Category Archives: Sustainable

Virant Design | Shou Sugi Ban

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.10.29 PMWe caught up with Virant Design, Tom and Yumiko, yesterday as they had recently completed some remodeling work on a ranch home we have a contract on for some buyers. It wasn’t too long into the conversation he mentioned “Shou Sugi Ban” in relationship to a project they completed. I nearly jumped out of skin with excitement that someone was using this process in WNC. I’ve been imagining a small, modern home for myself using this cool and ancient technique for siding.Shou Comp

Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese exterior siding process that preserves wood by charring it. The process involves burning the wood, cooling it, cleaning it and finishing it with a natural oil. Although time-consuming, the final product is not only gorgeous with its rich finish; the charred wood resists fire, rot and insects and can last up to 80 years. So cool!Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.10.18 PM

The home they designed and constructed is for an artisan near Penland. Of course the material can be purchased, but no craftsman residing in our mountains within radius of Penland would allow someone else to do when they could be doing themselves. Above are a few shots of the team in action. Word has it they may be using it on another home soon in east Asheville. We can’t wait. Cheers to Virant Design!

Earthtone Builders | Floor 2 Frame

IMG_0916Having just completed the foundation topped by finished concrete floors, builder Greg McGuffey sent us this photo of the framing going up today on his latest modern, shed style home under construction in West Asheville. We are excited to watch the progress on this cool and quality home having brought builder and buyer together. Cheers! Kelly and Troy

New Construction | Red Tree Builders

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Asheville. Kelly and I were able to put the top down and head for the mountains. We met our clients in Versant at their lot to walk them through some design options for building their new home. While there we checked out all the new homes under construction. The Versant community design guidelines allow for more contemporary homes. Yeah!Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 7.04.06 PM

We got to check out the shed style Katie Ridge home from the most recent Home Builder’s Parade. This 2794 sqft home was constructed by Red Tree Builders. The home is Green Built NC Certified Silver, geothermal heating and cooling system and uses reclaimed materials throughout.Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 7.03.50 PM

If you want to see a little more here is a link to a YouTube video of the home and location. Enjoy! Troy

JAG Associates unite with Unity Homes

IMG_5532Kelly and I have been watching this new home go up close to our own in North Asheville. Lured by the unique facade assembled on one of the few remaining infill lots, we decided it was time to call for a tour. We were met by Jody Guokas of JAG & AssociatesJody and his crew were hired to do the land prep, foundation and finish work on what is essentially a kit house from Unity Homes of New Hampshire. The walls and roof were shipped in panels much like Asheville’s Deltec homes and then assembled onsite. The home is the 2 Bedroom model of their ZUM plan and the one here is actually the first produced by the company. IMG_5544

Jody, who is part of the Green Building Council, states that this will probably be one of the most efficient, green homes in Asheville when it is completed. The 10″ insulated walls come shipped as panels already routed out for plumbing and electric leaving no opportunity for air penetration. The roof does the same at 12″ thickness. Cosmeticly, the exterior hardy plank siding came prepainted for less labor in the field.jag comp

Though well built, cool and efficient the challenge still remains the cost for modular and kit homes here in Asheville. Dollar for dollar Site-Built homes remain consistently more affordable to construct here. Still, it was cool to see this home owner venture into bringing a unique housing product to Asheville to add to our stock. Similarly to the 1940’s Lustron home in our Beverly Hills it does break up the monotony of some of the repetitive development we see. Cheers to that! Troy

Go Green Asheville!

Asheville Ranks #5 for Greenest in the Country

ashevilleThanks to modern gal Kelly Erin-Spinney for sharing the word about Asheville’s newest ranking of many. As we all know, green and sustainability are intrinsic to the modern lifestyle of Asheville and part of why we all live here.

For more details on this honor  click here.

2011 Solar Decathlon

Appalachian State University’s Prize Winner

I came across this video searching for information on ASU’s solar homestead project that they entered into the U.S.Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The team won the People’s Choice award at the event. The project is a modern day version of a pioneer settler’s home of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy!

Buildapedia’s Video of ASU’s Solar Entry

Mountain Modern + Sustainability = Award Winner

Samsel Architects win Gold Award with Celo House

EcoHouse Magazine singled out five homes nationally including one right here in Asheville. The contest judges especially liked the pairing of energy technology with the use of natural materials inside and outside a 1,538-square-foot home in Celo, N.C.

The house won praise for tree preservation; rainwater storage for irrigation; pervious walkways, patio and driveway to control water runoff; and the use of drought-resistant plants. The home also features sustainability-certified wood shingles and locally harvested stone.

The home’s walls are filled with spray-foam insulation and the windows and doors use low-e (low thermal emissivity), argon-filled glass.

It was designed by Samsel Architects, Asheville, N.C.; it was built by Sunspace Homes, Burnsville, N.C.

Article portion courtesy of Inman News’ Mary Umberger; Photo courtesy of David Dietrich Photography

MAKE YOUR MODERN | Recycling a Ranch Home Bellwhether Style

As both a designer and realtor I think ranch homes are a valuable and overlooked commodity here in the Asheville area. For those people wanting a simple, one-level home close to town we have some 40’s to 60’s neighborhoods loaded with potential and offering a great lifestyle here. In a recent conversation with some of my favorite design/build talent, Brad and Katie Rice, I discovered their last ranch remodel won some awards and felt it was worth noting. I am simply copying an article published in Western North Carolina Builder/Architect magazine that showcases the home along with their timely philosophy.

Clean lines and open space welcome you as you cross the threshold. Light cascades through sun tunnels embedded in the soaring ceilings and dances off the glass-tiled backsplash of the sleek, modern kitchen.  The 40-year-old home is unrecognizable: a newer, greener, fresher version of its former self.

This stylish remodeld ranch in Asheville’s historic Montford neighborhood embodies the philosophy of Brad and Katie Rice of Bellwether Design-Build, the team behind its award-winning metamorphosis: to bring together innovative design, cost-effective construction and sustainable building practices.

“People usually have kind of a ho-hum opinion of ranch homes,” Katie explains.  “part of the excitement for me was to show what could be done.”

Here is combination of shots showing what is now the soaring great room.

The husband and wife team brings 20 years of experience in building and designing homes of every project. Katie’s interests in design and sustainable building meld seamlessly with Brad’s background in construction and his strong ties with local subcontractors.  The boutique company offers start-to-finish services, including land consulting, home design, renovations, remodeling and interior design. Keeping a home’s design and construction under one roof — whether for a custom-built home or a remodel — helps Bellwether’s clients control their costs.

“The design-build package is not found in many firms,” Brad says. “We also believe that good design is green design.”

And building green doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of green.  The exterior of the Rosewood Ave. remodel that dazzled the Parade of Homes judges was fashioned from a salvaged barn roof found in nearby Waynesville. The luxurious marble countertops in the bath were remnants, costing a fraction of market prices and requiring no new energy to manufacture.  Also remnants were the wool carpets — inexpensive, natural and long lasting. The low-E windows were locally manufactured products that help support the Western North Carolina economy and lock out the Appalachian cold superbly, reducing both heating bills and the home’s carbon footprint.

The exterior before remodeling.

Getting in on Budget

“We offer our customers a better value and a wider range of services,” Brad continues. Both he and Katie are proud to provide clients with options designed to help them complete projects no matter the size of their wallet.

“We understand designing within budget,” Katie says. “The design expenses are always incorporated into the building expenses.”

Many customers go to a designer first, and then bring the result to a contractor. But a designer wiht no building background may create a home far beyond a customer’s budget. Similarly, a contractor may be able to build from a plan, but cannot offer design expertise. “We bring both of these estimates to the table,” Brad says, “and this provides our clients with a well-rounded financial approach to their new home from the get-go.”

Whether a new build of a remodel, Bellwether Design-Build is dedicated to keeping operation costs reasonable.

“Essentially, we’re a small and versatile firm that is capable of doing a lot of projects with very little overhead,” Katie says. “We are happy to be able to provide any service a client might require in order to ensure that he or she is completely thrilled with results and their investment.

This home was the winner of three awards in the Asheville HBA 2009 Parade of Homes: Gold Award for Craftsmanship in Price Category, Innovative Home Award and the Trend Award for the best use of recycled materials.

A Modern Interpretation of a Mountain House

Leicester House by SPG Architects

This hilltop residence, located at the edge of a wooded knoll in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Moutains, has expansive southern and western views.  Approaching through the woods, one arrives at a one-story facade of corten steel framed by wood.  A hint of the views is provided through the glass door, but it is not unitl the entry that the full impact of the hilltop views can be experienced.  The south and west glass walls open to rolling farmland velow and the mountains beyond.  The entry level serves as the primary living area, with a guest wing carved into the hilltop below.  The house is functional, energy efficient and visually inspiring.  The greening of the house complements its visual warmth, grounding the modern structure in its rural landscape.

For more information and environmental details on this modern addition to the Asheville landscape please Click Here!

Asheville Design Center Wednesday, Oct 13 at 6pm – “Eric Gartner of SPG Architects will discuss the firm’s local work in green building.  Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with sweeping views across majestic landscape, SPG Architects’ Leicester House serves both as a solitary retreat and a generous space for entertaining. SPG’s work clearly presents a visual consistency based on human proportions, the exploration of light, and the judicious use of materials that provide singular tactile, visual, spatial and temporal experiences. Two external crises that unfolded during design and construction encouraged the client to turn Leicester House into a model of energy efficiency. In response to a severe drought, rainwater collection was incorporated along with geothermal energy use, energy efficient lighting, automatic sun shading and reclaimed furniture. When the economic crisis squeezed budgets and ruled out an infinity pool, plans were adapted to create a green ‘infinity’ roof instead.”

Text and Photos by SPG Architects

A Rustic Modern Exterior

This clever new infill house near UNCA is a 4 bedroom and 3 bath home efficiently tucked into 1600 sq/ft of living space. While the interior is very smooth and light the exterior is skinned with heavy rough hewn wood and steel.  If you want a house with a low maintenance exterior this modernist cabin is bound to provide generations of easy living here in the mountains.  It has everything, but a pair of antlers hanging on the front!  The house is listed for $315,000.

Green Building Council Tour on Sunday

Sunday, September 26th is WNC’s Green Building Council’s tour of Green Homes For Sale in the area.  Over 20 homes will be available for viewing between noon and 4pm.  Go to for details and a free tour guide.

To the right is a contemporary home that will be on the tour – 80 Horizon Hill Rd.

Under Construction – Ciel’s the “Bower House”

Incredible views and modern living combine to create a sexy, new escape in the mountains.  The community of Ciel which offers mountain and city views of Asheville is breaking ground on a dramatic new contemporary spec home.  Designed by Hunter Paul Coffey of Boone, NC, this 3500 sq/ft, 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home will combine both earthy and modern materials to fully dramatize Ciel’s tagline “Feel the earth.  Touch the sky”

As you enter the front door you cross an interior bridge that focuses your view directly on Mt. Pisgah.  The main level splits to feature all your open living spaces on one side and a grand master suite on the other.  For those who want one level living this floor has everything you need to accomodate.  For those who need more you can descend to the lower level to find another family room with fireplace and 3 bedrooms/offices that all have views.

The exterior will be finished off with cedar siding in both 1 x4 and 1 x 10 sections along with areas of dry stacked stone.  The roof will be wide standing seam.  The transitional glazing from inside to outside will be made with Lincoln “Touch” windows.  The foyer will will have a retractable glass wall to the outide deck with fireplace.

The interior will feature oak flooring throughout and custom walnut cabinets.  Lux is doing the lighting design and fixture specifications.

As with all Ciel homes this contemporary will be NC HealthyBuilt.  It will include features such as Low E glass, passive solar considerations, rain water retention and a gravel drive.  The house will sell for 1.6 million when completed.  Stay posted as I will be posting updates on the construction of this home.