Chapel Hill Architect and Builder Continue To Raise The Bar For Green Design and Construction

Arielle Condoret Schechter
Rendering, eastern elevation

After stealing the show during the 2015 Green Home Tour with “Happy Meadows,” the modern, net-zero passive house she designed in Pittsboro, NC, Chapel Hill architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, now has another modern, net-zero, passive house-inspired home under construction – this time in Chapel Hill, and this time for the custom green homebuilder who helped her create Happy Meadows: Kevin Murphy of Newphire Building.

For the past decade, “greenwashing” has run rampant in the home building industry. Simply put, “greenwashing” occurs when an architect, contractor, or home builder spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing practices that minimize environmental impact.

Arielle Schechter and Kevin Murphy take environmental impact very seriously.

Arielle Condoret Schechter, Chapel Hill architect
Rendering, front elevation

According to Murphy, the 2950-square-foot house Schechter has designed for his family of four will be “a warm and functional family home as well as a showcase of cutting-edge green building techniques.”

Architecturally, the house effortlessly combines environmental stewardship with the simple volumes, flat rooflines, open floor plan, and indoor-outdoor living that define modern styling. The first floor will feature a spacious living/dining/kitchen area connected to a screen porch that will extend the living space outdoors. The master bedroom wing will be located on the first floor with the children’s suite – complete with a multipurpose music and entertainment room –  and home office upstairs. Typical of Schechter’s residential work, a private interior courtyard will link all spaces together.

The house is located on a 4.3-acre site at the end of a private gravel road that is very secluded yet only a seven-minute drive from Chapel Hill or Carrboro. Despite the size of the lot, stream buffers, setbacks to existing well and septic concerns, and a new leach field left Murphy with a surprisingly small area on which to build his house.

Rendering, rear corner at screened porch
Rendering, rear corner at screened porch

The site’s eastern line runs down to the branch of a small creek. Beyond the creek, dozens of acres of Triangle Land Conservancy property provides a lush buffer for wildlife. The screen porch faces the forest.

Far from “greenwashing,” the Murphy home will be “net zero/net positive,” meaning that it will produce as much energy as it uses and probably even more. “We anticipate a National Green Building Standard ‘Gold’ rating,” Murphy noted.

Murphy said he will employ the techniques he’s learned while building Certified Passive Houses. His home will be super-insulated and extremely air tight, far beyond regular building code requirements. To provide the home with fresh air, Murphy and Schechter will utilize the cutting-edge Conditioning Energy Recovery Ventilator (CERV) that they used at the Happy Meadows home. The CERV filters, dehumidifies and tempers incoming fresh air before distributing it to the living area. The home will be heated and cooled by two tiny Fujitsu mini-split heat pumps and all of the windows will be high performance, European, triple-pane tilt and turn by Awilux. As a result, the house will need only a small array of photovoltaic (solar) panels to produce all the electricity the house will need.

To maximize both passive and active solar gain, the house’s axis run east to west, thereby capturing an abundance of southern sunlight.

According to its architect and builder/homeowner, this modern, high-performance house will be part of the 2016 Green Home Tour sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham counties.

For more information on Arielle Condoret Schechter, visit For more information on NewPhire Building:

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 houses, and her new tiny house designs, Micropolis Houses™. She is a lifelong environmentalist and animal advocate who was riding on the green design train long before it became mainstream. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals in a Modern house she designed. For more information:

Frank Harmon Sees Third Green, Regional Project Open in Six Weeks

November 13, 2009 (RALEIGH, NC) – The new Merchants Millpond Visitors Center IMG_5190_brand Open Air Classroom Building in Gatesville, NC, has opened to the public, marking the third thoroughly “green” project serving the public that award-winning Raleigh design firm Frank Harmon Architect PA has completed within the past six weeks.

The 7,500 square-foot Visitor Center and 600 square-foot Open Air Classroom, owned by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, is located in Merchants Millpond State Park. A Registered Natural Heritage Area that covers 1900 acres, the park includes the millpond and part of Lassiter Swamp. Parks & Recreation is charged with preserving the park’s diverse biological, scenic, archaeological, geological and recreational values and providing park experiences that promote pride in and understanding of North Carolina’s natural heritage.

The Visitor Center is situated uphill from the pond and parallel to the bank so that every IMG_5271_brspace along the southeast side of the building has a view of the natural surroundings. A porch is also located along that elevation so visitors can easily step from the building into the outdoors. Clerestory windows on the northwest face of the building allow the exhibit space, auditorium, classroom, reception area and offices to enjoy natural lighting from two sides of the spaces.

The auditorium and classroom were designed to be as flexible as possible to accommodate a variety of functions. From the classroom, a trail leads to the detached, Open Air Classroom Building at the edge of the pond. This is also the point of arrival and departure for canoeing in the Millpond.

IMG_5144_brAccording to Erin Sterling, AIA, of Frank Harmon Architect PA, Parks and Recreation wanted the Visitor Center to be as sustainable as possible since it is Parks and Recreation’s first LEED rated building. As a result, the project features a sensitively designed parking lot that maintains trees for shade, geothermal heating and cooling, recycled materials, locally harvested materials, rainwater cisterns for landscape irrigation, low voc paints and adhesives, daylighting and natural ventilation. The project is currently pursuing LEED Gold Certification.

Construction materials and devices include recycled steel structural members, concrete block with high fly ash content, exterior cypress wood siding harvested from felled trees as a result of hurricane Isabel, standing seam metal roof which allows for high solar reflectivity, daylight sensors that contribute to energy savings by only allowing certain lights to come on when needed, low flow plumbing fixtures in restrooms.

“The design of the building was inspired by photographs of the old wooden mill building IMG_5170_brthat once had a magnificent presence on the pond. The new Visitor Center’s most important space is the entry lobby located under a dramatically sloping roof supported by exposed wood beams and columns. A two story window at the end of the lobby captures a view of the millpond beyond. The floor material in this space is 100 year old reclaimed heart pine. Our client’s goal was to give visitors a welcoming feeling by using a similar language to the materials and construction of the old mill.” said Sterling, who served as Project Manager for the project.

The opening of the Merchants Millpond Visitor Center and Open Air Classroom Building comes on the heels of the openings of both the NC Botanical Garden new Visitor Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Walnut Creek Urban Wetlands Education Center in Southeast Raleigh – both public-serving and thoroughly sustainable projects. The Botanical Garden is slated for LEED Platinum certification, the “greenest” certification a building can receive.

For more information on Merchants Millpond, go to

For more information on Frank Harmon Architect PA, visit

About Frank Harmon Architect PA:

Frank Harmon Architect PA, a multi-award-winning firm headquartered in downtown Raleigh, has extensive experience with projects that blend architecture with enhancement of and education about natural resources, including the recently completed Walnut Creek Urban Wetlands Park Educational Center in Raleigh, Duke University’s Ocean Science Teaching Center in Beaufort, NC, the Walter B. Jones Center for the Sounds, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Columbia, NC, and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Prairie Ridge Eco-Station in Raleigh. The firm is currently anticipating the opening of the NC Botanical Garden’s new Visitors Center in Chapel Hill and Merchants Millpond Outdoor Educational building in Gatesville, N.C. For more information, go to

Duke’s “Green” Ocean Conservation Center Wins Wood Design Award

Ocean Conservation Center, Duke Univ. Photo by Jeffrey Jacobs
Ocean Conservation Center, Duke Univ. Photo by Jeffrey Jacobs

March 2, 2009 (BEAUFORT, NC) — Duke University’s Ocean Conservation Center (OCC) at the Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., designed by Frank Harmon Architect PA of Raleigh, NC, recently received a Wood Design Award: Green Building Category from WoodWorks-Southeast, a division of the Wood Products Council of North America for non-residential construction.

“Wood contributes to building high performance by reducing energy use, resource use, pollution and overall environmental impact,” according to WoodWorks’ website. “Entries in the green building category should demonstrate how some or all of these principles have been applied in the building’s design and construction.

The 5,600-square-foot OCC is Duke’s only LEED Gold certified building and one of only about 1700 LEED rated projects in the United States. Presented by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the national benchmark for high performance “green” buildings.

Harmon used local building materials — yellow Southern pine and Atlantic white cedar — and recycled wood throughout the Ocean Conservation Center. The wood-shingled exterior complements the coastal context.

Other “green” features include photovoltaic cells, geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels for hot water, photovoltaic rooftop panels for converting sunlight into electricity, an abundance of operable windows for natural lighting and ventilation, deep roof overhangs to keep the sun off the windows, permeable sidewalks, a zinc roof designed to last 100 years and to reflect heat, and native landscaping.

Frank Harmon has designed many LEED-certified buildings, including the Botanical Gardens Visitors Center nearing completion now at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It was designed to receive LEED Platinum certification, the highest level in the certification program. For more information, visit

The annual WoodWorks-South competition is open to designers, firms and building projects in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The award ceremony was held February 24 at the Wood Solutions Fair in Raleigh.

WoodWorks is an initiative of the Wood Products Council, a cooperative venture of all the major wood associations in North America, as well as research organizations and government agencies. For more information visit

About Frank Harmon:
Frank Harmon, FAIA is an award-winning architect and an adjunct professor of architecture at the College of Design, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. A veteran speaker at regional and national design conferences, he has presented versions of his popular “Architects Discuss America’s New Regionalism” seminar at the 2005, 2006 and 2007 National AIA Conventions and Dwell Magazine’s 2007 “Dwell On Design” Conference. He has served on many design awards juries, including the national jury for the American Institute of Architects’ 2005 Institute Honor Awards. He is currently serving on the U.S. General Services Administration’s National Register of Peer Professionals to improve public buildings.

Educated at both the N.C. School of Design and the Architectural Association in London, where he studied under James Stirling, Mr. Harmon worked for Richard Meier in New York before founding his own practice, Frank Harmon Architect, in Raleigh.  His work has been featured in numerous national and international journals, magazines and books on architecture, including The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press), and has been exhibited in the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

As a practitioner, he is considered a leader in the field of sustainable design. In 2005 Frank Harmon Architect was named “Top Firm of the Year” by Residential Architect magazine. More recently, his received First Place in a professional design competition to select an architect for the AIA/North Carolina component’s new headquarters in downtown Raleigh. He was also featured recently in the “Conversation” section of Dwell Magazine and on American Public Media’s “The Story” with Dick Gordon (NPR).

posted by blueplate pr

Raleigh Architect To Address International Expo

Frank Harmon, FAIA
Frank Harmon, FAIA

October 9, 2008 (RALEIGH, NC) – Frank Harmon, FAIA, principal of the award-winning Frank Harmon Architect in Raleigh, NC, will present a seminar entitled “Building Greener, Smarter, Sustainable Structures” during the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Expo to be held in Charlotte, NC, October 21-23 at the Charlotte Hilton Hotel.

Harmon will discuss several sustainable projects to illustrate how environmentally friendly, sustainable buildings and structures contribute to their communities by saving energy use and costs, and building materials.

Harmon’s address is part of the IFAI’s Architect’s Workshop and will be presented on Wednesday, October 22, beginning at 6 p.m.

IFAI is a not-for-profit trade association representing the entire spectrum of the specialty fabrics industry. The Expo is a showcase of existing and emerging technologies in industrial and technical fabrics, bringing together all levels of the technical textile industry value chain – from fiber producer to end product manufacturer. This gathering of suppliers and buyers is a global marketplace with over 8,000 industry professionals—exhibitors and attendees–representing more than 64 countries. For more information visit

For more information on Frank Harmon, visit


The Culture of Place: Architects Discuss America’s Regional Landscape

April 17, 2008 (RALEIGH, NC) — For the fourth consecutive year, Raleigh, NC, architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, will present a major seminar at the American Institute of Architect’s National Convention and Design Exposition, to be held this year on May 15-17 in Boston, MA. Unlike his past seminars, however, which were entitled “Architects Discuss America’s New Regionalism,” his 2008 presentation will focus more squarely on “America’s Regional Landscape.”

“For architecture to embody the American spirit, it must conserve, protect and celebrate our rich, varied landscape and culture of place,” Harmon said recently. “Regional architecture engages climate, topography, vegetation and local materials. So we will explore contemporary regionalism’s influence on landscape and architecture, and the techniques used to satisfy social, cultural, economic and environmental needs for sustainability – arguably the most pressing issue of our time.”

Harmon, who is widely recognized as a leading practitioner of sustainable design, will be joined this year by Maryann Thompson of Maryann Thompson Architects in Cambridge, MA, and a member of the Harvard University architecture faculty; and Nader Tehrani of Office dA, Inc. in Boston. Tehrani is also an associate professor architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an adjunct professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Each of the three panelists will use their own projects as case studies for the discussion.

“What makes the work important and timely is that the greatest potential for architecture today lies in regional locations – in the sheer number of clients, the variety of landscapes, and the particular ‘sticks and stones’ with which each region has to build,” Harmon said. “This regional manifestation has significance for the world outside itself, both nationally and internationally, as the need rises for every region to rely on its own resources and draw inspiration from its own context.”

Sponsored by Architectural Record magazine, Harmon’s seminar will identify the principles of innovative regional architecture and landscape with the intention of inspiring attending architects and building industry professionals to embrace these principles in their own work, he said.

The theme for this year’s National AIA convention is “We The People: Our Place In The World,” which the AIA website describes as “the right topic for a growing profession that has been challenged to engage the public in designing a more sustainable world.”

For more information on the Convention, visit For more information on Frank Harmon, visit