Category Archives: News

Vapor Barrier Under Footers

Today a 20 mil. vapor barrier was laid in the trenches.  The concrete footers will be poured on top.   Radon pipes were installed for future venting if necessary, and greywater pipes were stubbed-out in hopes that one day a legal greywater system will be possible.

Click here to view the entire Nauhaus Prototype Construction Chronology.

View of Completed Vapor Barrier from Southwest
View of Completed Vapor Barrier from Southwest

tim vapor barrier
Tim Callahan
Stubbed-out Radon and Greywater Pipes
Stubbed-out Radon and Greywater Pipes

Press Release: Nauhaus Group Breaks Ground on Historic Prototype Home


Asheville, NC–The Nauhaus Group has officially broken ground on its historic prototype home. The Nauhaus Prototype, or NHP, is pushing the envelope for sustainable construction in the US. The design for the NHP boasts a unique combination of energy efficiency, traditional (or “natural”) building materials and aesthetic appeal.

Members of the Nauhaus Group believe that the NHP is on track to be one of the first ten Passive House certified homes in the US, garner a LEED Platinum rating with points to spare, and be the first house in the US to utilize Tradical® Hemcrete® (an insulation material made from industrial hemp fiber) as its wall system.

Instead of a groundbreaking ceremony at that beginning of construction when there is little to see, organizers of the project decided to hold a “Carbon Capture Ceremony” later in the process of building.

“We thought it would be more appropriate because our building’s paradigm is constructive, not destructive. Considering the unique features of the home we decided to hold a public event at a time in the construction process when people could view and experience some of the more exciting highlights of the prototype,” said Michael Figura, one of the organizers of the event.

Whereas a normal groundbreaking ceremony might involve a commemorative shoveling of soil, organizers at the Nauhaus Group hope to time their November 6th Carbon Capture Ceremony to coincide with the actual installation of the hemp wall system so attendees can participate.

After years of planning, the NHP is slated to mark a prominent shift in the way people think about homes and building in general. “The strength of our approach,” says managing director Clarke Snell, “is that we draw from a variety of methodologies and perspectives. We’ve got high-tech systems working with low-tech materials. Art in league with science.”

It’s no secret that the Nauhaus Group is out to save the world.

“The Nauhaus prototype is only part of a growing movement in the US to act responsibly when it comes to our carbon footprint,” said Snell. “The result of our approach is not only the most efficient, low-impact, durable, healthy, beautiful and affordable housing system we can muster, but a system that will continue to change, improve and grow.”

The house is owned by the Nauhaus Group itself and will be open for regular tours, workshops and other visits upon completion. It will, in the meantime, be occupied by chief engineer Jeff Buscher and his family to allow for energy efficiency analysis, systems testing and other research before it is sold.

The Nauhaus Group is a newly formed organization composed of designers, engineers, and builders at the top of their respective fields in Asheville and beyond. The group engages in for-profit activities ranging from design to sales but is also in the process of founding the non-profit Nauhaus Institute to house research and educational activities such as the NHP. For more information on attending or sponsoring the Carbon Capture Ceremony or for information on volunteering for community workdays at the NHP, contact Billy Schweig (


Today,  JBS Construction was onsite excavating.  The extra dirt will be used to create compressed earthen blocks, which will be used in the floor and some interior walls for thermal mass.

Click here to view the entire Nauhaus Prototype Construction Chronology.

JBS Construction Onsite
JBS Construction Onsite
View from the Northeast
View from the Northeast
A silt fence was installed on the North edge of the site before excavating.
A silt fence was installed on the North edge of the site before excavating.
Bricks reclaimed from old Sulphur Springs site, to be used for patios.
Bricks reclaimed from old Sulphur Springs site, to be used for patios.

JBS Construction

Hemp Insulation: Nauhaus Prototype to Be First House Using Tradical®Hemcrete® In US

Tradical®Hemcrete® is an insulation material made from industrial hemp chips (shiv) in a lime-based binder. We are VERY excited about helping to introduce this wonderful material to the US housing market. As a design group that comes out of the world of low-embodied energy materials (often called “natural building”), we have been in a quandry as to how to acheive the highest energy performance and durability in a wet, humid climate while staying true to our “natural building” roots. We love vapor permeable wall systems like cob and adobe, but don’t like the low insulation values. We like straw bales, but find them impractical in our wet climate, as well as finding their clunky, bulky form difficult to work with practically. Our favorite “natural” wall material is clay-slip straw, but find a number of practical difficulties in working with the material in the field. We think that materials like Hemcrete are a great fit for practical, high-performance, low-embodied energy building systems like ours, the Nauhaus.

Tradical®Hemcrete® is manufactured by the UK company Lime Technologies, LTD and distributed on the east coast by Hemp Technologies, LLC in Asheville, NC. Though we understand the inherent unsustainability of shipping a bulky building material from England, we have chosen Hemcrete as part of a long-term commitment to find and promote the best building materials for  sustainable design. It is our belief that it is time to advocate for the production of industrial hemp products in the United States.

Okay, let’s get the “pot” jokes out to the way. Industrial hemp doesn’t have the drug properties of its cousin, marijuana…so don’t smoke it, Holmes. Hemp used to be a mainstay of the US economy. There was a time when you HAD to grow it if you had a certain amount of land. It grows quickly, is a nitrogen fixer, and is the source of a huge variety of useful products including fabrics, oils, ropes, and a variety of building and automobile related products. US consumers purchase more hemp-based products than anyone else in the world, but it is currently almost impossible to grow industrial hemp in this country. Clearly this makes no sense. In the US our friends at Hemp Technologies, and our suppliers of Tradical®Hemcrete® are hard at working changing this. They are lobbying policy makers to change regulations and are planning to manufacture Tradical®Hemcrete® in the coming years. Hemp Technologies is also a partner with us on the Nauhaus prototype project.

To learn more about industrial hemp and everything Hemp Technologies is doing, visit their website:

To learn more about why we’ve chosen Tradical®Hemcrete®, read this.

Nauhaus Prototype Seeks Passive House Certification

Passive House certification is perhaps the most rigorous and thorough building energy performance standard in the world. Though thousands of buildings have been built to this standard in Europe,  there are less than 10 certified Passive House buildings in the US. We have designed the Nauhaus prototype to Passive House standards and are in the process of seeking certification.

Okay, yes, it’s a major hassle. Why do it? Oh, let me count the ways:

1. Climate Change. Unless all the climate science eggheads are oxygen starved from too much time in high altitude weather balloons, it seems clear that we need to drastically cut climate change linked carbon emissions to prevent a climate change rollercoaster that we will be helpless to control. Since our buildings are responsible for 50% of our carbon footprint, the best approach would be to make them carbon neutral, in other words, design, build, and run them so that they are responsible for no carbon emissions.  Since carbon is emitted through combustion of fossil fuels, the best thing to do would be to burn no fuels to heat, cool, or power a house. The only way to do that is to drastically reduce building energy requirements so that expensive “clean” renewable energy (solar electric, wind, and hydro) systems can be made small enough to be affordable. The Passive House approach reduces heating and cooling loads in our climate by 90% and overall energy requirements by 70%. With this level of performance, carbon neutrality comes within reach.

2. Indoor Air Quality. Since most buildings loose heat quickly through their envelope (exterior walls, floor, and roof), heating equipment needs to warm air to high temperatures to make up for this quick loss. Often, this means that the air is heated to a temperature that will burn dust. Do you want to breathe burnt dust? I don’t. In a Passive House, we dont’ need much heat, so we don’t need to burn dust to create comfortable temperatures. This fact in combination with air-tight construction and very efficient energy recovery ventilation allows a Passive House to create the best indoor air you’ll ever experience.

3. Money. Okay, enough flowery stuff about saving the world and breathing better. What’s the cost? Yes, a Passive House will cost more up front, but that’s the price for the speculator, flipper, and sub-prime mortgage weilding sleeze ball. If you actually intend to live there, you know make it a home, then the cost equation is more complicated. Since Passive Houses cost almost nothing to run and make renewable energy much cheaper by reducing system size, they are without a doubt less expensive for the owner. Save all of your “What’s the payback period” and “How much more do they cost up front” questions for the time being. We don’t know because we are designing our first Passive House now. There’s a lot of info out there on costs, but it is all tied to the European market so we can’t draw clear conclusions from it. Those people eat Bratwurst and have health care for god’s sake! It’s like a whole different planet. Rest assured that cost is of paramount concern for us, so we’ll keep you posted.

What’s New: Nauhaus Prototype Almost Ready to Break Ground

This humble...okay messed up...lot will be the site of our Nauhaus prototype project. Watch us transform it into a beautiful model of urban sustainability

Plans for permitting have been submitted for our prototype project, slated to start construction late this spring.  We’ve been working on developing a practical approach to carbon neutral, healthy built residential construction for several years. The result is a building system, for lack of a better word, that we’ve dubbed “The Nauhaus” (pronounced “now house”). Though we’ve designed a number of projects in the interim, this is our “prototype” because it is the first to combine all aspects of the Nauhaus vision: the highest possible level of energy efficiency, low-embodied energy non-toxic (“natural”) materials, impeccable indoor air quality, sustainable water management, indoor and outdoor living, urban infill, on-site energy production, and an abundant edible landscape brought together to create a model of urban sustainability. In addition, this project will provide valuable data for others in the green building movement because we will performance monitor the home for several years to compare theoretical to actual performance.