Beaver Island Passive House

Modern Passive House architecture and net-zero performance in a spectacularly remote setting.

Inspired by memories of family vacations on Lake Michigan, this owner purchased lake front property on Beaver Island with the idea of building a Passive House. Bringing this level of performance to different places in North America for the first time can be challenging. Bringing it to Beaver Island adds some additional caveats as the island is only available by ferry for a limited period of time each year. The idea of an energy efficient, comfortable and resilient home makes every bit of sense in this place.

Construction impression of main hallway and lake-facing picture window

The Spyglass

The “shotgun” layout of the  home focuses right onto the lake. From the moment one enters the home, it is put into view through a high-performance window. The rooms are located to the left, on the south side with many windows along the facade for views, daylighting and the passive solar heat gains that heat this home through the rough Lake Michigan winters.

Living room picture window framing Lake Michigan during construction


Impression of the steep drop-off during excavation

Living on the Edge

At the edge of the plateau on which one enters the home, the natural topography slopes steeply on the west side toward the lake. A 90-foot drop provides a spectacular opportunity to maximize the experience of this site. The entire living room is cantilevered right above it and hovers among the tops of the trees below.

View of the drop-off from the living room floor during construction


Side view of the cantilevered living room during construction

Shapes and Colors

Between the design and construction, the owner decided to change the exterior color from fire-engine red to ocean blue, further enhancing the simple sleek box’s juxtaposition with its natural surroundings. A simple covered front entry connects the home to its garage. The south side will receive an expansive deck, which also borders the drop off. This outdoor addition will extend the experience of this amazing site to the outdoors. The rest of the site will remain virtually untouched—making the stunning views of Lake Michigan and the aura of the Woods the main attraction for those who stay at this one-of-a-kind retreat.

Large south facing windows and cantilevered living room


Certified by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany, this is one of the more remote Passive House projects on the planet.

Project Details

Photo Credits

  • Sturgeon Bay Woodworks
  • TE Studio Ltd.

Performance and Certifications