Chapel Hill News

Green Home Tour offers modern, traditional and remodeled options

3-season green and easy

If you love three-season living, then the house at 1410 Ward St. in Durham is a must see on the Green Home Tour because the home’s screen porch with ceiling fan will be perfect for those who love nature, just not the bugs and heat that come with it. Clad in Hardiboard and cedar siding for low maintenance, this modernist house also features easy-care cork and bamboo flooring made with high-recycled content and was installed using low-emitting sealants for good indoor air quality.

The custom-designed Ward Street house was built by BuildSense to the silver level of National Green Building Standards and designed by Ellen Cassilly Architect Inc.

“Our client is a painter and it has been such fun working with her to design the whole house, her painting studio and many special places for art to go in her home,” Cassilly said. “I think that she will be able to enjoy living in a super energy efficient, low-maintenance home and focus her energy on her painting, gardening and grandchildren.”

Cassilly and Randy Lanou of BuildSense teamed up to build this eco-modernist house and make available two more half-acre lots for eco-modernist houses to be built near the corner of Ward and Kent streets, a short drive from arts and athletics venues.

The natural grade of the lot at 1410 Ward St. was retained, which has the added benefit of keeping mature hardwoods that provide maximum shade in summer. The 2,000-square-foot modernist home has wide overhangs and additional sun shading to lower heat gain. The windows are integral to the design which brings in natural light through high clerestory windows. Other windows and doors are located to make cross ventilation easy to achieve just by opening them. All windows and doors with glass are double-pane and have Low-E glazing. The house has a well-sealed and super-insulated envelope to increase overall thermal performance. All ductwork of the high-efficiency HVAC unit is located within an insulated building envelope. All fans and appliances are Energy Star.

Music lovers’ dream

An in-wall microphone and headphone wires as well as Ethernet will make this old log cabin that Mike Chandler is remodeling a wonderful place to record music so the owner, who is a musician, can use almost the entire space to record music with his friends.

“Might as well make it fun as well as green,” Chandler said of the home his team at Chandler Design Build is bringing up to the bronze level of National Green Building Standards.

The house is located at 1041 Lamont Norwood Rd. which T’s into Manns Chapel Road and connects 15-501 south of Chapel Hill and Jones Ferry Road south of Carrboro, so it is just a short distance from Green Home Tour houses at Briar Chapel and those with a Pittsboro address in Manns Crossing, The Hamptons, Redbud and Laughing Brook.

The house is a total gut and remodeling of a circa-1900 stone-wrapped log cabin. In 1950 an addition covered with asbestos siding enlarged the home but still left it with seven-foot ceilings in some areas and six-foot-high doorways in others and a really tight crawlspace. Later someone clad the exterior with vertical cedar siding.

Chandler is installing a system that will harvest rainwater from the roof of what will be a 1,651-square-foot home and distribute that water directly via gravity (no pumps) to a series of rain gardens surrounding the west-facing patio. 

He is installing advanced indoor-air quality filters and all-new windows made to resemble the older ones they took out, but these windows will be larger so the family can enjoy seeing the peaceful country setting and pond just outside their front door.

“The old building had bats in the attic, snakes in the crawlspace, and mice throughout,” Chandler said. With a limited budget and a desire to respect the historic nature of the home, Chandler said he and the owners decided to keep the existing tin roof and as much of the existing floors and interior paneling and trim as possible.

“We have sealed up the attic and crawlspace and will be filling the walls with five-and-a-half inches of spray foam before installing new cedar siding custom sawn for us at a local sawmill in Chatham County,” Chandler said.

With space at a premium, Chandler’s team had to draw the ductwork into the blueprints, and suspend the HVAC equipment on a platform in a thickened wall in the stairwell.Chandler’s team removed all the electrical, heating and plumbing in the home and all the exterior siding. He hired Prescott Environmental, an asbestos abatement contractor, to remove and dispose of the asbestos siding for what Chandler termed, “a surprisingly reasonable price.” 

Chandler is installing WaterSense fixtures throughout the house to conserve water, along with an engineered, hot-water distribution system to minimize the wait for hot water. The toilets will be made by Canadian firm Niagara Conservation and use only 0.8 gallons per flush and be very silent when flushed. Chandler sealed the crawlspace and installed a crawlspace dehumidifier made by Nile systems in Maine. The dehumidifier cools and dries the crawlspace and sends waist heat to the water heater tank at a rate of 12 gallons per hour.

“Most families find that this is sufficient hot water on a daily basis that they can turn the electric element off in their water heater,” Chandler said, “And the system uses so little electricity that it is perfect for running on a backup generator during power failure.”

“The crawlspace is so tight that we installed access through a trap door under the staircase landing. That snake will have to move out to the barn this year,” Chandler quipped.

Going Green to Net Zero

The front porch of the modified bungalow at 1304 Blackberry Lane off Grady Brown Road in Hillsborough is going to be the perfect place to relax, kick off your shoes and listen to the rain pitter-patter on the tin roof. Built by Michele Myers of M Squared Builders and Designers, this 1,848-square-foot home is being custom built to NGBS certification (Silver/Gold) standards. The home’s Energy Star 3.0 certification is pending.

With a 6.24 Kilowatt solar photovoltaic system and a Carrier 19 SEER heat pump with MERV 10 filter and fresh air system, this house with its Energy Star appliances and light fixtures is surely knocking on the NGBS Gold door.

“My client is committed to conservation, and the system we are installing will help them see how well they are doing so it will be easier to lower their carbon footprint the longer they live in the house,” Myers said.

Myers started building this Net Zero house about five months ago and projects it will be completed by mid-May. The United States Department of Energy ( defines a net-zero energy home as “one that is designed to produce as much energy as it uses, with the balance of its energy needs supplied by renewable technologies. The typical American family spends $1,500 per year on home energy bills. Net-zero houses will consume less than half as much as an equivalent home built with standard features.” For links to information about green building techniques and energy-efficient products, go to and click on “Healthy Green Living.”

Myers is installing WaterSense faucets and a Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater. The whole-house, fresh-air ventilation system ensures indoor air quality. This is made easier by the use of green building products, including Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) certified green kitchen and bath cabinets; resource-efficient flooring of bamboo and Marmoleum; and no- or low-VOC interior finishes used throughout the home. The home’s sealed and insulated crawl space also helps improve indoor air quality and lower heating bills.

Myers used a hybrid insulation strategy combining ICYNENE spray foam, formaldehyde-free batts and R-3 structural insulated sheathing for improved thermal comfort.