Net zero Hanson home

Unlike many renewable energy home building projects, the Hanson family wanted to build in an urban neighborhood, close to their jobs and where they’d have access to all the amenities of the city.

blue home on corner lot with Andersen windows

With the goal of finding a lot to build a Net Zero home that could produce enough energy to power the house and two electric cars in mind, they began the process.

The Hansons started by assembling the right team, beginning with SALA Architects and Marc Sloot, AIA. Sloot built his career around sustainable energy and could connect them to a realtor familiar with green building needs. Eventually, they found a great location in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota with great solar access that had the potential to achieve their lofty goals.

Net Zero Home and Living, House Exterior at Dusk with Solar Panels on Roof

Solar Energy

As design began on the layout of their home, it became clear that the best way to have enough solar panels to meet their energy needs without building a huge house – bigger than they wanted – was to separate the main part of the house from the garage, creating two perfectly angled slopped roofs.

The south slope of the roof is 12-12 pitch which is a 45-degree angle and optimal for solar panels at this latitude. The north slopes are down to a 9-12 pitch. By using different pitches, Sloot was able to lower the ridge of the house to allow better solar access to the solar panels on the garage.

After their first year in the home, they had produced more energy than they used – including charging their two electric cars – for an entire year.

Net Zero Home and Living, House Exterior at Dusk with Solar Panels on Roof


Windows played an important role not just in the overall form of the home, exterior attractiveness and interior mood of the design, but also in the energy efficiency and passive solar gain – something that was very important to the Hansons and Sloot.

“We used fixed [picture] windows as much as we could and strategically placed operable windows on opposite sides of the house,” for cross ventilation, said Sloot. They selected Andersen® A-Series windows with triple-pane glass because they are recognized as ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient. Because there are two air gaps between the three panes of glass they have a lower condensation potential from the gaps and more surfaces for coatings to help with the solar heat gain coefficient.

Net Zero Home and Living, House Interior with Lights and Windows

Advice for Future Net Zero Homeowners

Having survived the building process and finding themselves now living in their dream home, Mark and Kate have a lot of solid advice for others interested in building their own Net Zero home.

“Get a good team together,” said Mark Hanson. “Find yourself a good architect and a builder. Experience building Net [Zero] homes is not a requirement, but a willingness to learn is. And then build the team out from there.

“Be ready to plan and spend the time to work out the details in advance,” said Kate Hanson. “And don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure I like that detail’ or ‘I don’t understand how that thing works, can you explain it more to me?’”.

Net Zero Home and Living, House Exterior at Dusk with Solar Panels on Roof

Architect Marc Sloot also had advice for architects and builders on how to engage owners who are building their first Net Zero home.

“You really need to focus on what attributes are going to be meaningful to them,” said Sloot. “It’s important for [the homeowners] to know that it’s still, at the core, about making a beautiful, comfortable home and the Net Zero part of it is making it that much more affordable to live in.”

Net Zero Home and Living, House Interior with Lights

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