House in the Woods: Very Modern and Extremely Green.
WRITTEN BY: Kim Weiss
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Iman Woods
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 plan but needed a bit more space. So Schechter enlarged to 2222 heated square feet to include a spacious, spa-like bathroom and a third bedroom that Cheryl could use for her office and jewelry-making studio.
Originally from Texas, the Serdars were very clear about what they wanted. They told Schechter that they wanted their new home in the Piedmont region of North Carolina to be “very modern, extremely green, and almost industrial.”
In form, function, and materials choices, the house is decidedly modern. The exterior walls are prefab concrete sandwich panels made to Schechter’s specifications and brought to the site. The cypress soffit shields the interior from the high summer sun. All windows and doors are aluminum framed and the floors are primarily polished cement. A pivoting steel front door, sliding “barn doors,” and built-in closets, cabinets, and shelving throughout the house are modern space-saving ideas.
Extensive glazing provides the Serdars with an abundance of natural light and natural ventilation. In the central living space, casement windows are combined with a wall of folding doors that open the entire back of the living/dining/kitchen area to the back porch, welcoming cool breezes inside during pleasant weather.
All of those elements contribute to the house’s environmental sensitivity. The Net Zero status takes it up to “extremely green.”
In fact, the Serdars’ modified Micropolis® house is the most energy-efficient residence Schechter has designed to date (and she’s designed several 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, other details that give the house its minimalist, industrial ambiance are the exposed ducts and the extra-large factory fan from Big Ass Fans®.
Like their architect, the Serdars are passionate about animals and include cats in their household. For the felines’ pleasure, Schechter enjoyed creating a “cat staircase” of simple, natural wood steps that lead up to a 12-foot-high platform in the living room.
As Schechter was designing the master bath, she was “exploring ideas of what a luxurious bathroom can be,” she said, “which ties in with my assertion that smaller houses let you put your money toward better quality in materials and details rather than square feet.”
The walls of this elegant space are covered in large-scale black tile. A local artisan created a concrete trough double sink.
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 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 certain inspirations they give her. She named this one “Happy Family” because she designed it to have two bedrooms, one on either end, as private retreats with a central shared space between them where the homeowners can be together. Schechter believes this plan offers “the type of spatial variety essential for a happy family.”
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Arielle C. Schechter, AIA
440 Bayberry Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC 27517