Two Net Zero Passive Houses Are State-Of-The-Art on the 2015 Green Home Tour

One of the two net zero homes: Happy Meadows Courtyard House.
One of the two net zero homes: Happy Meadows Courtyard House.

There’s “green,” and then there’s GREEN.

When the Home Buyers Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties presents its 10th annual Green Home Tour May 2-3 and 9-10, tour-goers will see several houses that are certified“green” because they use less energy, water and natural resources, create less waste, and are generally healthier environments than a traditionally designed and constructed house.

Two houses on the tour, however, are so green that even LEED Platinum structures pale in comparison. Designed by Chapel Hill architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, homes “C6” and “C12”in the tour’s guidebook are “net zero passive houses.”

Net zero means that these houses produce as much energy as they use. “Passive” refers to their ability to maintain indoor temperature with minimal dependence on active HVAC systems.

“Of course, passive houses work well in tandem with active systems like solar panels if the goal is to reach net zero,” Schechter pointed out. “And we did indeed reach net zero and beyond on both of these houses.”

And, unlike traditionally built houses, these net zero passive houses do not emit any greenhouse gases into the environment.

In Chapel Hill, “C6” is the 2289-square-foot, two-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home of Phil and Velma Helfaer, which they have named the “Happy Meadows Courtyard House” because it also features one of Schechter’s signature design elements: a private courtyard.

“I love courtyards because they also add warmth and grace wherever they’re located,” she notes.“They expand living spaces and extend sight lines. And, yes, they’re wonderful places to dine, lounge, and entertain outdoors with complete privacy.  At their most primal level, courtyards provide“sanctuary” and “calm” as an antidote to our overcomplicated world.”

Kevin Murphy, the owner of Newphire Building and a Certified Passive House Builder, built Happy Meadows. “We wanted to create a home that combined the application of the most up-to-date energy modeling and building science with an artful, modern aesthetic,” he says.

A longtime animal advocate, Schechter’s favorite feature just might be the creation of the wildlife habitat in the pond and water feature. “We always try to include a place for wildlife in our designs. The Happy Meadows water gardens provide homes for frogs and other species, which are in critical decline as they suffer from more and more habitat loss from development.”

Designed to be net positive with the addition of more solar panels in the future, the house will produce enough excess energy to charge an electric car.  It’s even third-party certified to the most rigorous energy efficiency standard in the country — Passive House Plus – and follows every EPA recommendation for indoor air quality. For more details on this house:!happy-meadows-courtyard-house/c246b.

The "Modern Farmhouse" in PIttsboro
The “Modern Farmhouse” in PIttsboro

“C12,” in Pittsboro’s Laughing Brook subdivision, is the home of Pam and Aaron Fleischauer and their young son, Jack. At 1790 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths, this net zero “modern farmhouse” features ultra-low-maintenance concrete exterior walls, 20 solar panels, a tiny HVAC system, and on-demand hot water, among a host of other net zero and passive house elements and details. Bright in the winter and cool and shady in the summer, it was built by Anchorage Building Corp.

“We are in the house and it is wonderful,” Aaron Fleischauer told the Chapel Hill News in August. “It is so beautiful. I am amazed how clean the air feels.”

The Green Home Tour features a diverse group of newly built or remodeled green-certified homes, giving the public an opportunity to see first-hand the renewable energy and advanced green building practices in home design in the three counties. For more information on the tour, go to

For more information on Arielle Condoret Schechter and the green homes she designs, visit

About Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, Architect:

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:

Duke University’s Ocean Conservation Center Achieves LEED Platinum

The highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

Duke University Ocean Conservation Center
Duke’s Ocean Conservation Center in Beaufort, NC.

Raleigh architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, principal of Frank Harmon Architect PA, recently learned that the Ocean Conservation Center (OCC) his firm designed in Beaufort, NC, for Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment Marine Laboratory has achieved LEED Platinum certification.

Platinum is the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) awards.

Located on Piver’s Island at the head of the Beaufort Inlet, the OCC provides state-of-the-art teaching facilities for the Duke Marine Lab while identifying and demonstrating innovative, environmentally sound design and construction technology.

Duke University Ocean Conservation Center
The OCC’s glass-enclosed common area.

The 5000-square-foot building’s angular design responds directly to the site along the edge of the island. The shape defers to prevailing southwest breezes blowing in from the channel and allows natural illumination to serve as primary task lighting in every interior space. It also creates a very natural open, inner courtyard for the campus.

The channel side of the building features a large, wooden porch just outside of a glass-enclosed common area, which provides panoramic views of the natural surroundings. The wood-shingled exterior complements the coastal context and the roof’s deep overhang protects the interior from the hot summer sun.

The building is designed and engineered to resist hurricane-force winds in excess of 125 mph — a very real threat in Beaufort, NC. Building materials include wood, wood shingles, glass, and cement panels. The fully designed wood frame is comprised of Atlantic white cedar, recycled wood, and Southern yellow pine. State-of-the-art green features include photovoltaic rooftop panels for converting sunlight into electricity, a solar hot water system, a vegetated roof and rain water collection cistern, and high-efficiency ground-coupled heat pumps. Recycled and local materials were used wherever possible.

Landscaping includes a large, new dune that directs the wind over the building, rather than directly at it, and protects other all-native landscaping features.

Earning LEED Platinum certification is a comprehensive process. A project must meet all requirements during a rigorous evaluation of building system efficiency, sustainability, water efficiency, materials used for construction, and environmental quality. Architect and client must be fully committed to sustainability and the process.

LEED certification is recognized across the globe as the premier mark of achievement in green building. For more information:

For more information on the OCC and Frank Harmon Architect PA, visit

About Frank Harmon, FAIA:

Frank Harmon, FAIA, is principal of the multi-award-winning firm Frank Harmon Architect PA in Raleigh, NC, a Professor in Practice at NC State University’s College of Design, and the 2013 winner of AIA North Carolina’s F. Carter Williams Gold Medal, the highest honor presented by the Chapter to an AIA NC member to recognize a distinguished career and extraordinary accomplishments as an architect. In 2010 Harmon was included in Residential Architect’s inaugural “RA 50: The Short List of Architects We Love.” In 2013, his firm was ranked 21st among the top 50 firms in the nation by Architect Magazine. Frank Harmon is also the author and illustrator for, a series in which he uses hand-drawn sketches and mini-essays to examine the relationship between nature and built structures. For more information: Contact information:; 919.829.9464; 14 East Peace Street, Raleigh, NC 27604.