Dave and Jamie Van Dixhorn had a dream. Avid enthusiasts of modern architecture, the Van Dixhorns longed to escape the urban rat race for years, and frequently fantasized about building the home of their dreams in the country. But as a busy developer in downtown Chicago, Dave Van Dixhorn's work delayed that dream for 15 years. However, three years ago the couple both took managerial positions at Kohler Co., a maker of high-end plumbing fixtures, and had the opportunity to purchase land in the idyllic rural village of Kohler, Wisconsin.
That’s when they had an idea.
What if they could not only build the home of their dreams, but also showcase their employer’s products and that of other premium home product manufacturers? This way, they could blend their personal and professional passions while simultaneously demonstrating the very best in modern home living. Thus, the Woodland House project was born.
The Van Dixhorns hired Osterhaus-McCarthy and Milwaukee-based Bruns Architecture to design a 6,000-square-foot home to their specifications. As Dave Van Dixhorn likes to say, “The design blurs the lines between the natural beauty of the outdoors with the comforts of modern living.” The two-story home features six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, a balance of indoor and outdoor living spaces, motorized retractable screens, environmentally responsible materials, and of course, top-of-the-line Kohler bath and kitchen fixtures and accessories.
Finding an indoor comfort system that would fulfill the Van Dixhorns’ specifications of sustainable, energy efficient equipment that wouldn’t detract from the home’s elegant open-floor plan was a must. Wisconsin winters are pretty cold, with average low temperatures below freezing. The couple wanted the energy efficiency, comfort, and minimal impact on aesthetics offered by a geothermal system partnered with an underfloor radiant heat system. Conversely, while Wisconsin summers are comparatively mild, high humidity becomes as much of a discomfort here as high temperatures do in other areas of the country. So, they needed to find the same features and benefits in their choice of cooling system, too. Dave Van Dixhorn remembered The Unico System from a Chicago condominium project he had worked on and, impressed with the product’s ability to quietly and efficiently provide superior indoor comfort without the concessions to space required by conventional HVAC, the Van Dixhorns knew they’d found their answer.
The Van Dixhorns approached Unico Inc. about becoming a partner on the project and the manufacturer agreed.
“The Unico System shares many of the same attributes as Kohler products,” said Scott Intagliata, Unico marketing director. “Craftsmanship design, high-quality construction, and elegant aesthetics — the two products are naturally complimentary.”
Playing to their respective strengths, Dave Van Dixhorn, with his background in property development, took on the role of general contractor for the construction phase of the home. Jamie Van Dixhorn, as an amateur photographer and professional marketer at Kohler, took over interior design and promotional duties.
Dave interviewed a handful of local installing contractors and specified the types of heating, ventilation and cooling systems he and Jamie wanted for the house. After careful consideration, he chose Advanced Custom Geothermal (ACG) of Kiel, Wisconsin, due to its experience with geothermal, radiant underfloor, and small duct systems.
Working with Dave and Unico’s Design Services team, ACG recommended four separate 3-ton Unico systems that would satisfy the heat and cooling loads, provide an option to deliver fresh outside air, accommodate four separate zones, and tie into the hydronic radiant floor heating systems. While the radiant floor systems provide the home’s main heat source, The Unico System provides supplemental heat on spring and fall days when instant heat is needed and firing up the radiant system would take too long and be energy- wasteful.
“The Unico System is really great in those ‘shoulder’ seasons,” said Dave Van Dixhorn. “It’s perfect for taking the chill out of the air in spring and fall and to instantly provide heat while the radiant system ramps up.”
“Obviously, one of the chief benefits of The Unico System is its ability to fit into small, tight areas," Dave Van Dixhorn continued. "It’s amazing how little ‘real estate’ the system occupies and, of course, it’s a slick, well-designed system, too.”
He also noted that, in addition to the small size of system’s flexible supply tubing, Unico modular air handlers left plenty of unused space in the large mechanical area planned for the HVAC indoor components.
“Because Unico takes up so little mechanical room space, we now have more storage,” he added.
To compliment the overall stylish, minimalist design of the home, Dave and Jamie Van Dixhorn chose The Unico System’s slotted outlets to deliver conditioned air to each of the rooms. These 1-inch by 8-inch openings are an alternative to the standard, round 2-inch inner diameter outlets and allow end-users and designers more freedom to include a central air system that virtually disappears within a home’s design. This elegant finished aesthetic — in addition to the system’s ability to provide draft-free, quiet comfort — is what makes the product so appealing to custom-designed and built homes like the Woodland House.
All finishes were completed in the spring of 2017 and the Van Dixhorns have been happily living in the home with their three growing children since.
“We just couldn’t be happier with the system’s performance, and the assistance the factory was able to provide us and the installer went above and beyond expectations," said Dave Van Dixhorn. "Unico is on the leading edge in high efficiency indoor comfort, providing affordable energy costs and quiet, high-performance operation. It really is the only way to go for a house like ours.”
Publication date: 10/8/2018
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