spring.
  • LEED for Neighborhood Development was officially launched nationally after a 21/2 year pilot phase, usgbc.org.
MN’s Sustainable Building History

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