MachthausNamed after the German word for power, might, strength, ability to do and make, Machthaus , will emerge in Bayview in Fall 2015 to serve as a repeatable model for small-home city housing with goals of sustainability and minimalized operating costs.

According to Nikolai Usack, the visionary behind this project, “This house will make all its own electricity and hot water and most of its heat and cooling. It will also harvest rainwater and wind, facilitate food production, be durable and operate largely maintenance-free. Macht!”

Former partners in Pragmatic Construction, one of the first green home builders in the Milwaukee area, Nikolai Usack, Stephen Servais, Common Advantage Construction, and Juli Kaufmann , Fix Development, have reunited for this project. They are joined by a host of other experts in creating what they hope will be a shift in construction paradigms toward urban off-grid housing designs.

Physical Development/Environmental Stewardship

The Machthaus is a 625 square foot structure that will be built at 2241 S. Winchester Street in Bayview, utilizing a strict set of design principles that will direct the material and system selections used in construction. Included in those principles is “Control costs to demonstrate that sustainability does not need to be expensive.” To that end, Machthaus, is designed to keep the project as simple as possible so it can be done affordably by others and is expected to cost $150,000 to build, a cost on the least-expensive side for a custom home

Highlights of the property include:

Designed to be nearly “off the grid” energy efficient

The technology used in the building will include:

  • Solar systems to generate power and to heat water to serve the home.
  • Super-efficient windows and insulated blinds
  • Backup heat via a hi-efficiency, seal combustion wood burning stove
  • A combination sink and toilet appliance that will capture “gray” water that drains from the sink and use it to flush the toilet
  • Passive solar design to assist heating and cooling with solar powered attic fans to assist with cooling
  • Cistern/rainwater collection
  • Scandinavian passive refrigerator/root cellar
  • Raised beds integrated into the patio for food production

However, Machthaus will connect to the city’s water and sewer systems, since installing individual water-treatment systems was not considered practical and was debatable as to whether or not it was better for the environment.

Low maintenance, non-toxic, reclaimed materials

  • Stained concrete and cork flooring
  • Wall systems and framing utilizing composite panels and Advanced Framing Technique (AFT)
  • Triple-paned windows
  • Corrugated steel siding
  • Standing-seam steel roof
  • Composite decking
  • Reclaimed tin ceiling, cast iron tub, and interior doors, cabinetry, trim and shelving
  • PEX Plumbing offering non-toxic formulation free of harmful lead, copper and other minerals and durability from no joints behind the walls and guarantee not to corrode or erode

Community Development/Social Equity/Cultural Continuity

The design of the building was vetted, challenged and improved and will be guided through construction by a team of local experts including Greg Thomson, AIA, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architectural and Urban Planning, Bruce Zahn, AIA, Ken Leinbach, Urban Ecology Center, and Jamie Ferschinger, Urban Ecology Center.

All designs and the entire construction process will be documented for sharing with others and the home itself will be available for tours to demonstrate building techniques and materials to other designers and builders.

For more details and drawings on Machthaus, visit their website.