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

Architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, shows how far home design can go to be truly sustainable.

Raleigh, NC, April 29, 2015 --( ​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, NC, 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.

“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:
Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, Architect
Kim Weiss