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Believe it or not but the Crabill Modern, the environmentally-friendly home whose design earned N.C. State architecture professor Vincent Petrarca the Faculty Design Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, was inspired by an acorn.

The family who commissioned the design was looking for a simple, functional, modern home that would complement their 6-acre wooded property in Hillsborough, NC.  They selected Petrarca’s firm, Tonic Design, to come up with a unique blueprint that would combine creativity with comfort. Petrarca’s partner, Katherine Hogan, came up with the acorn concept – she was taken by the living green and the armored shell of a nut she found when inspecting the building site, and realized that it made the perfect metaphor for the type of environmentally-friendly home she and Petrarca hoped to create. [click to continue…]


constanza house1

Juggling the inevitable growing housing needs against the need to respect the environment is a real challenge. A responsible architect, builder or a new home owner will ask themselves – how can we minimize or even eliminate our carbon footprint while continuing the march of progress? Is it even possible? Amanda and Chris Costanza say “yes” both questions.

A married couple from Rochester are also principals of 9X30 Design. They are at the forefront of architectural design of environmentally friendly buildings. They have built a reputation on sustainability, energy efficiency and low maintenance with their 9X30 business and design principles. Their mission is to make “NZEBs” ubiquitous (net zero energy buildings) NZEBs use no energy and produce no emissions. Now the Costanzas have pushed the boundaries of their own principles and taken it to the next level. [click to continue…]


Skidmore Passivhaus (photo by Jeremy Bitterman)

Portland architect Jeff Stern had a vision – he wanted to construct a home/workspace that would blend cutting-edge contemporary design with the highest possible degree of energy efficiency. The type of structure he had in mind is known as a passive house, or passivhaus – a building that requires very little energy to heat and cool.

This type of design originated in Germany, where its stringent energy standards were established. In order to meet these standards, such houses utilize airtight construction, natural ventilation and sustainable lighting, including making as much use of natural light as possible. Passive houses typically use about 85% less energy than most conventional structures built to code. The first ones were constructed in 1990, and today there are over 15,000 worldwide, with most of these being in northern Europe.

Portland, Oregon does have quite a few of these type of houses, including one of the nation’s first Passivhaus certified homes as well as an established eco-village. The neighborhood where Stern lives consists mainly of post-WWII homes, and his home, while unique in style, is of a sufficiently modest size that it doesn’t overwhelm.

The house totals 1965 square feet in all, which consists of an interconnected two-story, one-bedroom home and an adjoining single story office space. Stern began construction in 2012 on a plot of land where he first had to demolish a run-down house that wasn’t worth renovating, and the Skidmore Passivhaus in 2013. The total construction cost, excluding land, permits and design fees, was an amazing $400. [click to continue…]


I am a huge audiophile, music is everything to me. I could have music streaming from every possible corner of my house. Naturally, when I read about AirBulb, which is an LED light bulb and speaker in one, my curiosity was quickly aroused. The only question remains, does this green audio tech gadget serve any [continue reading...]


So what if I were to tell you that it’s possible to avoid the whole house decorating madness and jump straight into a pre-made home fully furnished and built with sustainable building materials? That’s exactly what Harvard School of Design graduates are attempting to do with their company, Connect Homes. They have designed an online [continue reading...]


The 2014 New American Home, which served as the model home for this year’s National Association of Home Builders International Builder’s Show, is the most sustainable home in the show’s 31-year history. The home, which was meant to serve as an example of builders’ best practices, shows that the construction industry, as a whole, is [continue reading...]

planter box and trellis system

Green roofs are one of the hottest concepts in sustainable living today, but they are not without problems – one of the most serious being, if you try to add one onto a preexisting structure, you run the risk of damaging the building due to all the excess weight. Soil + water = very, very [continue reading...]


The builders of the Cottle Zero Energy Home say their newly build luxury house was recognized as one of the highest-performance, greenest and most energy efficient homes in the entire California. It was certified LEED Platinum, Passive House, EPA Indoor Air Plus, Net Zero Energy, and was awarded a special commendation by the California Energy [continue reading...]

aro ha panorama

Luxury resorts and spas are often the playground of the rich and famous but a New Zealand architect is changing the way we think about resorts and re-imagining their entire purpose through the creation of the completely self-sustaining resort. Hugh Tennent is the Chief Architect for the Aro Ha Wellness Retreat, a luxurious $30 million spa that [continue reading...]

heatworks efficient heater

Anyone who has a tankless water heater can attest – while the energy consumption (compared to a standard tank heater) is considerably lower, these systems tend to be rather unreliable when it comes to temperature control and maintenance itself. ISI Technology inventors claim they might just have the solution with their new technologically advanced HEATWORKS [continue reading...]