A Smarter Approach To Building And Remodeling!


Design Build Duluth firmly believes, that the best opportunity for saving time and money when building or remodeling a home is during the design and planning stage. Whether you are building a custom new home or remodeling your existing home, your project will involve hundreds of tasks, big and small. The process starts even before the design is put to paper and continues long after the completion of construction.

A successful home building or remodeling project involves the careful coordination of many tasks coupled with exceptional design, quality construction, and meticulous project management. With Design Build Duluth, the property owner has a single point of accountability and unified communications. Our Home Designers, Project Managers, Preferred Contractors, Network of Suppliers, and Project Consultants function as one team. This level of collaboration allows for changes to be addressed and challenges to be handled more efficiently and cost-effectively. Unlike other design-build companies, we provide a full line of architectural design and building services required to take a project from concept to construction and move-in.

Conversely, the traditional method of design-bid-build divides the various entities, contracts, and work. This not only slows things down it forces the property owner to manage multiple contracts and relationships, which can be anxiety-ridden and highly inefficient. This method can lead to cost overruns and other problems that can turn what should be an exhilarating experience into a stressful nightmare.

Design Build Duluth believes transparency creates trust and thus provides as much detailed project information as possible. We have made it our mission to deliver excellence through our project design and development process. We feel a home should reflect the needs and lifestyle of the client and their family and the right Project Designer will ensure that you make optimal use of your project budget realizing your goals and dreams.

As Home Designers & Project Consultants, we work directly with both homeowners and/or contractors to create custom innovative solutions that deliver quality construction and efficient timelines. Our design first approach combined with our design-build methods create a better building and remodeling experience and a higher quality project.


  • A better design process that combines talent and technology to more effectively visualize your dreams.
  • An interactive project development process, which focuses on listening and ultimately produces added value.
  • A Fixed Price Proposal (no hidden costs).
  • Contractors, Suppliers, and Tradespeople that value continued education and training.
  • The highest quality craftsmanship, and materials available.
  • A project manager that will work with you from start of design to the completion of construction.
  • The highest level of communication throughout the design and construction process keeping you informed all the way to completion.
  • Policies and Procedures to keep your home a home, and not a workshop. (Job site rules; no smoking, no loud radios)
  • Project Schedules with efficient timelines to minimize the impact of construction and allow you to enjoy your home sooner.
  • Warranty procedure to help your requests get addressed promptly and thoroughly.
Customized Design Services
To help guide you through this exciting multi-step process, we start each design project with an initial consultation. We listen to our clients and interpret their wants, needs, concerns, expectations, and goals. From this approach, we begin to develop the concept and define the scope of the project.

Then, we take the time to provide each client with all necessary information to ensure that the property owner has a clear understanding of the proposal and is comfortable with the result. We offer state-of-the-art computer technology to produce 3-D renderings that appear photo-like, which virtually eliminates any uncertainty about the concept.

Unlike some design-build companies, DBD focuses exclusively on residential architecture and design. Our firm has a wealth of experience and knowledge in the latest residential construction techniques, technologies, materials, and finishes.

Our design services cover a wide variety of residential project types, including:

  • New Homes
  • Home Additions
  • Home Renovations
  • Kitchen Remodeling
  • Bathroom Remodeling
  • Basement Remodeling
  • New Garages
  • Log Cabins
  • Post Frame Buildings

We also provide architectural designs for custom homes, green homes, and universal homes. Even if you are unsure of where to start, we can help!

Design Build Duluth clients who take advantage of our portfolio of services have a couple of ways to save money and recover some or all of the costs associated with the architectural design and project consulting services:

  1. Our Preferred Contractors will discount the project cost by the full amount the homeowner pays Design Build Duluth for the design and development services.
  2. Design Build Duluth provides homeowners the opportunity to purchase directly from DBD Network Showrooms. These trade discounts eliminate the contractor markup.

We realize that a one-size fits all approach does not work for all clients. Therefore, whether you require a consultation to help steer you in the right direction, or need help to flesh out a concept and see it through to completion, we can work with you to make your dream home a reality.

Design & Project Development Services
HouseCustom home construction, kitchen renovation, bathroom remodeling, all of these residential home building and remodeling projects encompasses ten primary phases.

  1. Discovery
  2. As-built
  3. Conceptual Design
  4. Preliminary Design
  5. Final Design
  6. Construction Drawings
  7. Pre-Construction Planning
  8. Production
  9. Project Closing
  10. Post-Production

Each stage has equal importance and comprises a broad range of services that require seamless integration, which saves you time and money.

Architectural Services
With all of the necessary functions combined under a single umbrella, Design Build Duluth streamlines and simplifies the process of building a new home, or remodeling or renovating an existing house.

Our Preferred Network of Remodelers and Builders have the capabilities to handle your home construction project. With more than 17 years’ experience, we have established strategic partnerships with Duluth, MN home builders, contractors, engineers, and architects, which enable us to develop your project and complete it at a price point within your budget.

We offer a full range of architectural services, which include:

  • Site Analysis
  • Design Development
  • Preliminary Budget
  • Material and Product Selection
  • Construction Drawings
  • Specifications
  • Bids & Negotiations
  • Contract Administration

Our clients have found that collaborating with a single source for a comprehensive bundle of architectural services provides accountability and enables them to avoid many of the pitfalls and obstacles of construction.

Coach/Train Builders and Remodelers
For builders and remodelers interested in the enhancement or extension of their portfolio of service, DBD can provide the resources you need. Our proprietary Selling System includes the following elements:

  • Estimation
  • Client Preparation
  • Contract Writing
  • Accounting
  • Commission Schedule
  • Production Tracking
  • More Integrated Modules

Either in person or through video conferencing (U.S. only), we also provide help with sales training, marketing strategies, production processes, and motivational speaking to assist you in taking your company to the next level.

Contact DBD to Learn More
DBD takes a consultant approach with every client. We offer a comprehensive portfolio of services that has earned us widespread recognition. Between our in-house staff of experts and professional partners, we brainstorm with you to identify options that can assist you in all aspects of your project. We constantly look for ways in which we can assist our clients to create innovative solutions.

Design Build Duluth is committed to creating and delivering to homeowners and contractors a professional design and construction experience that results in a high satisfaction level. We assist homeowners in selecting the right contractor to build the best project within their allocated budget. Our unique pre-construction project profile and collaboration with the most qualified and experienced contractors saves you time, money, and anxiety.

Whether you are a homeowner seeking to build a new home or embellish an existing space, or a builder/remodeling contractor looking to provide more design services in your market area, Design Build Duluth can help you accomplish your goals.

Our Services

Years of Expertise

Custom Design

Design Build Duluth is a premier Minnesota designer for home remodeling projects, additions, and custom homes. We are neither architects nor remodeling contractors, but rather a Design Build firm that works with you from the very beginning of your project all the way through to your certificate of occupancy.

Building & Remodeling

Design Build Duluth’s unique project planning package is available for delivery directly to homeowners or on their behalf to a qualified remodeler. The text outline and images below describe and illustrate our “Built By Design” process, and a package price list is shown below the photos.

Architectural Services

Design Build Duluth is one of Minnesota’s top design build firms and a homeowner’s one-stop solution for all their home construction needs. As project designers, we have at our disposal a preferred network of highly-qualified contractors available to work on your home construction project.

What Our Clients are Saying

Dont just take our word

Kristal R.

Home Owner

Wyatt Knight built our wood play set, not from a kit, but by a design he and our family worked on. Grandparents had donated money to buy the plastic slides, steps, ropes, etc, but we wanted to design a set with everything our three boys wanted.
As you can see in the photos, it includes two towers connected by a raised bridge. There are five ways to climb up, including a rope ladder and a 14 ft rock-step climbing wall on the right. There are 6 ways to get down from the top level, including a fireman’s pole, rope and ladders. The main tower includes an enclosed play house with two doors at ground level, a middle level that accesses the bars, the plank ramp, the slide and rock steps. The top is like a fort with raised posts. The bench swing is nice for adults to sit and watch the young ones play. Our boys spend many a night sleeping up there under the stars. This set is over 10 years old and still like new. We’re just replacing the ropes now and have stained it three times. Wyatt built this in four days. It is solid and anchored in cement, so it’s safe from tipping. The neighborhood kids think it’s a park and have many times asked if they could play or get tickets to come play. We love it and some day look forward to it being a selling point of our home to a younger family.

Frank J.

Home Owner

Wyatt helped us complete the design for our project and guided us through the renovation of our 3rd floor attic space into our son’s bedroom. He helped us understand the best way to both maximize space and energy efficiency while also meeting our project needs. Wyatt always listened to our questions and took time to give us well thought-out answers. We appreciated how hard he worked to help us complete the project within our timelines. Wyatt helped us to finish our project within budget with high quality materials and expertise of what would work for our needs.

Latest News

We take pride in our work



This is a repost from the 475 HIGH PERFORMANCE BUILDING SUPPLY website. An excellent resource when building a High-Performance Home.

Building to the Passive House Standard[1] reduces our buildings’ operational energy demand to an optimized extent through passive measures and components such as insulation, airtightness, heat recovery, solar heat gains, solar shading and incidental internal heat gains.   Passive House reliably delivers up to approximately a 90% reduction in heating and cooling demand and up to a 75% reduction in overall primary energy demand when compared to our existing building stock.[2] A Passive House may be any building type such as home, school, office, store or factory.  Passive House buildings affordably and predictably provide the most resilient, comfortable and healthy interior environments.

When considering a building standard there are eleven complimentary reasons to choose the Passive House Standard.
1.  It fundamentally addresses the climate crisis imperative.  To mitigate the worst effects of climate change we are required to decarbonize our economies while meeting the demands of global development.  Passive House does this by providing the same low energy budget to both the rich and the poor.  With Passive House we can slash energy demand and maintain services in the developed world, and also build modern services in a low-energy manner in the developing world.  The large scale leader in this effort is the Brussels Capital Region of Belgium where all buildings, new and retrofit, public and private, residential, commercial and institutional, will be required to meet the Passive House Standard starting in 2015.[3]
2.  It is a global building energy performance standard.  While the energy standard is uniform for all, the paths to achieve it are widely varied and necessarily incorporate local climate and building tradition specific optimization.  Whether the local building tradition is wood or masonry, or the climate is heating dominated or cooling dominated, hot and humid or a mixed climate, Passive Houses can and are being realized.[4]
3.  Its development is a global collaboration.  With roots in the study of low energy buildings from China to Canada [5], and formalized and defined by the scientific research of the Passive House Institute (PHI) [6] – it is the active exchange of information and experiences by scientists, engineers, designers, builders and occupants, across the earth’s regions and climate zones, that is driving forward the successful evolution and implementation of Passive House worldwide.
4.  It produces a predictable product.   Passive House utilizes a clear methodology that focuses on optimizing passive building components with the globally validated energy model called the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP).  The PHPP energy model is the key tool used to integrate all building components and systems, and serves as the basis of verification for the Passive House Standard.[7], The PHPP’s high level of accuracy sets it apart from other design tools, allowing, for example, heating and cooling systems for Passive House projects to be confidently sized approximately 75% smaller than typical for a given building. To further insure success, the methodology may also include the use of scientifically validated and certified components[8], design and construction by certified architects, engineers and tradespersons[9], and the building may be certified by one of the currently 26 accredited certifying entities[10] around the world.
5.  It is affordable in both construction and occupancy. The methodology results in only an added overall construction cost premium of approximately 5% to 10% because the construction costs for high performance elements are substantially offset by a reduction in heating and cooling systems sizing.  Typically the first Passive House projects by architects, builders and consultants may have a higher cost premium due to the learning curve and lack of optimization, but with subsequent projects and better optimization, the cost premium can progressively shrink to 5% or less and even go negative.   Because the reduced energy use translates into substantially lower energy bills the cost premium should have a simple payback of under 10 years.  And because the cost of borrowing the additionally required money should be less than the monthly cost savings in energy bills, the return on investment really starts in the first month of occupancy.  Lower energy bills and protection from future price shocks make Passive House occupancy affordable for the long term.[11]
6.  It produces the most comfortable and healthy indoor environments. With airtightness, continuous insulation, high quality windows and other measures, Passive Houses often have the most comfortable, quiet and draft free environments.   With continuous low-volume ventilation providing filtered fresh air to living and working spaces and exhausting stale air from service spaces, the indoor air is free of dangerous concentrations of typical contaminants.  And unlike buildings that rely on manual ventilation, people in a Passive House can open and close windows whenever they wish.[12]
7.  It’s a catalyst for local manufacture of high-performance products.  Industry has developed to serve the implementation of the Passive House Standard, first in central Europe and now globally.  Typically small and medium-sized companies have developed specific products and services to cater to its growing needs.  Around the world more companies are recognizing the potential of this sector and are either improving their existing products or developing new ones to cater to their local as well as regional and global markets.[13]
8.  It enables storm resilience.  In the coldest weather, without power, a Passive House can achieve a safe interior temperature equilibrium of approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit indefinitely.  In the hottest weather, if overnight passive cooling is available, it is also possible to maintain safe indoor temperatures for an extended period without power.[14]  This characteristic was also described in the recent Building Resiliency Task Force (BRTF) Report as Proposal #27 Maintain Habitable Temperatures Without Power.[15]
9.  It enables nearly zero energy buildings.  Building specific renewable energy production can be complicated and expensive – with space requirements often making it prohibitive.   With a building’s energy demand minimized with Passive House, renewable requirements become far smaller, more affordable and achievable.  The Passive House Institute with the European Union is aggressively advancing this agenda and demonstrating its feasibility with the PassReg program.[16]10.  It enables a more resilient power grid.  By substantially reducing peak power demand and enabling local renewable power sources, utility system redundancies and a more robust power distribution system are possible.[17]

11.  It locks in energy savings for future generations.  Unlike renewable energy production or energy saving machinery that requires active maintenance and replacement, Passive House emphasizes things like insulation, airtightness and external shading that will save energy today, tomorrow and everyday into the future without significant maintenance or replacement costs.  Consequently, any lost opportunity to optimize performance with an investment in passive measures will become a much bigger future liability in our efforts to decarbonize. [18]

Passive House is uniquely raising our expectations of what sustainable high-performance building can be and should be.  Choose Passive House.

Read also: What is Passive House? and Imagine Passive House.

[1] For more information on the Passive House Standard, see What is Passive House?:

[3] Find link to presentations on Brussels experience here:

[6] The Passive House Institute (PHI) is an independent scientific research institute based in Darmstadt, Germany.  The ongoing scientific research of PHI serves as the foundation of the Passive House Standard and its global implementation.   See:

[8] See PHI certified components:

[13] Now North American companies are coming on board to compete with the global market, creating products that can be globally exported. See

[14] If overnight temperatures remain hot, then comfortable indoor temperatures can only be extended for a matter of days as there is no countervailing cooling mechanism available.

[15] The BRTF Report was produced by the Urban Green Council and presented to Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Leader Christine Quinn in 2013 following widespread power outages and resident dislocations resulting from Superstorm Sandy.  See report here:

[17] See NY Times: Bypassing the Power Grid,by Beth Gardiner, Oct 8, 2013

[18] Per McKinsey 2010 report, Energy Efficiency: A Compelling Global Resource, “Big gains await developing countries if they raise their energy productivity….they could slow the growth of their energy demand by more than half over the next 12 years….which would leave demand some 25 percent lower in 2020 than it would otherwise have been.  That is a reduction larger than total energy consumption in China today.”  Download report PDF here: 


This is a Repost from the NY Passive House Inc.

Passive House is a building standard.  It is a voluntary international building standard developed by the Passive House Institute (PHI), located in Darmstadt, Germany – referred to also as The Passive House Standard.   The Passive House Standard is composed of several strict performance requirements for new building construction.  For the renovation of existing buildings PHI developed a similar if slightly more lenient performance standard.   The resulting performance represents a roughly 90% reduction in heating and cooling energy usage and up to a 75% reduction in primary energy usage from existing building stock – meant to aggressively meet the climate crisis carbon reduction imperative while making a comfortable, healthy and affordable built environment.

The Passive House Standard for new buildings addresses energy usage and building airtightness:

Space Heating Energy Demand:  15 kilowatt hours per square meter of Treated Floor Area[1] per year or 10 Watts per square meter peak demand.   (Or in Imperial units 4.75 kBTU/sf*yr and 3.2 BTU/hr*sf respectively.)

Space Cooling Energy Demand:  matches the heat demand requirements but with a small additional allowance for dehumidification.

Primary Energy Demand:  total energy to be used in the building operations (heating + cooling + lighting + equipment + hot water + plug loads, etc…) is limited to 120 kilowatt hours per square meter of Treated Floor Area per year.  (Or in Imperial units 38.0 BTU/sf*yr.)

Airtight Enclosure:  Allowable limit of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals pressure (ACH50) that is verified with an onsite blower door test (pressurized and depressurized).[2]
(For a building with a volume above 4,000 cubic meters (or 140,000 cubic feet) measurement relative to surface area is recommended, with maximum leakage of 0.6m3/hr*m2 or 0.033CFM/ft2 at 50 Pascals pressure.)

Passive House is a methodology to achieve the rigorous requirements of the standard.  When designing a Passive House one first looks to minimize the heating and cooling loads as much as possible  through passive measures like orientation, massing, insulation, heat recovery, passive use of solar energy, solar shading, elimination of thermal bridges, and incidental internal heat sources.  Because the building is airtight, a continuous supply of low volume filtered fresh air is supplied to living/working spaces and stale air is exhausted from services spaces – providing balanced and controlled ventilation with high-efficiency heat exchange.  The methodology requires that all necessary building information be entered into the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) which calculates the building energy balance (heat losses and gains).   The PHPP is the essential design tool in making a successful Passive House.


To help practitioners achieve the criteria, PHI has developed Passive House Certified Components for such critical items as windows and heat-recovery ventilation units and Certified Passive House Consultants training and Certified Passive House Tradespersons training, to help ensure that the design and construction of Passive Houses are done with the highest competence possible.

A Passive House is a building that is constructed with the Passive House methodology and meets the Passive House Standard criteria.  A Passive House can be any type of building: an apartment building, a school, an office building, a factory, a supermarket.  Passive Houses are exceptionally comfortable, healthy and affordable to occupy.

A Passive House may become a Certified Passive House.  Certification is provided by PHI or another certifier accredited by PHI.   A Certified Passive House must also meet additional Passive House comfort criteria and submit extensive documentation including the completed PHPP.  Certification is recommended for the unsurpassed quality assurance it provides, bringing to the process expertise in cost optimization, detailing and execution.  There are different certifications for residential and non-residential as well asbuilding renovations.

However if the building was designed and built with the Passive House methodology, incorporates Passive House components but just missed the required criteria, such as the final airtightness test results, the building may be called a Passive House Project, or more generically a high-performance low-energy building.

The result of all this is a Passive House building with the following qualities:

Very Energy Efficient: Providing dramatic energy reduction, up to 90% for heating and cooling demand from average existing building stock – in an effort to offer a proportional response to the climate crises.  (Note: despite widespread misleading descriptions to the contrary, most cold climate Passive House are still required to have a heating system, it is just a very small heating system, and therefore likely not a traditional heating system. Nor is a Passive House necessarily a zero-energy building – it uses power, if much less typical – but it can more economically and readily become “zero-energy” with a relatively modest addition of renewables.)

Healthy: Fresh, high-quality indoor air, free of mold and dangerous levels of typical indoor air contaminants.

Comfortable: A quiet interior environment with steady temperatures and no drafts.

Affordable:  Added construction costs for high performance are substantially offset by a reduction in systems sizing.  Because the reduced energy use translates into lower bills and protection from future energy shocks, occupancy is affordable.

Predictable:  An integrated methodology and energy model provides predictability – an essential element in optimizing system sizing and costing.

Resilient:  Passive House buildings help provide resiliency in three ways. 1) By indefinitely maintaining habitable interior temperatures in freezing weather without power – allowing people to shelter-in-place.  2) By reducing power demand, which allows power distribution systems to be better managed.  3) By reducing power demand to make Net Zero Energy building readily achievable with rooftop photovoltaic solar panels and/or other renewables.

Consequently, Passive House is uniquely raising our expectations of what sustainable high-performance building can be and should be.  With the three imperatives of carbon reduction in the fight to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, our desire for energy independence, and our need to have greater building resilience, the meaning and logic of Passive House is clear.  And if you need more reasons, see the post “Why Passive House?“, which provides eleven complimentary reasons to do it, here.  Just go for it.

Related Posts:

Why Passive House?

Imagine Passive House.

[1] Treated Floor Area is a specifically defined term and area, that is smaller than gross area or even net interior area – similar but not identical to what one might think of as “carpetable area” where interior walls,  stairs and unusable space is not included.

[2] The volume used for the airtightness calculation refers to the occupied volume – finish surface to finish surface of each space, where floors and walls are excluded.

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