Green Builders Home Tour Again!

Our favorite event of the year, the Home Builders Association’s Green Builders’ Home Tour, is rapidly approaching, We love being able to interact directly with prospective clients in homes that we have built. It is a great way for folks to see the quality of construction and to see the attention to detail and features that differentiate us from other builders.

This year we have two houses by local modern architect maven Arielle Condoret Schechter.

The Modern Cabin house combines a modern aesthetic with lots of wood and stone. It features radiant heating, a 7.4 kW solar array with battery back up, a stunning deep grind polished concrete floor and many beautifully crafted cabinets and built-ins.

Gouchoe Tour Book Pic.jpg

The Beech House, also by Arielle, is perfectly nestled into it’s surroundings and affords the homeowners beautiful vistas and stunning sunsets. It is super insulated and airtight, has an energy recovery ventilator for fresh air and is loaded with details. The house is also modern with many Mid-Century Modern accents.

The Beech House

The Beech House

In a new twist, we will also have an energy efficient office building on the tour. We had the honor of building the Boer Bros. Heating and Cooling office building this past year.

Myrick Construction did all the site work and built the large warehouse and shop for the project. We were tasked with building an energy efficient office that is comfortable, well lit by sunlight, and conducive to a positive work environment.

The Boer Bros. contracted another awesome local architect Jay Fulkerson to design the office space.

It features passive solar design with proper orientation, shading and thermal mass. It also features a bi-directional 7.4 kW solar tracker installed by our friends at Action Solar and Electric.

The Boer Bros installed several different types of heating and cooling units in their building for it to serve as a model of the different possibilities. If you are building a new house soon, or are in need of a new system for your old house, it is a great opportunity to learn about what the possibilities are.

Boer Bros Building With Solar.jpg

We hope that you have some time the last weekend in April or first weekend in May to come see what we have been up to. The building are open from 12-5 both weekends. We look forward to seeing you!

Happy Family House Scores -13 HERS Score!

An adaptation of architect Arielle Schechter's ( Happy Family Micropolis Home Plan has scored a super impressive -13 HERS score.  Our preferred partners for Energy Rating, Southern Energy Management (, provided the third party verification of HERS rating.  

For those unfamiliar with HERS ratings, a -13 score indicates that the house should be net positive.  Net positive is what you do when net zero is just not good enough anymore!

Serdar West Exterior.jpg

Upcoming Green Builders Home Tour- Two Entries

Newphire Building has two homes on the upcoming Green Home Tour.  The tour takes place on April 28-29 and May 5-6 from 12-5 p.m.  It is a self-guided, free tour.  Visit the link below to see where you can pick up a tour guidebook.

We had the pleasure of working with Arielle Schechter, Architect on the "Pavement Ends" house, which is a modification of one of her Micropolis Plans, called "Happy Family".   To view Arielle's website and more of her Micropolis plans, go to:

Happy Family East Elevation.jpg

Our other home on the tour is the Still Hollow House, designed by another great, modernist architect, Ellen Cassilly,  Visit Ellen's website at the link below:

Still Hollow Green Home Tour Photo

Both homes are designed to be at or near net zero energy.  For more details and to see our work in person, please consider coming out for the tour.  


Ventilation Sweet Spot...

When you build a tight house, you need to introduce fresh air to keep the indoor air healthy.  The advantages of using an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) to bring in your fresh air are many:

-You know where your air exchanges are coming from, rather than counting on leakage.  Most traditional homes are getting their make up air from the least desirable places, like crawlspaces.  Turn on your clothes dryer and you are expelling 200 cfm of air.  Since you don't live in a vacuum, that air needs to be replaced from somewhere.  The path of least resistance in an existing home or poorly built new home is likely laced with camel cricket feces from the crawlspace, and maybe a little mold...

-Since you know where the air is coming from, you can filter it, and in some cases dehumidify as you bring in your fresh air.  

-You can exchange the energy of the outgoing "stale air" with the incoming fresh air.  For example, if it is 30 degrees outside and 70 degrees inside, you don't want to just pump 30 degree air into your house while pumping out all of that energy (heat) that you just paid for.  The "Energy Recovery" part of the equation means that the ERV captures roughly 85% of the energy in the outgoing air and introduces it to the incoming fresh air.  

-Fresh, filtered air provided by thoughtful air exchanges is good for your health!

Potential Pitfall- The only negative that I have run into using ERVs in the mixed humid climate of the Piedmont of North Carolina is over ventilation.  As you can imagine, if you bring in too much "fresh" air during the summer in this climate, you are bringing in a lot of humidity.  Conversely, during the winter, over ventilation results in an excessively dry indoor environment.  Most ERVs will let you adjust either the cubic feet per minute of flow, or percentage of time running per hour so that you can dial in your Air Changes Per Hour (ACH).  With an inexpensive humidistat and your nose, you should be able to find the sweet spot without getting overly scientific about it.  Everyone knows what a stale house smells like.  Avoid that.  At the same time, don't overdo the ventilation and make the level of humidity uncomfortable in your house.



Newphire Has Two Net Zero Homes on the Upcoming Green Builders Home Tour

We have always been big fans of the Green Builders' Home Tour.  It allows prospective clients the opportunity to walk through existing homes to view the quality and craftsmanship and to interact with the builder.  We have two homes that will be net zero energy, or very close to that, on the tour.  

Newphire Eno River Net Zero

Newphire Eno River Net Zero

The homes feature super insulated envelopes, healthy indoor air maintained by energy recovery ventilators, triple pane, European windows and significant solar arrays.  We would love to see you out on the tour.  Follow the link below for more info on the tour.  

Cheyenne Dr. Net Zero Home

Cheyenne Dr. Net Zero Home

Comfort and Energy Savings!

Last night it got down to 20 degrees F.  It is currently 36 degrees at noon today.  With no heat on, our house is holding at a comfortable 68 degrees!  The solar orientation and sizing of the overhangs combine with the thermal mass of the slab to warm the house up nicely with no additional heat needed.  Pretty sweet!

Murphy-Dunn Negative Three HERS Score

The good news- my personal home scored an impressive -3 on the HERS rating system.  What this means is that our house should be right at net zero, or slightly net positive.  Our E-gauge monitoring system has independently verified that the HERS calculations were accurate when averaged over the year.  During the summer months, we were averaging about $40/month of over production.  On these short days leading up to the winter solstice, we are running around a $30 deficit.  

What I find to be inaccurate is the chart saying how the energy is likely to be used.  For us, showers and clothes washing and drying seem to use up about 80% of the energy that we use.  I HATE seeing the e-gauge when someone has just taken a shower or the dryer is running.  It actually gets to the point that I am reluctant to do laundry because I don't want to see the energy use graph (or at least that is what I tell my wife).

I think that it would be instructive for everyone to have an energy monitoring system in their house.  It makes you aware of how much energy you are using in real time, and if possible, you can turn things off that don't need to be on.  Bottom line- we are doing pretty darn well for a family of four with two teenagers showering a bunch and generating an inordinate amount of dirty clothes...


Harris-Staller House Earns NGBS GOLD and a 17 HERS Score!

How would you like a home that saves you approximately $180 a month?  Newphire's recently completed Harris-Staller house does just that -- With a HERS score of 17, this home is modeled to have an annual energy savings of $2177 annually compared to an average fully code-compliant new home of equal size.   

Follow these links to view the complete HERS Score Document and the National Green Building Standard GOLD certificate for this home.

Upcoming Work- Bratton Residence with Sarah Stehli-Howell

Newphire is working with architect Sarah Stehli Howell on a beautiful, contemporary net zero ready home in Hillsborough for a vibrant young couple.  It will be extremely efficient and airtight and will likely be on the Green Builders Home Tour next year.  This house has many cool features including a "Yogi Cabana", outdoor shower, and a couple of triple pane tri-fold doors that are 9' wide.  With the addition of a few PV panels, it will be net zero

Sarah worked on Brad Pitt's post Katrina homes for years down in New Orleans before moving to Carrboro.  Check out a link to her website below.

Southern Energy Management Knocks Out the Solar Array on my House

Long time partners of Newphire Building, Southern Energy Management (S.E.M.), did a fabulous job of installing the 8 kW solar array on my upper roof.  It is a ballast mount system due to the installation over the EPDM on my flat roof.  Definitely don't want penetrations at 1/4"/foot slope!  SEM provided a monitoring system to assess use and production.  It will be a super useful tool for me.  I will be providing a link on my website so that others can see how my quest for net zero is going!

Transporting Sub Slab Foam Across the Frozen Tundra in Hurdle Mills

It is always an interesting day when the sub slab foam arrives on a 53' tractor trailer.  In this case we had to offload at the main road and then transport it by truck across the frozen pond dam on the 60 acre farm that we are building on.  Fun stuff!  Chris, Kane and I are really looking forward to all the open space and beautiful surroundings.  Our clients can look forward to the comfortable feet that they will have with 5" of foam under the entire slab!  This home will hopefully be pushing for net zero like all or our recent homes.

Harris-Staller Residence Receives Prestigious "Gnat's Ass" award

Paul Staller and Susan Harris, of Hillsborough, were the first recipients in the U.S. of the much sought after "Gnat's Ass" award.  Okay, so it is really not an official award, but a play on our admonition that we build houses "tighter than a gnat's ass."  Paul and Sue, upon verifying that their house met the stringent Passive House air leakage standard (.6 ACH @ 50 pascals) decided to commemorate the accomplishment with a tongue in cheek plaque.  It was a big surprise for us and a hilarious ending to one of the most joyful builds we have ever experienced.  

Air Tight Pet Door!

So you want a super tight house, but you still want your pets to have access to the outdoors?  What to do?  Traditionally, you go to a big box home improvement store or a pet store and buy a pet door that is the equivalent of hacking a giant hole in your house.  Kind of sad after you have spent months chasing down every minute hole in your house.

Now there is an alternative.  An airtight pet door, made in the U.S.A.  Freedom Pet Pass energy efficient pet doors.

I just got mine in the mail today.  It should be fun training the cats to use this thing, but I look forward to not having a super leaky hole in my door...  

This is what it looks like when an architect pays attention to orientation and overhang!

The architect in this case, Arielle Condoret Schechter, worked with Newphire Building to optimize passive solar heating and cooling by orienting the house properly on the site and by specifying beefy overhangs that protect the home from the elements.  The overhangs keep all but the most extreme wind driven rains off the wall assembly reducing the opportunity for water damage.  They also help out with energy efficiency as they keep the sun's warmth out of the house when you don't want it.  Cooling is more of a challenge in our super insulated, super tight homes than heating, so it is good to have the house working as a system.

This photo was taken at around 1 p.m. EST on July 26th.  Pretty much mid day, mid summer.  You can see that the shadow line from the overhang falls almost perfectly at the foot of the wall.  

It should be noted that a lot of architects DO NOT pay attention to orientation, overhangs, or where to have windows or not.  An improperly sited home, or one with little to no overhang will be working against nature, and we know how that will go...

Perfect overhang for passive solar heating and cooling!

Super-Insulated Construction Techniques -- Newphire's not a one trick pony!

At Newphire, we're dedicated to providing our customers cutting edge performance and energy efficiency.  The constant is a super tight, super insulated envelope.  By keeping the air leakage to a minimum and the insulation to the maximum, our homes are far more durable and less expensive to operate than an average new home.  The result is a home that is relatively easy to make into a Net-Zero Energy Home  (a home producing as much energy as the home uses) with a comparatively small solar PV array.  

So how do we accomplish this?  Some builders are only comfortable stick building, others are only comfortable using concrete.  At Newphire, we are experienced with a variety of systems that provide the performance that we strive for in a package works best for the home owner's preferences, such as: 

Stick built- we have devised a cost-effective system for stick building that meets the stringent Passive House standard for our climate.  It was designed in a collaborative effort with architect Jay Fulkerson and is referred to as the "jayPhire" wall.  Stick building is obviously a system that all of the trades are comfortable with.

Pre-Cast Concrete-  Our favorite precast concrete provider is Ideal Building Systems out of Durham.  They are very flexible and will work to accommodate any plan as much as possible.  They have collaborated with us over the years to make their wall system a better fit for our needs and for the needs of our clients.

Insulated Concrete Forms- ICFs are recognized as a proven way to build a super tight, very well insulated house.  They can also provide a very secure structure that can keep you safe from storms or the zombie apocalypse...  Our favorite ICF provider is Quad Lock.  Their system is very modular in nature and is easy to work with.  One of the cool options that they provide is the ability to make the roof and floor systems out of concrete in addition to the walls.  If there was a giant storm coming, there is no other building that I would want to ride it out in.

Want a log cabin that is super efficient?  Seems like an oxymoron, but we have recently discovered a system that can provide just that thanks to an interested client.  The company is called Timber Block.  They provide a panelized, heavily insulated wall assembly that has all the beauty of a log home without the leakiness and lack of stability associated with a traditional log home.

For us, this is the opposite of the old saying that it is about the journey, not the destination.  In this case, it is about the end result- a super insulated, super tight, net zero certified Passive House Plus.   We can get there by any number of paths, all with their own merits.  Let us know which wall assembly is right for your project!


Chris Kerscher Officially Joins Newphire!




After a year and a half of planning and talking about the prospect, Chris Kerscher has come on board with Newphire to build beautiful, high performance homes.  He has over a decade of experience working as a framing carpenter, trim carpenter and project manager.  His attention to detail will help ensure that the details of fit and finish will match our intense pursuit of energy efficiency.  It was a big day for Newphire Building when he joined the team!

Architects that get it!

Bring up the word architect, and the negative stereotypes of arrogant architects that want to design a monument for themselves and their portfolio frequently bubble to the surface.  Unfortunately, those types of architects do exist, and you can be thousands of dollars in before you realize that it is not going to work out...

When striving to design a super efficient home, be it a Passive House certified home, or a Net Zero home, everyone needs to be on board- the clients, the builder and the architect.  It is like a three legged stool- if one leg is missing, it won't function.  

Two local architects that are a pleasure to work with and understand how to design homes that are both pleasing aesthetically, and designed to perform are Arielle Schechter and Jay Fulkerson.

Arielle specializes in modern design and has a developed a whole library of plans available for purchase under her Micropolis Houses collection.  She works extremely hard to listen to the client and adapt the plans to their liking.  Arielle has a very artistic eye, and is very thorough with her plans.

Check out her website at:

Jay will design modern, contemporary, craftsman, or even colonial if that is your flavor.  He is a certified Passive House consultant, and is extremely in tune with how to design a home that performs optimally.  

Check out his website at:

You can't go wrong with either of these two- they get it!

Insulated Slab Prep

Under slab insulation under new, modern net zero home in Chapel Hill.  Code will allow you to put two inches of insulation within two feet of the foundation and leave all of the rest of your slab uninsulated.  We believe that comfort and performance demand a more thoughtful approach.  In this case there is 5" of two pound, termite treated EPS in the field, and 3  pound termite treated EPS in the footings.  At the time of this photo, the insulation was not in place up against the perimeter of the foundation wall.