Iowa Prairie Passive Farm

Rural vernacular, modern architecture, comfort, resilience, and horses for the Iowa prairie.

This project was heavily inspired by its surroundings. When we first set foot on the site and experienced the sweeping views over the Iowa prairie landscape, we knew the design had to make use of the views but also the rural vernacular, which dominates these parts.

The Clients are looking for a rustic and resilient structure—inside and out. As owners of three large dogs and horses, they understand how important it is for a home to function and cater to a lot of back and forth between inside and outside.

The site design is really an ensemble which lines a central courtyard—comprised of the home to the southwest, an adjacent breezeway with cleaning station for the dogs, a conditioned garage/ shop building and the horse barn right across the courtyard.

The design for the house revolves around a modern interpretation of the historic longhouse—here in exposed concrete with corrugated exterior siding—which holds all the functional spaces. This is combined with a wood-construction “lean-to”, which houses living spaces and bedrooms.

The Main Floor

The main floor is comprised of a garage/ project space, with direct access to the home via a breezeway, which is also home to the owners’ dogs. This space is highly functional with dog washing station, dedicated laundry, feed storage and kennels. It also provides central access to both the central courtyard on the east and front entry garden area on the west side. From the breezeway, owners enter a small mudroom area, with stair access to a storm shelter below and the second, private floor above.

The front entry is located near the center of the longhouse and sheltered above by a cantilevered reading room on the second floor. Guests will enter her and their views are immediately drawn across the hall into the home’s open living area. Large surface-mount barn doors enable sectioning off of areas. On the east side, a two-story project room hosts arts and crafts—away from the rest of the house yet close enough to become a local atelier with north light and sweeping view to inspire. The north side of the longhouse is completed by the guest bath and pantry.

A guest bedroom is located on the east side of the “lean-to”. It is big enough to become a master bedroom should first floor living ever be desired. The remainder of the floor area is taken up by the kitchen, dining and living areas, which face south bringing in passive solar heat gains and offering up stunning views of the prairie.


The Second Floor

The second floor can be accessed via an architectural spiral stair on the west, or custom-designed steel and plywood constructed stair on the east end of the longhouse. A central spine connects all spaces on this private level. Functional spaces, such as kids’ bath and laundry/drying room are once again oriented to the north, with the exception ofthe reading room, which is located adjacent to the 2-story project room and cantilevers above the main entry. Passive House windows enable comfortable widow seats in cold climates.

The master suite and two kids’ bedrooms are located in the “lean-to”and rall face south for views and sunlight. A balcony offers a private outdoor space for the parents—with access from the bedroom and master shower area.


Key Features

  • “Longhouse”: Masswall, exposed concrete construction
  • “Lean-To”: Efficient and sustainable wood construction
  • Cost-effective, green construction methods and materials
  • Super-insulated, airtight building envelope
  • Triple-pane high performance windows
  • Air-to-air heat pump for heating and cooling
  • Balanced heat-recovery ventilation
  • South-facing roof prepared for PV-system
  • LED lighting throughout
  • Sustainable stormwater and landscaping practices

 Project Details

  • Design: Tim Delhey Eian & Stephan Tanner
  • Project: 2014 – 2015