By Mari Fox on 03/05/2012

Kid-friendly meets green-building sensibilities at Caroteo — a playfully designed home that features both a firefighter’s pole for the children and geothermal heating and cooling for energy efficiency.

Located north of Canton in Haywood County, the home is named for Mark Bondurant’s children,Caroline and Mateo. Owner of Rare Earth Builders, Inc., Bondurant explains, “I really played with the design to incorporate lots of surprise elements that are secrets waiting to be discovered, such as small niches, intimate window seats, and recurring design motifs. My goal was to wed highly efficient bones with an organic, whimsical style to create a net- zero energy home that expressed who we were and what we value.”

With the children in mind, Bondurant and designer Jack Devitt included such whimsical additions as a secret room and balconies in the children’s bedrooms. Such touches make the house fun for the kids — and big kids, too, says Bondurant.

Add photovoltaic solar panels to produce electricity, a geothermal system to heat and cool the house, and a passive solar design, and the home incorporates sustainable energy with a family oriented flourish.

Green features

    • Solar orientation — The home faces true south
    • Custom building envelope enhances the installed insulation
    • High solar heat gain, co-efficient windows
    • Mass from slab on grade helps retain heat in the winter.

    Other energy-efficient features

    • Energy Recovery Ventilation system for improved indoor air quality
    • LED & CFL lighting
    • Natural, locally sourced materials (clay plaster, wood, glass)
    • High Efficiency ENERGY STAR appliances

    Bondurant says he aimed to create a living space that reflected his and his family’s passion for environmental stewardship and a nature-inspired aesthetic.

    For example, while many builders have gone to 2-by-6-inch framing studs to provide room for more insulation in the walls, Bondurant took it to another level. He wrapped the entire outside of the home with 2-inch extruded polystyrene foam board, starting under the slab on grade, continuing up the walls, and over the roof without interruption. Taped at the seams, the foam board keeps drafts out and keeps the bones, or framing of the house, warm and dry.

    This tight-house approach is complemented by geothermal heating and cooling: Mike’s Heating & Air will install a system that Bondurant configured so there will be minimal disruption to the property. The crew will lay 325 linear feet of PVC piping, set at a five-foot depth in horizontal loops instead of the typical vertical. “We are able to install horizontal loops because we have the room and the level land to make it easy, rather than having to drill a well, which is more expensive,” says Bondurant. To further reduce the relatively high upfront cost of a geothermal system, Bondurant will do his own digging with his track hoe.

    To heat and cool the house, liquid refrigerant circulates through the loops, absorbing the ground temperature then passing it to a heat pump, he explains. There, the liquid is alternately compressed and condensed, squeezing the maximum amount of energy from the refrigerant before transferring to the air blown through the ductwork.

    Since the ground temperature at five feet is a consistent 59 degrees, there is a smaller jump up to heating indoor air temps, such as 68 degrees in winter or 70 degrees in summer, compared to starting with outside air temperature, he continues. The walls, windows and the solar orientation of the home contribute to the overall energy efficiency. (To learn more about how such systems work, see “Go Geothermal” elsewhere in this guide.)

    There’s more ground work at play at Carateo: In preparation for pouring the concrete slab on grade, Bondurant first paid a visit to Haywood County’s Recycling Center and collected brown, blue, green and clear glass bottles. Center staff crushed the colored bottles with a Bobcat, then Bondurant and his crew graded it with hardware cloth screen and washed it. After the slab was screeded flat, the glass was then seeded (sprinkled) in during the bullfloating process.

    Once the house is dried in and the rough-ins are complete, a concrete polisher will grind the slab down to expose the colored glass, Bondurant notes. Concrete dyes add background color, resulting in a terrazzo-type floor with recycled colored glass rather than the usual colored stone.

    When it comes to the home’s overall design, wavy lines adorn just about every view, inside and out, with the intention of blurring the separation between inside and outside to create a natural, organic feel in every direction. Outside, a curvy-edged, cantilevered deck will blend naturally with the permaculture (including native plants, edibles, garden and a fish pond).

    From the inside, the interior window features mimic fluid, organic lines found in nature. The window stools will be handmade from property-harvested hardwoods — interior trim will include bark or wane-edged wood rather than the traditional molded contour. A window seat in the living room, framed by a gothic arch, will have a sinuous hardwood seat that looks out over the pond and garden.

    Says Bondurant, “This home expresses who we are and what we like … Our sense of humor, our love of play, our curiosity and utter reverence for the natural world and its beauty.”

    Designer: Devitt Custom Home Designs 

    Builder: Rare Earth Builders, Inc.  

    Geothermal: Mike’s Heating and Cooling 

    Green-business owner and freelance writer Mari Fox lives in Weaverville. She can be reached at