Getting back to Basics

Our clients for this unique project initially wanted to construct an Earthship, a natural building method that evolved in the New Mexico climate, though their property was located in eastern North Carolina.


Taking into account the environment where they wanted to build, we maintained their goals of an energy independent, off-grid home- incorporating food production and comfort in an earth-bermed design.

This home employs a number of passive heating and cooling strategies within a highly efficient, insulated masonry envelope. The windows were provided by Unilux, and with the exception of some strategic locations on the South elevation, all of the window have a U value of .12-approximately 250% higher efficiency than is required by Energy-Star.

As an interesting design goal, one of the owners is a veterinarian, so we had the task of accommodating for the ongoing presence of eight felines in this home. Given the presence of coyotes in the area, this required significant consideration for how they could be safely sheltered. The eastern and western “catios” were configured with air-tight cat-doors and a lightweight  min-chain link screen to keep them safe and secure.

The house is powered by a 6KW photovoltaic system, and hot water is provided by a heating loop embedded in a large, changeable compost pit that is in the berm behind the house. Even in the coldest parts of the 2014-2015 winter season, the owners reported a minimum of 125 degree water, in a test set-up that they created.

  • Designer: Alembic Studio, LLC
  • General Contractor: Winslow Construction
  • Engineering: Medlock and Associates
  • Mechanical Systems: Southern Energy Management, Solar Consultants, Inc.
  • Landscaping: By Owner