Pulse Sustainable Profile: Virge Temme

Virge Temme believes that architecture has the power to change lives and built her Sturgeon Bay business, Virge Temme Architecture, Inc., around that philosophy.

“I try to create a harmonious space for people to live in,” she explained, “one that fits in with their lifestyle and what they love.”

Temme received her Master of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and has been a professional residential designer since 1988. She is an active member of the American Institute of Architects, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Sustain Door, and the Door County Renewable Energy Task Force. In 1992, she got the opportunity to work with a team of design professionals to create a sustainable neighborhood and has been hooked on creating sustainable homes ever since. Her designs use as much natural light as possible, have the most up-to-date, energy-efficient mechanical systems available, and emphasize the use of as many local products in construction as possible.

She’s currently working on a design for a fully sustainable affordable housing development in Sister Bay for Habitat for Humanity.

Temme’s architectural philosophy pervades all aspects of her life. Surrounded with natural splendor, she sees a bright future for her life and the world at large.

“People are starting to appreciate their communities and get engaged in them,” she said. “It’s very exhilarating to see what’s happening right now…everyday is a brand new one, and I always look forward to the next.”

Around the house: “We live in a small home,” Temme said. “I think it’s important to build as small as you’re comfortable with.” Her super-insulated house is sided with locally harvested wood. Along with recycling and composting as much as possible, Temme has a rain-water collection system for her garden and plans to install solar panels on their roof next year.

Her Edible Backyard: Temme has a 3,000 square foot vegetable garden. She also has a raspberry and blackberry patch, apple, pear and plum trees, and grows cherries.

On the table: She grows most of her own food and tries not to shop in grocery stores at all, instead buying what they cannot grow – like meat and dairy products – from local farmers. Temme makes bread from wheat which she purchases on Washington Island and grinds herself. She also cans, freezes and dries a lot of their food. “We really only spend about $20 – 25 on food each week,” she said.

On the road: Temme drives a Volkswagon Jetta, which gets about 50 miles to the gallon, and recently moved her office to her home, eliminating her commute and saving over three metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

New additions: She added a greenhouse addition to their house for fruit trees she is cultivating in Bonsai fashion.

The sweetest thing: Temme keeps bees from which she harvests honey. “It’s awesome to sit and listen to them.”

Looking forward…or not: “Lately I’ve been focusing more on now,” she admitted. “I believe nature and humans are trying to come into accord and think we’re ripe for a very interesting course correction over the next several years. I think it could be easy to get caught up in projections and calculations of how to deal with the changes. But what I know right at this moment is that life is good, change is constant, and focusing on family, friends and each moment as it comes is what I see as the best recipe for a full and happy life.”

For more information about Temme and her business, visit