Chapel Hill Architect Tapped to Judge 2019 ‘Metal Construction News’ Awards

Doug P. 2019The editors of Metal Construction News (MCN), the premier national news magazine for the metal construction industry, have tapped North Carolina architect Doug Pierson, AIA, to serve as one of only three judges for their 2019 Building and Roofing Awards.

Pierson and his partner Youn Choi are co-owners and principals of pod architecture + design. Their Chapel Hill-based firm received the highest honor – Grand Winner — in MCN’s 2018 awards program for their design of the 55,000-square-foot Rabbit Hole Distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

“Because that honor meant so much to us, I was incredibly honored when [Senior Editor] Mark Robins asked me to serve as a judge this year,” said Pierson, who is also a faculty member at NC State University’s College of Design.

Projects have been submitted to the Building and Roofing Awards in five categories: Metal Buildings, Metal Roofs/New, Metal Roofs/Retrofit, Metal Walls/New, and Metal Walls/Retrofit.

Pierson and the other two judges will receive the entries digitally on October 4th. On October 14 they will confer with the MCN staff to determine the best three submissions in each category and the 2019 Grand Winner. The judges may also suggest projects worthy of a “Judges’ Award.”

This is the 33rd year that Metal Construction News has showcased innovation and excellence in the metal construction industry through its awards program.

MCN is a Modern Trade Communications, Inc., publication. For more information, go to

For more information on Doug Pierson and pod architecture + design, visit


Hybrid Design Firm Moves Into Downtown Chapel Hill

pod architecture + design, chapel hill architects
L-R: Youn Choi and Doug Pierson

On August 21, pod architecture + design (pod a+d), the award-winning design firm previously located in Carrboro, moved its multi-disciplinary studio from the historic Depot on that town’s Main Street to offices at 201-A North Columbia Street in Chapel Hill.

The move reflects the partners’ desire to establish their studio in the more nationally known Chapel Hill since many of their projects are located outside North Carolina. Examples include Rabbit Hole Distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky; Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California; and a new distillery in Brooklyn, New York.

Doug Pierson, AIA, and his wife, experiential designer Youn Choi, are the founders, partners, and principal designers at pod a+d. They relocated the firm from Los Angeles to North Carolina a few years ago and have been operating out of the converted 1882 Depot in Carrboro since 2013.

While they’re quick to say they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the historic Depot, something was always nagging at them,..

pod a+d is licensed in five states because the firm’s work frequently takes its team of designers from North Carolina to California and other project sites in between. And more often than not, whenever they’ve told out-of-state clients that their firm is headquartered in Carrboro, the look on their faces has made them add quickly, “…which is right next door to Chapel Hill.” The nods and smiles afterward spoke volumes. Like Duke University in Durham, UNC-Chapel Hill has given the town a national reputation.

“Ultimately, it made sense to us to align our firm with that distinction,” Choi said. So they loaded a moving van at the Depot, drove a few blocks northeast, and unloaded the van at 201A North Columbia Street.

“We’re looking forward to settling into our new studio and enjoying all the opportunities available in Chapel Hill’s downtown district,” Pierson added.

The studio move has taken place just a couple of months before Pierson, Choi, and their two children will move into the new modern house they designed that’s currently under construction in Carrboro.

Modern house Chapel Hill
Model, Carrboro House

For more information on pod architecture + design, visit and follow the firm on Facebook.

About pod architecture + design

pod architecture + design (pod a+d) is a full-service, award-winning, non-traditional architecture firm located in the Triangle region of North Carolina and licensed in five states. As a firm, we believe in the integration of architecture and all aspects of design to connect buildings, environment, and identity. That’s why pod a+d is a hybrid firm, offering all architectural services, environmental design, experiential graphics, and wayfinding design. Exterior and interior architecture; furnishings and finishes; financial feasibility and scheduling; engineering and construction; and environmental graphics  –  considered simultaneously, these disciplines inform our integrated approach to architecture. For more information:

ARCHITECTS+ARTISANS: “A House for Privacy, by Arielle Schechter”

4.Front elevation, dusk

6.Private side_dusk

By Mike Welton  •   Photos by Keith Isaacs

Fed up with the public nature of life in suburban North Carolina., a couple approached architect Arielle Schechter with a desire for privacy.

“They lived in a soul-deadening development in Chapel Hill and they were climbing the walls for lack of freedom and privacy from their neighbors,” she says. “People were walking by and telling them what to do with their yard.”

So they bought a wooded lot in Pittsboro to escape.

Schechter gave them a 2,053-square-foot home with two bedrooms, a small study that could be a third, and two baths. It’s opaque on the front and transparent toward the rear.

“There’s a veil of cypress to shield them,” she says. “On the south side, it breaks free with a big porch…” READ MORE 

Inhabitat: “De Stijl-inspired modern home generates all of its own energy.”

5.Private side with deck.jpg

1.Front Elevation.jpg

By Lucy Wang  •  Photos by Keith Isaacs

When a couple decided to “break free” from their cookie-cutter home and realize their long-awaited eco-friendly dream home, they turned to Chapel Hill-based architect Arielle Condoret Schechter to bring their vision to life. With their grown son now out of the house, the couple wanted to downsize to a simple modernist home where they could peacefully age in place. Nestled in a secluded place in the woods of Chatham County, North Carolina, the resulting sustainable home is custom-designed to meet all their needs, from achieving net-zero energy to its modernist design with architectural elements inspired by the Netherlands-based De Stijl movement of the early 1900s. READ MORE

BuildSense Joins “Builders Blitz” To Build Two Habitat Houses in Durham for Two Families

First-time homeowner Tameka Evans and BuildSense partner Randall Lanou during construction of her now-completed Habitat for Humanity home. (photo courtesy BuildSense)

The award-winning BuildSense team of architects and contractors watched with pride as members of Durham’s Habitat for Humanity handed Durham resident Tameka Evans and her three children the keys to their new, well-built house in a safe, new neighborhood when the 2019 Durham Home Builders Blitz concluded last month.

In just one week, June 14 – 21, BuildSense and the Durham Building Company completed construction on two Habitat houses on Barton Street. Along with trade partners and vendors each company works with on a regular basis, the teams donate the majority of the labor and materials involved as well. The Evans’ house is one of those two.

“I can’t wait to send my kids outside to play in our new neighborhood,” said Evans who, along with her oldest son, has helped build other Durham Habitat homes as well as their own.

“Community stewardship is one of our BuildSense values and Durham Habitat for Humanity is an organization that we love,” said BuildSense company lead, Randy Lanou. “They have a mission that we strongly support, and we are quite fond of their entire team. It’s very easy to say yes to building the sweet home that Tameka and her family purchased.”

The Home Builders Blitz is a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Durham and the building industry to build homes for qualified Durham residents. Each professional homebuilder builds one house in a seven-day period.

“I wish they all could be done this quickly,” said Durham Habitat executive director Blake Strayhorn. “That would solve a lot of our affordable housing problems in Durham.”

The BuildSense team is comprised of an independent general contracting company (BuildSense, Inc) and an independent architecture firm (BuildSense Architecture, PC) working together in the company’s office and shop in Durham.

Under the leadership of partners Randall Lanou, Erik Mehlman, AIA, and Leon Meyers, giving back to the community is a regular aspect of the BuildSense culture. The team has participated in previous Habitat Builders Blitzes and has donated two trucks to Durham Habitat.

Habitat for Humanity of Durham brings people together “to build homes, hope and community,” believing that “all of our neighbors should have a safe, decent and affordable place to call home.” For more information on Durham Habitat and Habitat Home Builders Blitz, visit

To learn more about BuildSense and its community outreach endeavors, visit and follow the company’s Facebook page.

About BuildSense

Located at 502 Riggsbee Avenue in downtown Durham, NC, BuildSense fosters delightful, healthy, and sustainable living. BuildSense has been serving families in the greater Triangle Region of North Carolina since 1999. They have received consistent recognition as one of the best design-build companies in the area, and as a national leader in smart and sustainable building and business practices. Their projects regularly earn local, state, and regional design awards. For more information:

ARCHITECT Project Gallery: “Sixty Beverly Hills”

Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel | Architect Magazine | pod architecture + design, Beverly Hills, CA, Hospitality, Addition:Expansion,… 2019-06-20 17-33-12

“California cool meets manicured elegance at Sixty Beverly Hill…This modern Beverly Hills hotel blends upscale comfort with custom made furniture and unexpected design elements.” – Hospitality

The project involved renovating the exterior and interior of an eight-story hotel, including new roof-top bar and pool levels. It was completed in phases. Built on the bones of a 1960s Best Western motel, our goal is for the 92,000-square-foot Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel and Bond Street restaurant to capture the sophisticated cool of late ‘70s and ‘80s design as well as the casual elegance of California modernism. READ MORE

Homeowners’ Happiness Lifts Chapel Hill Architect Arielle Schechter to “Top Rated Local®” Status

ACS at drafting table
Arielle Condoret Schechter at her drawing board.

After receiving Best of Houzz® awards in the Customer Service category for five consecutive years (2015 – 2019), Chapel Hill-based “green” architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, can now add Top Rated Local® Architect in North Carolina to her growing list of accolades.

Top Rated Local® (TRL) is a national partnership dedicated to finding and promoting businesses, trades, and professionals that excel in overall customer/client experiences. TRL tracks, scores, analyzes and ranks them according to how well they satisfy the “five pillars” of customer experience —  quality, value, timeliness, experience, and satisfaction – as expressed in customer/client reviews and ratings on popular, verified sites. For architecture ratings, the verified sites include Houzz, Facebook, and Google. The top rating at each site is five stars.

downloadSchechter is best known for her modern, custom-designed, Net Zero/Net Positive houses that complement natural landscapes throughout central North Carolina. Ranging from 400 to 6000 square feet, Schechter’s houses are always featured on the annual Green Home Tour sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Orange, Chatham, and Durham counties.

She’s received international attention for her Micropolis Houses®, a collection of modern, sustainable, ultra-small house plans she designed. She sells the plans as they are or customizes them for specific clients. In fact, several of her completed and under construction houses are modified versions of Micropolis® plans.

And as rave online reviews from her clients attest, Schechter has gained a reputation for leaving a string of happy homeowners across central North Carolina.

“Of 25 ratings and reviews posted on verified review sites, Arielle Schechter has received dozens of reviews and an average rating of 5.00 stars. This earns her a Rating Score™ of 96.00,” said Rachael Walsh of Top Rated Local®. “That makes her the 2019 Top Rated Local® architect in all of North Carolina.”

In an article on, Schechter attributes her positive reputation to her sincere commitment to customer service, which she defines as “paying attention to the details, staying in touch with clients, being available for clients and supporting them at all times, making the process smooth, and caring deeply.” Myriad online reviews reveal the success of her commitment. For example:

“My husband and I have been living in our new modern, ‘green’ net-zero home…,since May [of 2018]. I am every bit as delighted with it — and even more so now that we are living in I — than from when Arielle first designed it. Arielle designed a home that is uniquely ours by listening to both what we wanted and needed in our home…Through Arielle, our ‘dream home’ has become a reality. We couldn’t be happier!”

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Arielle… is a seasoned professional with an eye for detail second to none. She never left our side throughout the building process and was always quick to provide alternative suggestions along the way.”

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“I am amazed at how efficient [the plan] was! You literally put in everything we asked for, with no wasted space at all. I loved it, and still do.”

For more information on Top Rated Local® go to

For more information on Arielle Condoret Schechter, visit

About Arielle Condoret Schechter:

Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is a licensed, registered architect based in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in Modernist, energy-efficient buildings with a focus on Passive houses, Net Zero/Net Positive houses, and Micropolis Houses®, the collection of tiny houses she designed. Her residential projects range from 400 to 6000 square feet. She is a lifelong environmentalist and began practicing green design long before it became mainstream. She is also a lifelong animal advocate. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals in the Modern, sustainable house she designed for them. For more information:

Celebrated Architect/Author Frank Harmon, FAIA, To Present Lecture & Sketching Workshop in Old Town Alexandria

Hosted by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association

Frank Harmon sketching. Photo by Christine Simeloff

Frank Harmon, FAIA, a multi-award-winning architect from North Carolina and the author of the new critically acclaimed book Native Places: Drawing as a Way to See, will be in Old Town Alexandria, VA, on May 17th and 18th, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association (NVFAA). Harmon will give a lecture focused on his book and his reasons for writing it on Friday the 17th at 7 p.m. in the Athenaeum on the corner of South Lee and Prince streets. On Saturday the 18th beginning at 10 a.m., he will lead an Urban Sketching Workshop around Old Town. Participants will also gather at the Athenaeum.

Both events are free and open to the public. However, the NFVAA asks those interested in either or both to email Participation in the Urban Sketching Workshop is limited.

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Published by ORO Editions, Native Places: Drawing as a Way to See is a collection of 64 of Harmon’s watercolor sketches – some he drew over 30 years ago — paired with brief essays he’s written about architecture, nature, everyday objects, and ordinary places. The pairs first appeared in his popular online journal

The sketches in Native Places convey the delight the architect finds in these places and things. The short essays, inspired by the sketches, offer his fresh interpretations of what most people take for granted. His goal with both the online journal and the book is “to transform the way we see,” he says, and to promote his belief that hand drawing offers “an opportunity to develop a natural grace in the way we view the world and take part in it.”

To that end, he will lead 15 sketching enthusiasts around Alexandria’s picturesque Old Town for the same sort of urban sketching workshop that has proven popular when he’s conducted it at Auburn University’s renowned Rural Studio in New Bern, Alabama; in Asheville and Raleigh, North Carolina; and elsewhere.

“We are very excited to have Frank Harmon come to the historic Athenaeum for two wonderful programs,” said NVFAA’s Executive Director Veronica Szalus. “We’re looking forward to hearing Frank read from his book and share his engaging insights on sketching and the urban environment during the lecture, then show us how to learn to truly see the world around us through sketching during the Saturday workshop. It’s going to be a great weekend.”

Native Places: Drawing as a Way to See will be available for purchase from the NVFAA. For more information on the book and its author, visit

An art gallery, historic landmark, and home of the NVFAA, the Athenaeum is located at 201 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 (703.548.0035).





THE REAL DEAL: Chapel Hill Architect Contributes Two Extremely Green, Thoroughly Modern Houses to 2019 Spring Green Home Tour

Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is quick to credit her clients with allowing her to pursue her passions for environmental stewardship and modern architecture – passions that have once again secured spots for two of her projects on the 2019 Spring Green Home Tour April 27-29 and May 4-5 throughout Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties.

And again this year, Schechter’s houses will give participants a chance to tour the real deal: modern, ultra-energy-conserving, high-performance houses that rest lightly on the land and will produce all or almost all of the energy they need without depleting any natural resources.

“Because my clients are dedicated to sustainable design and construction,” Schechter said, “and because they’re such fans of modern design, they have been such an inspiration as they’ve allowed me to design houses for them that are Net Zero/Net Positive or very close to it. That, along with getting to design modern homes that fulfill my clients’ unique needs and dreams and enhance their lives — it’s an amazing feeling.”

Both of Schechter’s houses on this year’s tour are nestled in verdant settings deep in the forests of Orange County.

Modern Green Cabin

5909 Running Green Road, Chapel Hill

Modern CabinWhen “rustic” combines with “modern” and “green,” the result is the Gouchoe-Hanas cabin, a Net Zero Passive house Schechter designed for a couple moving to North Carolina from San Francisco with two grown children who will visit often.

Among the many features that will fulfill its Net Zero function, this modern cabin features a roof-mounted photovoltaic array and battery storage, radiant heated concrete slab floors on the main level, EuroStar Fenestration windows and doors, and deep sheltering roof overhangs plus suspended sun shades to screen out the high summer sun.

Schechter designed a variety of spaces inside the house to provide for different moods and types of gatherings. The lofty living/dining space on the main floor connects visually and socially to the upper bedrooms via a balcony overlook. Each guest room includes a private balcony. The kitchen is also connected to the main space but tucked away under the second floor. And in the kitchen, Schechter specified bright red tiles “to give warmth and joyful energy to the kitchen, making it pleasant for both cooking and gathering.”

The living/dining space, master bedroom, and office/study all have large, south-facing windows to welcome an abundance of natural light and to provide panoramic views of the natural setting.

“South light is greatly treasured by our firm,” Schechter noted. “We always aim to provide ample south light in our spaces.”

NewPhire Building is currently finishing work on this modern green cabin.

Mason-Grabell Residence – under construction

1505 Mill Valley Road, Chapel Hill

MillValleyRdAccording to the architect, the Mason-Grabell residence is “an extremely energy efficient house that will have a rooftop solar array to get us near Net Zero.” She designed it for a couple relocating from Florida to Chapel Hill. Among its many high-performance features are “my favorite Passive House-rated windows and doors from Eurostar Fenestration,” Schechter noted.

One of Schechter’s clients is a gourmet cook and both love to entertain, so the kitchen was extremely important. To honor their passions, Schechter designed a floorplan in which the kitchen is the central “heart” of the house. All other spaces flow from the heart.

The prominent and most important exterior feature is a generously proportioned screen porch that appears to be floating out into the site. A wrap-around deck connects the grilling area to the screen porch.

The Mason-Grabell house should be complete by early to mid-summer, but it is complete enough now for tour participants to enjoy.

About the Spring Green Home Tour:

Sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties in North Carolina the Spring Green Home Tour is a self-guided tour of houses located throughout the Triangle area. The tour allows the public to see advanced building practices and materials. For more information go to

About Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA:

Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is a licensed, registered architect based in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in Modernist, energy-efficient buildings with a focus on Passive houses, Net Zero/Net Positive houses, and  Micropolis Houses®, the collection of tiny houses she designs She is a lifelong environmentalist and began practicing green design long before it became mainstream. She is also a lifelong animal advocate. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals in the modern, sustainable house she designed for them. For more information:

f8 Photo Studios Evolves Brand Identity, Celebrates 15 Years in Business


f8 Photo Studios
Cara Powell, owner and lead photographer of f8 Photo Studios in Raleigh.

 f8 Photo Studios, one of the leading, award-winning photography studios in North Carolina’s Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill “Triangle” region, is celebrating 15 years in business this year. To mark that occasion, owner and lead photographer Cara Powell is evolving her brand to better reflect f8’s reputation and expanding areas of expertise.

“Fifteen years ago I took a leap of faith and followed a dream,” Powell said recently. “Everything that I envisioned f8 growing into became a reality and more. I am a huge proponent of visualizing your future in order to send you on the right trajectory in your present. Right now my future looks bigger than this business itself. I’d love to be able to keep doing what I love in order to fuel the big projects that feed my soul and help my small part of the world.”

Originally from Charleston, SC, Cara Powell founded f8 Photo Studios in Raleigh in 2004 specializing in creative wedding photography, portraits, and commercial imagery. Since then, she has become known primarily for creative, high-end wedding photography that has received numerous awards. Her work has been featured in a host of publications and blogs (see “About” below), and is frequently cited for capturing the sort of “true emotions” and “one-of-a-kind moments” more indicative of photojournalism than typical wedding photography.

Bridal image by f8

 “I love shooting weddings,” she said recently. “I love the beauty, the emotions, the fun, and capturing all of it in my camera.”

Yet also over the past 15 years, Powell and her team have built a substantial portfolio of commercial work, including interiors and corporate portraiture.

So to mark her 15th anniversary, Powell decided to refresh her studios’ brand identity, rather than change it dramatically, since the reputation and equity she’s built under the previous identity are valuable assets. And she still loves the signature orange she chose in the beginning, she says, to reflect her passion and enthusiasm for her work, along with a sense of warmth and professionalism.

To create f8 Photo Studios’ fresh, more inclusive visual expression, Powell has enlisted brand identity and website designer Hannah Lee of Foxwood Studio in Hillsborough, who will upgrade the studio’s website as part of the rebranding.

About f8 Photo Studios: Accomplishments, Honors, and Accolades

For the past eight years, f8 Photo Studios’ wedding photography has been included in the “Best Of” editions of The Knot magazine – the premiere wedding planning resource in the U.S. — based on client experiences and reviews. As a result, Cara Powell was inducted into The Knot‘s prestigious “Best of Weddings Hall of Fame” (2017-2018), which honors only two percent of the nation’s wedding vendors.

Based on other wedding vendors’ votes, f8 Photo Studios received a “Best of Borrowed & Blue Award” for the 2017-2018 season, the equivalent of a “Michelin Star” for the wedding industry. Powell has also received seven “Wedding Wire Couple’s Choice” awards recognizing local wedding professionals “who demonstrate excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism.”

f8 Photo Studios’ work has been published in a host of magazines and blogs, including Southern Bride & GroomCharleston WeddingsThe KnotThe Knot CarolinasMidtownWalter magazine, Raleigh MagazineTriangle Business Journal, and Weddings magazine.

Powell is also committed to ongoing community involvement, donated her time and resources to local charities.

f8 Photo Studios is located in The Loading Dock at 1053 East Whitaker Mill Road, No. 115, in Raleigh. For more information, visit