This modern, Net Zero-Net Positive house is a customized version of one of architect Arielle Condoret Schechter’s Micropolis® houses, a collection of small, modern, sustainable house plans she continues to design that can be purchased outright or customized to accommodate specific needs.
Her clients, Cheryl and Ken Serdar, loved the original 950-square-foot Micropolis® plan she calls “Happy Family” but needed a bit more space. So Schechter enlarged it to 2222 heated square feet to include a spacious, spa-like master bathroom and a third bedroom that Cheryl will use for her office and jewelry-making studio.
Originally from Texas, the Serdars were very clear about what they wanted for their new home in North Carolina’s Piedmont region: "very modern,” “extremely green,” and “almost industrial."
In form, function, and materials, the house is decidedly modern. The exterior walls are prefab concrete sandwich panels with built-in insulation made to Schechter’s specifications and brought to the site. The cypress soffit is a soft counterpoint to the concrete cladding and shields the interior from the high summer sun. The floors are polished cement for durability and sustainability.
All windows and doors are manufactured by Awilux and certified for Passive House construction. The pivoting steel front door, sliding interior “barn doors,” and built-in closets, cabinets, and shelving throughout the house are modern space-saving ideas.
Since the house is oriented to the south for maximum solar gain, extensive glazing provides the Serdars with an abundance of natural light and natural ventilation. In the central living space, Awilux casement windows are combined with a wall of folding doors that open the entire back of the area to the back porch, welcoming cool breezes inside during pleasant weather.
All of those elements – orientation, deep roof overhang, prefab sandwich panels, Awilux windows and doors, natural lighting and ventilation -- contribute to the house’s environmental sensitivity. Its Net Zero status takes it up to "extremely green." To achieve that admirable level. Schechter also utilized:
• A small solar array of 6 KW (all that was needed for this size house). • An abundance of under-slab insulation. • Seals on all air gaps. • An Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) for an extremely tight house. • A relatively compact footprint
In fact, the Serdars' modified Micropolis® house is the most energy-efficient residence Schechter has designed to date (and she's designed many Net Zero/Net Positive houses). It has a HERS rating of -13, compared to the average American house’s very poor HERS rating of 100.
Representatives from the independent rating company reported that this was the lowest/best rating they had ever seen.
Along with the cement floors and aluminum-framed windows and doors, other details that give the house its “almost industrial” ambiance are the exposed ductwork, minimalist cabinetry with open shelving, Silestone® counters, and the extra-large factory fan from Big Ass Fans®. The kitchen island is covered in Dekton® to suggest worn metal.
For purely aesthetic value, a Capella Modern Five-Ring LED Chandelier provides indirect lighting and whimsical geometry over the dining area.
Like their architect, the Serdars are passionate about animals and include cats in their household. For the felines' pleasure, Schechter created a “cat staircase” of simple, natural wood steps that lead up to a 12-foot-high platform in the living area.
Exploring Ideas: As Schechter was designing the master bath, she was "exploring ideas of what a luxurious bathroom can be," she said, which supports her assertion that “smaller houses let you put your money toward better quality in materials and details rather than square feet."
The floor and walls of this elegant space are covered in large-scale black tile. A local artisan created a concrete trough double sink and Ipe wood composition. All cabinets and drawers are built in and the “water closet” is obscured behind a barn door to provide privacy in an otherwise open space. The star of the space, however, is the lighted shoe storage/display closet Schechter devised for Cheryl Serdar’s extensive collection of designer shoes.
Schechter names her Micropolis® house plans for the inspirations they give her. She named this one “Happy Family” because she designed it to have two bedrooms on either end as private retreats with a central shared space between them where the homeowners are together. Schechter believes this plan offers "the type of spatial variety essential for a happy family."