2014 Green Home Tour: Happy Meadows Courtyard House

April 29, 2014

This year I have three houses on the Triangle Green Home Tour taking place on the first two weekends in May.  One of them is the Ultra-green and also very modern Happy Meadows Courtyard House.  I don't know which of its green features I am more excited about!


First I have to say how grateful I am to the clients, Phil and Velma Helfaer for letting me be my naturally modernist self for them.  Combine that with green design and you have what I feel like I do best.   It is very satisfying to have a job that is a natural fit!  Thank you P + V!  And now about our fabulous builder Kevin Murphy of Newphire Building - Newphire is a company dedicated to the very highest standards in green building and fine craftsmanship.  Kevin's extensive knowledge of passive house construction and green building combined with his "can-do" "let's make it happen" attitude made this a low stress, high fun job.     We four made a tight-knit "Team" that has worked closely and intensely on every aspect of the project.  


Now back to the green features of the Happy Meadows Courtyard House!  In about 5-7 years, I predict that many of these will be "standard" features on all new houses, but for now these elements are mainly thought of as "green features".  I call them "smart features that make perfect sense" and I think just about anyone building a house would want to incorporate some, if not all, of these.


***This house is built and will be certified to PHIUS (Passive House Institute US) Plus Standards.  This is one of the most stringent green building standards in the world.  Passive Houses are built with double the current code requirements for insulation.  This combined with sealing all gaps to prevent air infiltration makes a house feel incredibly comfortable.  It takes much less energy to heat or cool a passive house.  Sometimes no energy.  Recently on a very hot day here in NC, I went into the Helfaer house and it was lovely and cool with no systems running whatsoever.  Passive houses are also very QUIET.  This is such a great feature in an increasingly noisy and distracting world.  


***We will have a certified HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating of ZERO -- the best you can have!  A HERS rating is a nationally accepted standard for measuring a home's energy efficiency in relation to other homes.  Most new homes have a rating of about 100.  Very few homes in the US have a zero HERS rating!


***We will have a National Green Building Standard "Emerald" rating -- the highest you can have.


***We are a D.O.E. (Department of Energy) Challenge Home.


***We are an Energy Star Home.


***We have a geothermal heat pump system.


***We will be NET ZERO!  This means we will product all the energy we need to run the systems of this house comfortably.


***We have a small 5.4 KW rooftop photovoltaic array (solar panels).  This will more than cover the energy needs of this house and will actually generate enough excess energy to power an electric vehicle!


***We are using reclaimed woods (sinker cypress and reclaimed red gum) for some of the interior finishes.


***All of the interior plywood is specially manufactured with no added urea-formaldehyde.  I say "no added" because wood naturally emits some formaldehyde.  Most plywood that is available has excess formaldehyde which is added in the manufacturing process and is extremely unhealthy to breathe in an indoor environment.


***The indoor paints are by Mythic and emit no V.O.C.s (volatile organic compounds).


***We are using mostly scrap granite remnants for our counter tops.


***We have almost 100% rooftop rainwater capture and underground cisterns for storage.  This water will supply 100% of the landscape irrigation.


Could this house be any greener?  Maybe, but I don't know how!






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Arielle C. Schechter, AIA  / T 919-933-1400 / F 919-933-0102 / E acsarchitect@icloud.com © 2013 by Arielle C. Schechter

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