What Does Net-Zero Look Like in North Carolina?

Aerial view of the blue water pond during the summer at Array, North Carolina's first net-zero community

In This Article

We are thrilled to showcase Array, one of our Zero Energy Blueprint partners and the first 100% net-zero community in North Carolina. Situated in Orange County, Array boasts a charming 12-lot neighborhood, with more than half of its land dedicated to open spaces, encompassing scenic walking trails, community gardens, and inviting gathering areas. We have been collaborating closely with Array's developers since 2019. To support them in achieving their net-zero and sustainability goals, we took charge of consulting on community sustainability standards, providing energy modeling for the homes, along with the implementation of solar technology.

As a net-zero community, Array ensures a perfect equilibrium between energy production and consumption. Array embodies everything Southern Energy Management (SEM) values in a community: a deep-rooted passion for the environment and the land, and the conviction that we can coexist harmoniously with nature, not just simply occupy it.

Let's dive in and explore Array and the awesome development duo behind North Carolina's first-ever 100% net-zero community!

Meet the Developers, Jodi and Cor

Jodi Bakst and Cor Rademaker are the hearts and advocates behind Array. Jodi is a realtor turned developer who wants to see sustainable, green, net-zero housing and did not understand why that was missing in the market. Cor is a sustainable urban design and development expert from The Netherlands. Together, this motivated duo set out to create Array, North Carolina’s first net-zero community. 

Jodi Bakst and Cor Rademaker, the visionaries behind Array Sustainable Living in Orange County, NC

Our involvement all began in 2019 when Jodi acquired land and reached out to our co-founder, Bob Kingery, for net-zero support. From there, Jamie Hager, one of our Zero Energy Blueprint experts, stepped in to work with Jodi and Cor to develop custom efficiency and quality standards for the homes to help them reach their vision of reducing energy waste so the homes would need less energy to operate and be able to offset the rest with solar.  

Once the standards were established, the rest of the team at Southern Energy was called in to assist in modeling the floor plans to Array’s custom performance standards. A solar array was also sized for each home plan, which was fully priced out and used as examples of what people can build. 

Jamie and Jodi at Array’s ribbon cutting last year to mark the start of building!

Four years after the point of concept, the final neighborhood is coming to life with a recorded plat and gravel road finished in October of 2022. To date, three homeowners have broken ground, with one home to be completed this November. The community infrastructure is currently being finalized. The walking trails in the woods are being cut, the pond has been re-stocked with fish, and the community gathering place will be finished this year. 

So… what does it take to get to net-zero? 

Building a Net-Zero Community from Scratch

Achieving net-zero is no easy feat. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a comprehensive approach. 

Southern Energy Management played a vital role in assisting Array, a community dedicated to achieving 100% net-zero, in reaching their energy and sustainability objectives. As a comprehensive net-zero partner, we began by working closely together with Array’s development duo to analyze green building certification options and establish custom community efficiency standards and community metrics that are modeled, measured, and monitored to reach net-zero.

After evaluating different home and community certification options, we realized a custom approach would be needed to reach Array’s net-zero goals. From this, we helped create the Array Residential Standards, which each home will adhere to alongside NGBS Green Certification. All home plans will be modeled prior to being built to ensure they will meet Array’s building standards. Our energy raters will also conduct third-party inspections at two points during construction to verify the homes will reach the designated targets.

Here is a sample of some of the requirements Array has set for its homes: 

  • 100% Electric energy use offset through solar 
  • Roof designs provide minimum 500 sq ft roof area for solar
  • Above code insulation and air sealing requirements
  • All HVAC and ductwork is in conditioned space
  • Electric Vehicle ready power supply
  • Low VOC paints, flooring, and cabinets
  • Water efficient fixtures and hot water delivery system
  • Landscaping that utilizes native species and turf is drought tolerant with 100% night sky friendly lighting
  • Stormwater managed on lot utilizing rain gardens, bioswales, or other green infrastructure 

At a community level, Array is also actively working towards earning the NGBS Land Development Certification. Meeting the stringent criteria for NGBS Land Development Certification encompasses specific sustainable practices in five key areas, including Site Selection, Project Team, Site Design, Site Development & Construction, and Innovative Practices. Jodi and Cor meticulously crafted every element of the community’s design, from implementing gravel for the main road to preserving a significant portion of the land through a perpetual easement, all with the goal of bringing Array closer to net-zero and NGBS certification. Their unwavering dedication to these standards is a testament to their vision and environmental consciousness.

Through extensive consultations, energy audits, inspections, and personalized solar analyses, our team ensured that every home in the Array community is aligned with Jodi and Cor’s tireless pursuit of net-zero. 

Not sure where to start? Jamie would be happy to take a look with you!

Hear from Jodi on Shaping NC’s Net-Zero Future

We recently got to catch up with Jodi and interview her about her vision for Array and where she sees the future of net-zero. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: What inspired you to develop Array with a net-zero vision?

A: I was inspired by two crucial factors: our current state of climate change and the significant impact of the construction industry on it. I wanted to demonstrate that residential real estate can play its role, as every industry and individual should. Additionally, the captivating beauty of the land fueled my motivation to protect it. These two elements drive my passion and purpose.

Q: In what ways do you see room for improvement in standard new home construction practices?

A: We need builders to think outside the box with truly energy-efficient, net-zero-ready, and net-zero homes. The other impediment is our building code. In North Carolina, we have a 2009 building code that’s outdated. They want to bring it up to 2012 standards and the entire building industry is fighting it.

Q: Why is it important to focus on these areas? 

A: People love the concept of Array and if there were houses going up that were spec, they would be purchased. Net-zero is not holding the neighborhood back. This is not a risky thing to do. This with modern design sells well. There isn’t a lack of demand from consumers –people love the concept of this neighborhood. The market demand is also there for consumers who want these homes built to buy rather than a custom process. The bottom line is that if more residential real estate moved in this direction, the prices would come down. To put it into perspective, the first flat panel TV was $10k but now you can get a smart flat screen tv for around $500. Habitat for Humanity is already building net zero-ready homes! That’s pretty inspiring so I think if they can do it, other builders can too.

Q: What strategies and practices make Array a net-zero community?

A: The houses themselves. We developed the standards in conjunction with Southern Energy Management and a local net-zero energy builder, Newphire Building, with the talent of architects Ariel Schecter and Jay Fulkerson. The homes will all be third-party certified to Array’s Residential Standards, and the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) – and they’ll be net-zero! Once the homeowner has designed their home, Southern Energy does the energy modeling to figure out the size of the solar array to hit net-zero.

As far as the development itself, I have developed it in accordance with the National Green Building Standards, and it’s been developed in accordance with Orange County’s low-impact development standards. We did a natural resource inventory to make sure there were no protected species that we needed to handle carefully, and there aren’t any protected species on the site. We’ve also done a forestry management plan, and because we’re keeping so much land in open space, we don’t have to have stormwater management basins. The land will handle the stormwater naturally. These are minimums but some homeowners are exceeding those standards. One lot is going to be a certified passive house.

Q: Where do you see net-zero communities headed in the future?

A: In the future, homes will be at least net-zero-ready. Houses are much more energy efficient today. That is where you see the consumer market heading because I think that people really do care. I think that also with resale properties, that is the direction they will head in too. People know what they need to do to make their existing houses more energy efficient.

Q: Why do we not see as many net-zero communities in North Carolina? 

A: Builders have not shown much enthusiasm for it yet, likely due to its novelty and deviation from their usual practices. However, in different parts of the country, it is gaining momentum and becoming increasingly popular.

Q: What advice would you give to other developers looking to create sustainable, net-zero communities?

A: As somebody who has gone through this process, make sure to partner with a builder or a group of builders that are invested in the mission.

Q: What do you love most about Array? 

A:   What I love the most about Array is the location. I love that it is peaceful and it’s quiet.

The pond and picturesque landscape of Array

Q: Any favorite local spots near Array? 

A: The Haw River is not far and going into the little town of Haw River is great. And if you go boating or in the summertime, listen to music, that’s a great spot. It’s not very far. Then there are so many good restaurants close by in Carrboro, and notably, Weaver Street Market!

Ready for Net-Zero?

Does Array sound like the perfect spot for your net-zero dream home? If so, you’re in luck – Right now, there are still a few lots left!

Get in contact with Jodi if you’re interested in learning more about what Array has to offer. 

Not ready to move but want a more sustainable lifestyle? Let us know! We’re happy to provide a solar estimate to see what it would take to get you to net-zero. 

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