“Green” Architect Helps Seniors Conserve Energy Use and Costs, Age In Place

During the Orange County Department on Aging Housing Expo2014_Senior_Housing Expo

Chapel Hill architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA will help senior citizens and their families discover ways to make their homes more energy-efficient during The Orange County Department on Aging Housing Expo Saturday, October 25, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Seymour Center.

Schechter specializes in “super-green” housing with a focus on passive homes built to PHIUS (Passive House Institute US) standards, which are among the most stringent sustainability standards in the world.

“Passive houses are not quite the same thing as passive solar,” Schechter noted. “They are much more than that, although passive solar is often one of the many features of a passive house. ”

She explained that passive houses include super-insulation, a tight building envelope, and the elimination of thermal bridging (junctions where insulation is not continuous and causes heat loss). As a result, passive houses use dramatically less energy than the standard home and recoup the up-front costs for the extra insulation with dramatically lowered electrical bills for the rest of the house’s life. The US Department of Energy has praised Passive House standards as being the best path to Net Zero.

From her booth at the Expo, however, Schechter will help seniors explore simple energy-conservation options for their existing homes.

“The US Department of Energy says that replacing 15 old light bulbs with LED lights will save you about $50 per year on your electric bill.” she said. “There are so many other little things you can do around your home that will add up to real energy cost savings, such as stopping air leaks with caulk and weather-stripping and insulation to save money and make your house more comfortable. When it comes time to replace an appliance, I’ll recommend buying ones with the Energy Star® rating. Same with windows: If you have to replace them, switch to high-efficiency windows that have the right type of glass. Some passive house windows have an R-value almost the same as a standard insulated stud wall. And with the droughts that are becoming the norm every summer in our state, I’m a big advocate of collecting rainwater, whether with simple rain barrels or more involved cistern systems for lawn and garden irrigation.”

Schechter also specializes in “age in place” houses. According to AARP, older homeowners overwhelmingly prefer to age in place, which means living in their homes safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age or ability. Schechter will be available to discuss home modifications that could allow seniors to remain in their houses rather than move into long-term care facilities by increasing access and maneuverability.

“Modifications range from simple solutions to elaborate undertakings,” Schechter said. “Simple modifications include changing out lights to brighter LED bulbs for aging eyes, adding bath and shower grab bars, and changing floor coverings to accommodate a wheel chair or to get rid of slippery surfaces. More involved efforts might include removing a shower curb to make it curb-less, adding a simple exterior ramp to your entry instead of a staircase, widening doorways, creating a multifunctional first floor master suite if the master bedroom is currently on the second story, and even installing a home elevator. How much you do will depend on need and budget.”

The Chapel Hill Seymour Center is located at 2551 State Road 1777, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. For more information on the Housing Expo, go to http://www.co.orange.nc.us.

For more information on Arielle Condoret Schechter and her work, visit http://www.acsarchitect.com.

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 interior and lighting design, and custom furniture and fixtures. She attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Juilliard 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: www.acsarchitect.com.