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Sustainable Morris, MN Project


The City of Morris is investigating options to redevelop a centrally-located 17-acre site that used to house the elementary school. The Morris community, well-known for their focus on sustainability, believes eco-affordable housing should be the main focus of the redevelopment.


Morris has a population of 5,100 and is located in western Minnesota. Home to both the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM) and the West Central Research and Outreach Center (ROC), Morris is very involved in positive environmental impact research. Currently approximately 40 percent of the energy for the campus is generated by a 230 foot wind turbine run by the ROC, and a new biomass energy facility is under construction on the campus. UMM also has plans for a "green dorm" and recently hired a Sustainability Coordinator to help “green” the campus.


A local housing study concluded that 20-25 new homes are needed. Like many communities in rural Minnesota, Morris has expressed an interest in design that can sustain multiple generations, such as 36-inch-wide doors and single-floor layouts for universal accessibility, as well as off-grid energy production and the use of local materials. Another goal is for the project to encourage a sense of community, reflect the local housing style, and minimize the environmental impact as much as possible.


Morris received grant funding from the MPCA for preliminary design planning for the project. During the planning stage Dovetail has been providing green design consulting, facilitating community meetings and planning sessions, and aided in the design RFP process. Education to the local community and building contractors has also been part of the planning process. A landscape architect has created a site plan that includes stormwater management and three different styles of housing to fit the communities diverse housing needs. Three possible home plans were created for future builders to pick from, including a "grow house" that is designed to easily allow for future expansion as the family grows. Each plan incorporates the use of natural light and allows room for an individual garden in the backyard.


Download the Sustainable Morris Facilitation Report



Possible “Green” Design Aspects


  • Solar passive design
  • Natural daylighting and solartubes in interior rooms
  • In-floor radiant heat
  • Geothermal heating and cooling
  • Small floor plan and footprint
  • 50' lots for some areas in the site plan
  • Advanced framing techniques or prefabricated panels
  • A detached, shared garage structure
  • Energy-efficient appliances
  • On-site stormwater management
  • On-site energy production
  • Low-maintenance landscaping
  • Low-VOC or no-VOC paints and adhesives
  • FSC certified wood
  • Minnesota-made building materials


Utilizing local products and vendors will also be a large focus for this project, and a list of materials local to the area will soon be available. Wood from local Minnesota forests, high-efficiency fireplaces from Greenbush, MN, and solar panels from Starbuck, MN are being explored, among other possibilities. Building for the project is currently in the holding phase while the city researches possibilities for reusing or properly deconstructing the existing elementary school building. Dovetail hopes to build a Morris resident a Minnesota-Made Home on the property when building begins and use the building phase as a training opportunity.


Dovetail is researching the possibilty of building a green demonstration home on an existing lot in Morris with the local HRA and Habitat for Humanity. The Home would likely be pre-sold and built on a smaller lot (perhaps 40' wide) to show how smaller homes on smaler lots can be incorporated into new and existing communities. 



Project Links and Resources

The Morris Sun Tribune


UMM: Welcome to a Green Campus


UMM: Renewable Energy Initiatives


West Central Research and Outreach Center


USDA ARS Lab in Morris