A Cool Net Zero Energy House on Mount Desert Island: Crow’s Nest


Portland-based Kaplan Thompson Architects has designed the Crow’s Nest, a net zero energy house located in Mount Desert Island, Maine. The owners of this dwelling had visited the cliffs and coast of Bar Harbor for years with their family. When their kids left the nest, they wanted a more permanent retreat for the place that had harbored so many of their adventures.

Nestled on a three-acre forested site, this 2,355 square foot home offered the perfect refuge to host this multi-generational family as a seasonal retreat and eventually their primary residence. The owners also have a residence in New Jersey which is also a net zero energy home, so they desired their new residence to meet similar levels of energy efficiency.

DESIGN DETAILS: ARCHITECT Kaplan Thompson Architects INTERIOR DESIGN Spruce Color and Design BUILDER Roscoe Builders STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Thornton Tomasetti LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Mike Mansolillo SOLAR CONSULTANT ReVision Energy


The goal for the home’s performance, as well as the experience it created for users, was to complement the aesthetic direction of the project. The exterior facade features low-maintenance, naturally weathered cedar shingles along with a metal roof. It was built to work with the region and the climate.


Above: The main living area is clad in Douglas fir and features polished concrete floors along with a wall of triple-glazed, tilt-turn Klearview windows, which provides a visual connection with nature.


Crow’s Nest’s implied avian form was not an intentional ode to the native species of Mount Desert Island, but a fortunate result of a site-based approach to design. Emphasis was placed on capturing the property’s panoramic views of Cadillac Mountain while embracing the sun for daylighting and passive heating, and immersing inhabitants in the surrounding terrain.


The structure’s wings span along an east-west axis, maximizing the surface area oriented towards the breathtaking southerly views. The home’s most trafficked living spaces flow along this façade, enjoying direct and indirect connections to nature via expansive triple-glazed windows and multiple points of outdoor access.


Atypically broad overhangs and a slatted trellis provide necessary shading in the summer months. A series of circumambient porches, decks, and patios offer a gradual transition from the crisp, fir-clad interiors to the property’s more rugged wilderness.


Set back from the main form, an independent in-law suite perches above an attached two-car garage and enjoys the same unobstructed views as the rest of the home. Approaching from below, the profile presents as a beacon, guiding visitors to the top of the deliberately winding drive.


There are a total of three bathrooms and four bedrooms along with a loft for extra sleeping space to accommodate guests above one of the bedrooms. There is also a 730-square-foot guest suite that is located above the attached two-car garage. This space offers an extra bedroom along with a full bathroom and fabulous south-facing views.


What We Love: This dwelling boasts an effortless, timeless aesthetic, both indoors and out. Large windows frame magnificent views while the warmth of the Douglas fir and the soft material palette provides a feeling of relaxation and comfort. Overall, this home provides a beautiful multi-generational family retreat that is not only sustainable and durable but warm and inviting while seamlessly connecting to the great outdoors.

Tell Us: What are your overall thoughts on this net zero energy house design? Let us know in the Comments below!

Note: Have a look at a couple of other fabulous home tours that we have showcased here on One Kindesign in the state of Maine: Beautiful coastal Maine home envisioned for idyllic summer getaways and Cabin retreat designed with a rustic camp feel in coastal Maine.


The home achieves Net Zero Energy via a right-sized photovoltaic system and Passive House-level airtight construction. The building envelope is super-insulated with 11.875” of dense-packed dry-blown cellulose and constructed to an air-tightness level of 0.52 ACH50.




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