In The Ground and On The Boards: Chapel Hill Architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, Greets Spring with Modern, Custom Houses at Every Phase of Design and Construction

Mason_GrabellMASON-GRABELL MODERNISM (All renderings by Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA)

May 1, 2018 (Chapel Hill, NC) — A family of transplants from hurricane-prone Florida can’t wait for construction to begin this summer on their spacious, modern house perched on a hillside in Orange County. Cheryl and Ken Serdar are showing off their new, modern, Net Zero, Micropolis® house in Hillsborough, NC, during the 2018 Green Home Tour. And a husband and wife in Chatham County are anxious to “break free” of the “soul-deadening” confines of a cookie-cutter residential development, so they’re counting the days until they can move into their new, modern, Net Zero house also nearing completion in Chatham County.

Chapel Hill architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, a Net Zero/Net Positive Passive House expert*, designed all three houses.

Meanwhile back in her studio, Schechter is moving along with six more projects that span the first three phases of architectural design: schematic design, design development, and construction documentation.

Mason-Grabell Modernism (pictured at top)

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on the spacious Mason-Grabell house. The family grew tired of fighting hurricanes down in Florida so they relocated to Chapel Hill, NC, where hurricanes are extremely rare.

Rising from a hillside with large expanses of glass on all sides, the Mason-Grabel house features flat, cascading roofs that crown specific interior spaces. Designed to touch the ground lightly and protect the site’s natural hydrology, “Mason-Grabell Modernism” will be one of very few modernist houses in its neighborhood.

Net Zero on Tour

Happy Family“HAPPY FAMILY” (photo by Iman Woods) 

 Schechter always stresses that a smaller house allows homeowners to invest their money in elements other than square footage. In the Serdars’ house (above), that other element is a luxurious, spa-like bathroom with a curb-less walk-in shower for two, a custom cast-concrete trough sink, and a vanity area where top-quality tile rises up the high walls to the ceiling.

Otherwise, the Serdars’ relatively small house is deceptive. It appears to be a simple modern house with large, honey-hued wood soffits adding warmth and textural contrast to the precast custom concrete exterior walls. But this is a Net Zero passive house. And the design skills, technological and materials knowledge, and attention to details necessary to create such a high-performance house are anything but “simple.”

*Schechter welcomes the challenge, however, as she continues to add to her growing portfolio of certified Net Zero and Net PositivePassive residential designs with what she’s dubbed the “Happy Family” house.

 Privacy House

Privacy House

“They consider themselves ‘escapees’ from a rigid, traditional development to a lot in the woods,” Schechter said, referring to her clients who are moving out of a traditional development and into this secluded, Net Zero house (above) in the forest in Chatham County. (She noted that “breaking free” and “soul-deadening” are her clients’ words.)

Besides the huge emphasis on privacy, the couple told their architect that they wanted a “modern but simple, unpretentious, age-in-place design.” And they had one specific request. “A sheltered place to sit outside and watch the rain,” Schechter said as she pointed out the house’s deeply cantilevered roof.

Phasing In

Concurrently, Arielle Schechter is working through the schematic design phase for a house for two engineers in Harnett County. She’s also fine-tuning three houses in design development and shepherding two other houses through the construction documentation phase.

For more information on Arielle Condoret Schechter and to see additional examples of her built and on-the-boards work, visit

Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA

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, NET ZERO/NET POSITIVE houses, as well as her new tiny house plans, the Micropolis® Houses. She is a lifelong environmentalist and began practicing green design long before it became mainstream. She is also a lifelong animal advocate who lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals in the modern, sustainable house she designed for all of them.

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:

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:

Webcast Focuses On “Riding The Red Hot Healthy Home Trend”

Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, in the home she designed for herself and her husband in Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill architect Arielle Schechter, AIA, helps builders embrace high-performance houses.

Should homebuilders produce houses that are as “21st century” as cell phones and automobiles? believes they should. From sustainability technologies to CO2 monitoring, the website’s mission is to help homebuilders and designers learn how to create high-performance houses by including high-tech features both efficiently and profitably.

One way does this is through webcasts. On Thursday, October 9, at 2 p.m. EST, Chapel Hill, NC, architect and passive house specialist Ariellle Condoret Schechter, AIA, will be the featured guest on the webcast “Riding The Red Hot Healthy Home Trend.”

Shechter and custom homebuilder Kevin Murphy of NewPhire Building in Chapel Hill, will discuss the host of “green” strategies and materials they used in “Happy Meadow Courtyard House,” perhaps the greenest single-family house in America, currently completing construction in Chapel Hill.

In September, posted a story on this uber-green house entitled “Passive House Goes High Tech: The ultimate green home incorporates building science techniques and plenty of energy innovations.” The story listed the many green standards certifications this single-story, 2567-heated-square-foot house has received or will receive once it is completed. Among them are the National Association of Homebuilders Green Builders’ Standard Emerald certification, the standard’s highest rating; and PHIUS Passive House Plus, one of the most difficult certifications to receive.

During the webcast, Schechter will help viewers understand that passive homes like Happy Meadow start with attention to such “low-tech” considerations as orientation on the site to maximize natural ventilation from prevailing breezes and natural light; deep roof overhangs to block the high sun in the summer; a special white roof membrane to reflect heat; triple-pane windows; and super-insulation in the roof, walls, and flooring. They also created a wildlife habitat and frog pond on the property.

Where passive principles stop technology takes over: She and Murphy will discuss the green technologies they employed — including a photovoltaic array, geothermal heating and cooling, a rainwater capture system, and the “CERV” ventilation system, to name only a few — to make this house net zero for energy use and perhaps net positive when it produces more energy than it uses.

They will also explain how up-front investments in sustainable materials and green technologies reduces a high-performance house’s energy consumption and costs to a fraction of that of a conventional house.

Viewing the “Riding The Red Hot Healthy Home Trend” webcast requires preregistration (at no cost). Go to, click on “Events,” scroll down to “Webcasts,” then click on “Register for the Webcast” under the name of the show.

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 of all types and sizes, especially houses. She admits that she is “obsessed with light,” which drives her designs more than any other single element. Her firm also offers landscape design, interior and lighting design, and custom furniture and fixtures. She attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Julliard School of Music, and NC State University’s College of Design. She lives with her husband, Arnie Schechter, and an assortment of foster animals in a Modern, energy-efficient house she designed. For more information:

About TecHome Builder: is a primary resource for homebuilders who want to make the inclusion of high-tech features in the homes they build efficient and profitable, from energy, lighting and HVAC and IAQ to advanced appliances, electronics, and connectivity. provides education, application strategies, and inspiration. For more information: