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

http://www.hbadoc.com/pages/green-home-tour

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...

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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. 

http://www.stehlihowell.com

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.  

http://energyefficientdogdoors.com

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.  

http://www.idealbuildingsystems.com/home.aspx

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.

http://www.quadlock.com

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. 

https://timberblock.com/why-timber-block/

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:  http://www.acsarchitect.com

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: http://www.jfarch.com

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.  

Three Net-Zero Homes about to be Underway Simultaneously!

The Harris-Staller job is rolling.  We should be under roof by the end of the week after many days of delay looking for a dry day to pour our super insulated slab.  The plans are a contemporary take on the craftsman style by Jay Fulkerson, architect. 

After six weeks of waiting for the plan review process, the Murphy-Dunn modern net zero home will be under way this week!  The modern home which optimizes the view of the beautiful natural surroundings was designed by Arielle Schechter, architect.  

The Hunter-Dorrance net zero home is in the permit process.  The home is a contemporary farmhouse design that utilizes beams from the site that were very locally milled.  In a month, all three should be under way simultaneously.   Plans by Jay Fulkerson, architect.

All three of these jobs will employ the "JayPhire Wall" which is the result of collaboration between Newphire and architect Jay Fulkerson.  Jay and I have been brainstorming for years to come up with a wall assembly that meets Passive House performance as inexpensively as possible.  The JayPhire Wall delivers.  Call or email for details.

We feel very fortunate to have such fabulous clients that are interested in what we do.  The cool thing is that folks that come to us have typically already imbibed the energy efficiency Kool Aid- no arm twisting necessary.  

Looking forward to a fabulous 2015!

Harris-Staller Net Zero home permitted and ready for some dry weather!

We have the building permit in hand, have the permit box up and the temporary power pole in the works.  Now we just need some dry weather...  The house is a contemporary take on the Craftsman style by Jay Fulkerson, architect.  The house applies all of the principles of Passive House, but the homeowners are going to forego certification and put that money into more PV panels.  The house will go through third party verification as part of the National Association of Home Builders' Green Builders' Standard.  We are hopeful that this will be another house with a negative HERS score.  

New Website Up and Running

We just updated our website as of 2-28-15 and will be posting photos and commentary in this blog section.  2015 should be an exciting year.  We will be working on three or four net zero homes!   We feel so fortunate to have clients that are into being on the cutting edge!

 I will be seeking Passive House Plus certification on my personal home and will be trying to make it net zero as well.  Get in touch with us to learn more about how we are constantly evolving and adapting our wall and roof assemblies to deliver high performance at a price that makes sense.