Summary: Machthaus is a single-family, off-grid, urban-infill Milwaukee home. It is designed as a largely repeatable model for small-home city housing with goals of sustainability and minimized operating costs.
Design: Steve Servais of Common Advantage Construction and Nikolai Usack, owner.
On Macht: In German, Macht is ~“Power, Might, Strength, Ability to Do and Make“- this house will make all of its own electricity and hot water…and most of its heat and cooling. It will also harvest rain water and wind, facilitate food production, be durable and operate largely maintenance-free. Macht!
Ultimately the house should help shift construction paradigms towards urban off-grid housing designs. I hope Machthaus becomes an expression of power over “conventional” design and tradition/bad thinking in home construction.
Timeframe: Underway! Project kicked off May, 2016
Size: Living Area- 525 ft2, Overall- 725 ft2
Location: 2243 S. Winchester St. Bay View, Milwaukee. Machthaus is being built as a ‘back-house’ to take advantage of southern exposure for passive solar design. I obtained a variance for a “back-house” build-permit. Luckily, neighborhood precedents existed, District 14 has a progressive Alderman and we (as Pragmatic Construction and Common Advantage) have had success building back houses to enable solar access in in other Milwaukee neighborhoods (e.g. Riverwest).
As-Is Aerial view
To-Be Aerial view
Project Budget: 150K (excluding lot, and including a detached garage for the neighboring property). Note: Full project budget will be posted as construction proceeds.
Lastly, Why a Blog?
For years I have been an advocate for transparency in Green Building. When I was a partner in Pragmatic Construction (2008-2011) we regularly blogged all of our builds to show people the “true-face” of sustainable building- even the important but ugly bits (like deconstruction and remodeling). We wanted to demonstrate the difference between thoughtful Green building (integrated technologies designed to the site) and the all-too-common “Veneer-Green” (solar panels and bamboo slapped onto the same-old-form).
For Machthaus, the first modern off-grid urban build in Milwaukee, I would like to be transparent with the project timeline, budget, actual costs and ongoing performance metrics. When it is complete, I will make it available for public viewing. The blog format seems the most conducive to sharing information in the design and build phase. Hopefully you want to come along for the journey, share your thoughts with us and ultimately visit the finished artifact.