A unique garage with cool features

Is it work or is it fun?

A twist on the conventional American garage, WerkHaus is multi-functional building designed to accommodate work and relaxation. The homeowner desired a structure where he could pursue his auto mechanic hobby, store auto parts, relax in a sauna, and house guests. WerkHaus consists of a 480 square-foot workshop/garage, a 350 square-foot loft studio space, and a 350 square-foot space that houses a utility room, storage space, sauna, and ski waxing room. The limited budget of this project provoked us to innovate many interesting and multi-purposeful features.

Self Contracted

Greenovision does not usually recommend a client to contract their project, but in this instance, the client was up to the task. Not only did he self contract, he also built, painted, did electrical work , plumbing, etc.

Multi-functional Efficiency Strategies

Keeping with the multi-functional design theme, WerkHaus’ heating, lighting, and air exchange systems are multi-purpose and highly energy-efficient. The radiant floor heating is run by a wood stove which also heats the sauna!

Local Materials, Milling, and Craft

Maine has bountiful local resources if you are willing to look for them. Werkhaus is primarily built with locally harvested and milled wood species including White Cedar, Hemlock, Spruce, Pine, and Fir.

Energy Efficiency & Sustainability

WerkHaus is built on an exposed concrete slab fitted with radiant hydronic tubing. Keeping with the multi-functional design theme, the sauna wood stove not only heats air, but also heats water that flows through a compartment attached to the stove. The hot water runs through the tubing in the concrete floor, heating the concrete and equipping the structure with a second heating method. Since car work requires the homeowner to lie on the floor underneath cars, the warm concrete provides a bit of luxury to this otherwise uncomfortable task. The propensity of concrete to store heat for a long period of time allows the owner to save money and energy by not burning large quantities of wood. In Maine, wood is a renewable fuel source and is less harsh on the environment than other oil-derived fuels. Facilitating energy conservation, hot water for the radiant system is stored in a tank in loft to be utilized when the wood stove is not in use.

Natural Lighting

Custom designed, hand-made operable awning “wall-lights” bring in bountiful natural light, creating a bright work space even on cloudy days. Polycarbonate glazing was an affordable solution to naturally illuminate this shop.

Wood-Stove-Fueled Radiant Slab Heating

The client likes to work on cars, but doesn’t like to work on them in the cold or while laying on a cold floor. Who can blame him? Radiant hydronic concrete floor heating is used in WerkHaus providing efficient and even warmth. The radiant system is fueled by the wood stove which heats the sauna. Yes, that’s right, a wood-stove-fueled radiant floor heating system!

Sauna stored & recycled warmth

Located within the sauna, but fed from the ski-waxing area, a small, efficient woodstove provides heat for the entire structure. The more intense heat is isolated to the sauna, which the residents use weekly. The two walls closest to the stove are a “heat-sink” filled with rocks.

Venting Strategies

Fresh air is naturally drawn into the sauna, which is heated by the wood stove. A fan drives then the warm air from the sauna into the auto shop. This duct system allows outdoor air from the north end of building to refresh the sauna, clear auto fumes in the garage, and exit through the south end. The sauna door can simply be left open to heat the loft. AKA, recycled warm air!

Local Materials

The truss frame consisted of Hemlock harvested and milled right up the street. The wall cladding, also from nearby, is Spruce T&G and Pine boards. Locally harvested and milled White Cedar from mid-coast Maine was used for the siding.

Truss Frame

Most kit-built truss frame shops and barns are made out of steel, but the WerkHaus trusses are made with local Hemlock with steel gussets and tie downs.

Pre-dimensioned Frame

What made Werkhaus go together so well were the plans. Each frame had its own set of shop drawings so every part could be laid out efficiently and exactly, speeding construction and reducing waste.

Not your average garage

At first the locals were not too sure about the design, but years later WerkHaus has become a local landmark.


A word from the homeowner

“The reaction most people have when they set foot in Werkhaus (especially those who wrench for a living) is what a cool space the building really is. The combination of the vaulted ceiling and natural light creates an airiness that is usually missing in the typical garage. In essence, the auto work space is a nice place to be. A feature that you seldom see in a garage is the beauty of natural wood beams and walls.

What is remarkable about the building, especially here in the winter Maine months, is the ability to heat the building cheaply and reasonably efficiently with wood. The combination of both fan-forced air and water circulation around the Laampa Kuuna plate steel stove really is an asset. As a winter weekend warrior in the shop, I am able to heat the building reasonably well and know that this energy is being stored both in the slab and the 80 gallon water tank on the second floor to make the building warm enough to keep everything inside from freezing. In fact, it takes about a week even in the coldest of weather to cool the building to a level that necessitates firing up the stove again.

What people find remarkable is that the heating system of the building actually doubles as recreation in the form of a sauna! A work space heated then becomes a place to recreate in. This feature alone is a demonstration of the overall efficiency of the building.

So far, the building has been relatively maintenance-free. The cedar batten vertical siding detail is holding up quite well. Structurally, the building is a “tank”. The strongest winds that blow over the ridge this building is situated on do not impact upon the building at all.

Clearly, the objective of constructing a building that serves multiple functions has been achieved. Werkhaus is a testimonial to the value in architectural planning whereby the concepts of utility and efficiency are married, creating a multi-use space that offers tremendous value to a homeowner like myself.” – Phil, Homeowner

Designer – Greenovision    General Contractor – Client    Framing & Exterior Trim Team – Mark Pelletier, Philip Pelletier, Rob Brown     Interior Finishes & Awnings – Mark Pelletier     Concrete Work – Mainely Concrete     Radiant Heating – Norm Walters     Excavation – Dave MacMillan     Electrical – Philip Pelletier