Kevin Murphy, President and Founder at Newphire Building - B.S. Geography, Radford University, M.Ed. George Mason University, Licensed General Contractor, Certified Passive House Builder
Kevin was born in Englewood, New Jersey and spent a couple of important years in San Rafael, California, but was primarily raised in Great Falls, Virginia. His first experience as a builder came at the age of 8 when a large development went under construction a few blocks up the road. Kevin and his friends shared the duties of procurement, site selection, design and construction. They built a two story fort with a rooftop porch that they defended vigorously from marauding competitors. Eventually it became too egregious for the big boys and the beloved fort was bulldozed. It was great fun while it lasted though!
From the age of 13 on, Kevin made his spending money by working on farms, for landscaping companies, or with a local builder. His time working construction was with a hilarious builder who couldn’t stay out of DWI court and a sadistic, gun obsessed, decidedly un-PC, ex-Marine superintendent. (Kevin insists that the aforementioned descriptors of the superintendent are not redundant or a given as his brother Brian is a loving, gentle ex-Marine!). Kevin muses, “There were some very interesting dynamics to negotiate, but we wound up having a good time while building some stunning homes.”
While attempting to find his way through college, Kevin got turned on to the concept of serving in the Peace Corps by an inspirational professor, Dr. Stephen Pontius. It became his primary goal and obsession. In September of 1990, he ventured to Paraguay as an Agricultural Extensionist. He states, “I had requested to work in Africa as a Forestry Volunteer. I was initially disheartened that I couldn’t get the job OR the continent, but in the end, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!” It was a life-changing experience that continues to shape him to this day. He met beautiful people living close to the earth. It was living “green” at its most fundamental level. Everything was natural, and there was no waste.
Kevin reflects, “I learned a lot about myself - primarily the difference between wants and needs. Living in a 10’ x 12’ house with no electricity or running water proved to be pleasant and healthy.” Kevin and his wife, Kris, lived well on $180 per month and still had money for traveling. Kevin became fluent in both Spanish and Guarani, Paraguay’s indigenous language. He undertook a major renovation of his diminutive house, created a massive garden, built and dug a community well, and constructed many rustic beehives while teaching local folks how to capture and manage bees. It was also during Peace Corps that he built his first drum, which became a passionate hobby that still endures. While in the Peace Corps, Kevin began dreaming about building environmentally friendly homes. He compiled a library of alternative building books, cordwood and timber frame house plans, and rammed earth how-to books. His research led him to Cottage Grove Oregon where he learned about cob construction and where he helped to assemble a deluxe, elevated yurt.
After Peace Corps, Kevin and Kris got their Masters in Education with specializations in teaching English as a second language before going overseas to teach for the next seven years. They taught for two years in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, three years in Bahrain, where their daughter Quinnlyn was born, and two years in Venezuela where their son Coletrane was nearly born (Kris returned to the U.S. just over 8 months pregnant to give birth to Cole in her hometown of Arlington, Virginia). The nine years of life overseas provided a “world” of education that have had a profound effect upon Kevin’s views on music, politics, the environment, and most notably, humankind.
In July of 2003, with a two year old and two month old in tow, Kevin and Kris put their wanderlust to rest and settled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Kevin worked as an ESL teacher in Chapel Hill for three years (putting his fluency in Spanish to good use) before realizing his dream of building super efficient homes beginning in the spring of 2006.
Kevin is a Certified Passive House Builder, a member of the Passive House Alliance, and has served as project manager on three Certified Passive Houses in the state of North Carolina. In addition, he has built many more homes that are Passive House qualifying, but did not go through the certification process.
Kevin is extremely proud to be doing inspirational, meaningful work that makes great business sense as well.
Chris Kersher, Chief Project Manager at Newphire Building - B.S. Business Management
Chris was born and raised in Allentown, PA. He has been in the building profession formally for over 17 years since his exit from the corporate world, although he’s really been building and fixing everything he could get his hands on since he was a young boy.
Chris grew up spending virtually every minute outside. “I would wake up, have breakfast and right out the door I went," Chris remembers of his childhood. "I wouldn’t come home until I was whistled for by my dad when it was time for dinner.”
Chris occupied his days by building bicycles and bike jumps of varying safety, and working on carpentry projects with his dad, who was an amateur woodworker. He mowed lots of yards in his younger days and then worked at the local grocery store in order to save up for his first car, a 1964 GTO convertible! The car was in sad shape but gave him the opportunity to learn the art of automotive repair. This early experience later developed into a complete lack of fear of taking anything apart and rebuilding it. From washing machines and refrigerators to vintage cuckoo clocks, if it was broken, Chris could fix it! He has loved working with his hands for as long as he can remember.
Once out of college, Chris landed a full-time corporate job, where he remained for 9 years. After a stint at Liberty Mutual Insurance and climbing the corporate ladder at Saturn Corporation, he made a bold decision to leave his very comfortable salary and follow his passion for building. Chris initially earned $10/hr as an entry-level carpenter -- “I had three kids, a wife and a mortgage, but I knew it wouldn’t take long to find success when doing something I love this much,” he recalls.
In 2000, Chris moved to North Carolina to be near family and continued with construction work in the building restoration business. His time in restoration and renovation has enabled him to understand all kinds of residential construction techniques and the benefits and drawbacks of each. Working with existing structures is particularly challenging since it requires an ability to "see behind walls" and blend new building techniques with the old, seamlessly.
Wanting to broaden his building experience, Chris signed on with a local green builder who was one of the first in the area to build energy efficient, sustainable new homes. This builder challenged the norm and pushed the performance envelope. It was the perfect place for Chris to hone his skills as a tradesman and working foreman. He further developed his proficiency as a framer, trim carpenter, tile setter, job site foreman, and superintendent. Chris remarks, “We handled everything in-house with our own people, with the exception of sheetrock and roofing."
When business slowed due to the economy, Chris decided it was time to strike out on his own. He ran a successful home improvement/renovation business until he met Kevin Murphy. Chris and Kevin started talking and worked on a few projects together. After more than a year of talking about joining forces, it finally happened on May 19th, 2015. Chris says of Kevin, “He has reinvigorated me with his inspiring knowledge of passive house construction. He setss the bar high and has an infectious passion for building attractive, high performance homes."
As a team, Chris and Kevin compliment each other to provide a wealth of analytical and hands-on experience as it pertains to new home construction. Construction of your dream home couldn't be in better hands.