Architect: Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, Chapel Hill, NC Owners: Kate Paradis and Scott Zimmerman Custom Green Home Builder: Tate Building Co., Chapel Hill, NC Structural Engineer: Brian Moskow, Red Engineering, Apex, NC Windows and Exterior Glass Doors: Awilux, Poland, Eurostar Fenestration Rainwater Cisterns and Purifying Systems: Mike Ruck
The clients – an artist and an attorney – asked for a “very sustainable yet super-modern” house for their blended family, which is generously populated with children and beloved dogs. And they wanted the type of house that Arielle Condoret Schechter is known for: modern, Net Zero, Passive house-rated with clean lines and clear volumes and open, uncluttered interior spaces filled with sunlight, panoramic views, and easy access to the outdoors.
Perched on a knoll above the Haw River rapids in Chatham County, the 2600-square-foot house was designed to be perfectly at home within its wooded site. In form, footprint, and materials, it defers to the natural terrain and the towering deciduous trees and evergreens that rise among craggy rocks and boulders along the riverbank. In fact, the architect was inspired by specific trees that angle out over the riverbank as if floating above it. The house echoes these forms by hovering out over the knoll toward the western view of the river.
Three major exterior elements extend the living space toward the river as if they are floating among the trees: a cantilevered screen porch, a deck off the house’s main volume, and a private cantilevered deck off the master bedroom.
A graceful butterfly roof shelters the main living space inside. Yet its purpose is more than shelter. The site is remote and harsh. The existing well provides less than one gallon of water per minute and power outages in the area are common. For these reasons, a photovoltaic system and rooftop water collection became imperatives. With a massive, carefully designed gutter leading to downspouts on each end of the house, the butterfly roof funnels 100 percent of the rainwater that falls on it into two massive above-ground cisterns leading to a triple filtering system including a UV method for kill 99.9 percent of any bacteria that may be in the rainwater.
The local health department had never approved a potable water system before. The department approved this project’s gray water collection and will graduate the system into a potable water source after a few months of monitoring data prove that the quality of the water exceeds local well water.
Among the many features that elevate the Haw River House to Net Zero status are the geothermal heating and cooling system and the roof-mounted PV system. Triple-glazed, European Passive-house windows and doors – including a 20-foot-wide sliding glass door on the riverside elevation -- contribute to the house’s super-tight envelope. Schechter also carefully designed the fenestration and open floor plan to assure that every interior space enjoys natural light and natural cross ventilation.
The many green features that helped drive the house to Net Zero include: • 13 KW PV Rooftop Solar Array • Seals on all air gaps. • An Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) for an extremely tight house. • R-75 roof insulation • Ground to Brine Geothermal Heat Pump • Two 5000-gallon above-ground cisterns. When full, they will provide water for 230 days without rainfall. • Solar reflective shades that will be installed soon on the exterior of the deck. These are critical for deflecting solar heat gain from the brutal western sun in summer. . For all its high function, there’s also a sybaritic side to the Haw River House, expressed through such luxuries as a “floating” private deck off the master suite; Passive-house-rated corner windows in both bathrooms; a soaking tub with a corner window by a fireplace in the master bathroom; a soaking pool with an integral hot tub overlooking the rapids; and space for a future home sauna.