A Different Foundation

Otogawa-Anschel Shares Green Building Strengths

Otogawa-Anschel Design+Build+Architecture  was built on a different foundation – literally. Michael Anschel, founder and owner of the design build firm, was raised locally in the heart of Linden Hills and started his youth with music, theatre, sculpture and overseas travel to China and Japan. But, in addition to the arts, Michael was also interested in houses at a young age. As time passed, his passion for the arts paved the way for culture, creativity, awareness, and respect in the construction world, and ultimately, was woven into the DNA of OA. Building Green is their passion and cornerstone, and to say Otogawa-Anschel has a large scope when it comes to projects is an understatement. Michael explains, “OA has a deep respect for arts and the language of design. We’re creating something unique that has a distinct look. Our projects are the exploration of shape, line, light and the balance between materials used, sustainable resources, and merging it all together. You can spot an OA project.”

Green building has lost a bit of its luster in the past ten years, but Otogawa-Anschel remains committed to the original principals of the Minnesota Greenstar Program and the Living Building Challenge. Often there is confusion surrounding what “green building” actually is and what qualifies.  Michael gives a high-level explanation with “it is that large umbrella look at all of the influencing factors, including water conservation, energy conservation, resilience, sourcing of the materials, durability, embodied energy, LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), the environmental and community impact of the project, and benefit for people.  It’s the balance you strike between all these competing issues.”

OA’s culture is incredibly collaborative and focuses on every minute detail.  The common thread for the team is curiosity; the desire to explore their portion of the craft and process in a way that’s more expressive and creative, allowing them the freedom to push project boundaries. The carpenters are interested in the design as much as the designers and architects are interested in the construction.  Out of the office, the team also shares Michael’s love of curiosity, nature, art, music and food! He says one joins OA because “you love your craft and want to be supported in that exploration.”

OA’s largest 2020 project, which began prior to and carried on throughout the pandemic, was one Michael will not soon forget. Documented via film by and featured on their show “Building Resilience,” the OA Team faced challenges with supply chain, separation of the team, and major building delays.  To Michael it’s memorable not only because of the uncertainty and challenges his team faced, but because this particular project happens to be his personal home. He reflects that it is “Much easier to make decisions for other people.  I was second guessing myself so many times.  It’s a real mental exercise to step back and be objective about your own work for yourself.  To build not only during Covid-19, but also layer the murder of George Floyd into it, made it emotional.”

 The finished project is beautiful and boasts a lot of “firsts.”  For example, innovating a 2nd gen high performance wall which combine a rigid insulation on the outside, a spray foam on the inside achieving continuous water, air, and thermal-controll layers on the outside with a ventilated rain screen and an ultra-resilient cladding system.  Not only are they efficient they are super resilient; very difficult for the walls to fail or rot. Two fuel sources were incorporated into the home so that it is not tied to just one for heat.  The usage of low VOC paints, no formaldehyde, locally sourced artisans and craftsman who use locally sourced materials was also part of the plan.  With Covid-19, air quality and a healthy environment became a major concern.  The air exchange system ensures delivery of fresh air to every room in the house every 20 minutes. The system is also adjustable (up and down) adjusting to exterior and interior environmental concerns as needed.

Michael remarks, “The look of this house is totally unique. A number of the products we used were brand new and had never been used before.  The Marvin Sky Cove on the back of the house was the first of it’s kind!  We were in the position of installing something never before installed.  We had this 800 lb. window that we were lifting with a fork lift while the engineers were watching and advising via Zoom.” The design of the panels were also largely theoretical until delivered on site.  This happened to be the first batch of Paint-Pro panels that AZEK had ever produced.  And finally, there was the brand new open joint cladding system to top everything off.

All firsts aside, the project was a success and OA looks forward to many more. With twenty-six years in the business and over eighty industry awards, Otogawa-Anschel has earned its place as a nationally recognized design+build firm dedicated to positively impacting the environment, the community and those particular clients seeking unique and specific spaces of synergy.   

Visit or call (612) 789-7070.  3212 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis

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