From an article by Peter Passi in the Superior Telegram:

When most viewers think of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” visions of lavish over-the-top houses spring to mind.

But the dwelling now being built for the Howard and Jessica Huber family in Wisconsin’s Oakland Township breaks the mold.

“This is going to be the greenest show they’ve ever done,” said Thad Whitesel, president of Builders Commonwealth, the Duluth cooperative overseeing the first “Extreme Makeover” project ever tackled in the Northland. “This also is the smallest house they’ve ever built, by quite a bit,” he said.

At 2,300 square feet, the Hubers’ new home won’t be small by most people’s standards, but the majority of residences built during other episodes of the show would dwarf it.

The home’s modest size will make it less expensive to heat. But the energy-efficient design of the residence also will have much to do with keeping its heating bills in check. The home is being built upon a super-insulated concrete slab and will incorporate high-efficiency 8-inch thick panel walls and triple-glazed windows.

Although Whitesel said there wasn’t sufficient lead time to procure solar panels for the home, Builders Commonwealth was able to incorporate passive solar heating into the design. The home will be heated with a combination of fuels, including wood, propane and electricity, allowing it to operate with off-peak electrical heat.

To help the home retain heat, it will feature a 6,000-pound heat sink and a thermal-storage wall behind its wood burner, according to Arno Kahn project manager and co-founder of Builders Commonwealth.

Plans also call for a wind turbine which should meet most of the home’s daytime electrical needs. Kahn explained that building in a fuel efficient manner is key to ensuring the longevity of the home, which he fully expects to exceed a century.

“Fuel is expensive now, but think of what it could cost in 40 or 50 years from now,” he said.