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Humanity in Human Scale

right sized high performance home


For homeowners Mary & Eric, building a responsibly sized and environmentally sound retirement home was a priority for them as they looked toward their own future, and the planets. Utilizing as many environmentally friendly building materials as possible, the couple were equally concerned about the homes short term impact on the environment, as well as its long-term energy use and performance.


right sized high performance home

“Eric is a scientist-type personality and Mary is a cool artist-type personality, and juxtaposing those two points of view together into a finished home was the challenge here. We worked with them and added more timber into the building, opened some windows, and worked with the couple to minimize the square footage of the space down to what was essential to their lifestyle. It was quite the task to meet the needs of both clients, with Mary being focused on the craft and beauty of the home, and Eric being very concerned with material selections, sourcing, imbedded carbon, and performance. It was a winning combination though, and both were willing to compromise when needed to make things work and stuck by their guns when necessary to get what they wanted. In the end we came up with a very nice design that was a beautiful compromise to what they each wanted out of this home.” - Architect David Shirley AIA, NCARB

“When we looked at the New Energy Works website and read about how the company crafts high-performance enclosures that pay very close attention to a home’s thermal envelope as part of their Design + Build process, we were very impressed that the team makes sustainability a normal part of how they do business,” Eric shared. “To our mind that is the kind of company we want to support.”


right sized high performance home

Shou Sugi Ban exterior siding from our sister company Pioneer Millworks.

Having looked at a number of different options including non-timber frame designs and pre-existing homes, the couple eventually decided to work with the New Energy Works after finding inspiration on our website.

 “We did look at some other architects, as well as pre-existing houses around the area and didn’t find anything we liked,” Mary explained. “During our search, we kept coming back to the NEW Jewel project on the New Energy Works website with Shou Sugi Ban Siding from Pioneer Millworks, and we felt like that’s really what we were looking for, a sustainable single level home that is also beautiful and artistic in its design.”


right sized high performance home

“The combination of the budget and the clients desire to use non-petroleum earth-friendly building materials put any kind of Passive House certification kind of out of reach, but for good reasons. The choice not to seek a Passive House certification helped us craft a better home for the clients, because non-petroleum-based building materials, like wood-fiber insulation and other components, are more costly and the homeowners wanted to put their budget towards those sustainable material choices and ideals more than they wanted to seek a certification. “ - Architect David Shirley AIA, NCARB

Striking a balance between highly crafted aesthetics and high-performance design, this modestly sized custom home was built in the spirit of Passive House construction, but without any of the typical certifications that go along with that process. The homeowners opted instead to focus their time and budget on carbon sequestering natural building materials, integrated sensors, and unique finishes & details.


right sized high performance home


“Since the 1970s I have been concerned about sustainability, and it was always my dream to have a high-performance home,” Eric explained. “As I have progressed through life, I have attained the engineering skills to understand what it means to use less energy and how to achieve that, along with a little building science. I don’t consider myself a practitioner, but I understand the fundamentals. I think projects like this are always a little bit of a compromise between looks and function, and that is something we had to work with to achieve as low embodied carbon as we could get with the materials used in our home, and as low operational carbon as we could get long-term.”


right sized high performance home

“This home is a great example of how New Energy Works can take the house that is inside a client’s heart and make it real. The design is very specific to the homeowners needs inside & out, and it is a really good example of our approach to service based design, as well as our ability to provide a design that is crafted to a client’s needs completely from scratch.” - Architect David Shirley AIA, NCARB

 “In 200+ years when this house reaches the end of its life cycle and we have progressed as a species with respect to material choices and fossil fuels in that time, I don’t want people to say; what were they thinking?!?,” Eric surmised. “I think we did the best we could to make good choices within the financial range that we had, and this home proves that you can build a 1600 square foot house that is highly efficient and the right thing to do for the planet on a budget.”


right sized high performance home


“We live on a busy street and have a lot of people that walk by this house. Some of them do double takes. Multiple people have stopped to talk to us and ask us questions about the house or stand out front and point out all the visual features. We even had a guy drive by, stop short, and yell: Is that Shou Sugi Ban?! That is so cool!” Mary mused.  “Many people watched this house being built in the neighborhood, and they have told how stunning it is, and we have to agree. We love our house.”


Project Credits:

Architect: New Energy Works

Builder: College Hill Homes

Enclosure: New Energy Works

Reclaimed & Sustainable wood: Pioneer Millworks 

Photography: HD Open House

Photography: Chris Murray Photography


See our case study: Human Scale & High Performance | New Energy Works

Learn more about Pioneer Millworks Shou Sugi Ban: THE HISTORY OF SHOU SUGI BAN: YAKISUGI | Pioneermillworks