This unique residence was built on the shores of Lake Michigan using BuildBlock Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs). See how BuildBlock’s unique features made it possible to place this home close the water in challenging terrain with maximum energy efficiency and an airy open style.

The Darga Residence, Michigan

Nestled on the shore of lake Michigan, the Darga Residence was built specifically with sustainability and
energy-efficiency in mind. BuildBlock ICFs were the biggest part of gaining that efficiency.

About the Darga Residence

Nicolas Darga, of Darga Works in Michigan, specializes in high end residential and commercial building. So when it came to building a new home for he and his wife it was important to build a house that was not only beautiful but also functional and structurally sound. 

The Darga’s design choices were made totally possible with the use of ICFs. There are numerous corners and bump outs in the home on different levels that required technical expertise. The open design of the home was possible through using ICFs to eliminate all posts in the central portion of the home.

The view of Lake Michigan from the back porch is magnificent and the owner is comforted by the fact that he can enjoy the location year round, even when the weather turns bitter.

"The ICFs made it a lot easier, just with what it allows you to build on and from."

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About the Project

Construction on the Darga home began in March of 2014. Due to the homes unique location and challenging environment, several months were spent researching and planning before crews broke ground.

Simply stated, Michigan is cold in the winter. Temperatures drop even lower as you get closer to the water. Since the Darga Residence is built directly on the shore of Lake Michigan, it was extremely important for it to retain heat during the brutal winter months. Due to their insulating qualities, ICFs are the perfect solution for extreme weather conditions. Nicolas told us that even on the coldest days, the furnace only runs a maximum of 90 minutes. The Darga’s open living room is framed with a beautiful puddingstone fireplace and hearth. Even if the power goes out, the ICF walls retain enough heat from the fireplace to keep the home warm and comfortable.

This home also uses a Nest Thermostat that integrates with the Big Ass Fan system in the central stairwell. The central stair wall is completely ICF, load bearing, and a 30’ open space connecting all 3 levels. In the summer, the system uses the fan to pull cool air from the lower level to the upper floors as needed and the reverse in other seasons keeping the balance throughout the home.

Led lighting was implemented throughout this open home design and the home is designed to incorporate future color expansion to support infrastructure in the home such as hot water and powering air circulation. This home was designed around 2 things: the 20’ staircase that runs the entire vertical center of the home and the spectacular view of Lake Michigan 30 feet from the back porch.

Outside the two-story deck dominates the rear of the home creating an outdoor living space with up close views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding forest. The many windows throughout this home are Anderson’s top end Low E glass and argon filled. The doors are also Anderson to provide energy efficiency with style and security.

The home itself was challenging to place on the property. The lot itself is very narrow and access is limited by a single lane gravel driveway that winds through the forest to reach the edge of the lake. Many of the other homes in the area are more than twice this size, but through the use of ICFs the homeowners were able to build higher while still maintaining energy efficiency. The project itself had multiple wall heights, the 30’ vertical staircase which is attached directly to the ICFs and only 1 wall in the entire home that isn’t ICF.

Soil conditions were also diverse and challenging. Builders worked closely with local officials to make sure everything was in compliance with local building and soil erosion codes. A portion of the home is situated on a clay shelf and required over excavation and soil compaction to ensure a solid foundation. The challenging winter of 2014 went into legend, and though construction began in the summer of 2014, the walls were not fully erected and the roof enclosed until the start of the snow. Subcontractors and others were grateful to work on this project with the added ICF insulation, even with temporary heat.

The utility bills for this home are very minimal. The builder had created LEED certified projects before and this project would have received certification if they had applied for it, but the owner decided to save money since this was his own personal residence. ICFs were necessary to achieve this level of energy efficiency in a multiple story home, especially in its challenging environment. The owner has used several brands of ICFs in the past and commented that he prefers the ICFs with webs fully embedded in the foam to prevent webs showing through in the dew and frost. Despite all the challenges, this home came together beautifully and will be a wonderful space for the Dargas to live and grow.

Project Name
The Darga Residence
Suttons Bar, Michigan
Project Start
March 2014
Project Completed
May 2015
Project Size
2,900 SF
Interior Walls
General Contractor
Darga Works
ICF Installer
New Frontier Construction
Darga Works
Darga Works

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