In the News

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Passive House Building on Pilot Projects.
The acceptance of Passive House design and building principles is growing in the Monterey Bay region.
Passive House is a proven concept in dramatically increasing energy efficiency and lowering related carbon emissions in the built environment. During this summer’s fires in the midst of the COVID pandemic, the added benefit of healthy indoor air quality that comes from following Passive House principles became even more evident. An article by James Herrera in the October 30, 2020 issue of the Monterey Herald sheds light on the benefits and the accelerating momentum of the Passive House movement in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.

Passive Activity

Advocates for homes set a goal of building 1,000 units in Monterey County by 2030.
An article in the October 15-21 issue of the Monterey County Weekly by reporter Pam Marino provides an informative update on progress toward a goal of building 1,000 Passive House units in the Monterey Bay Region by 2030. It also discusses the benefits of this building strategy, including providing excellent indoor air quality even with smoke from the recent fire that burned in the neighborhood of our latest Passive House home.

A Sky Ranch home under construction escaped flames from the Carmel Fire in part because builder Rob Nicely (left) is using passive house building concepts. He and Jay Gentry (right) are championing passive house construction in Monterey County. Parker Seibold

WHEN JAY GENTRY WAS A YOUNG MAN HE THOUGHT HE WAS CALLED TO THE MINISTRY, BUT IT DIDN’T QUITE WORK OUT AS A CAREER CHOICE. Yet Gentry is a natural evangelist, and today he preaches but not from a pulpit. His message is about the need to combat the climate crisis through building sustainable and energy-efficient passive houses. Along with Carmel builder Rob Nicely, the two men have a goal to facilitate the building of 1,000 passive house units in Monterey County by 2030.

“I spend most of my working time addressing climate change for my kids and grandchildren and great grandchildren,” Gentry says. It’s what fuels his passion for meeting the goal.

The term passive house applies to anything from single-family homes up to large multi-family unit buildings. It’s been used in Europe for years and is now gaining followers in the U.S. through a network of nonprofits and companies actively working to build passive houses and influence policy. Gentry and Nicely both serve on the board of the nonprofit Passive House California and are active in local sustainability groups.

Passive home building uses strategies that reduce a structure’s energy demand by up to 80 percent while keeping occupants comfortably warm or cool. It uses insulation and high-performance windows and doors to create an airtight home keeping pollutants out. A focus is on reducing carbon emissions from the homes to as much as net zero. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in 2018 that we must cut global carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030. While burning fossil fuels is a big contributor, buildings are responsible for 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“That’s a fairly dire statement that gives you a clear cut mandate if you want to go out and influence policy and change the built environment,” Nicely says. “We have to be building up to the level of a passive house using 80-percent less energy than a conventional building.”

Nicely and Gentry are gaining traction in the region. Thanks to their efforts, Monterey city officials incorporated the concepts behind passive house building into a request for proposals to build 100-percent affordable housing units in the downtown area. There are other potential developments in the works elsewhere in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

Passive houses may attract even more interest after the Carmel Fire destroyed 50 homes in 17 days in August. A three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot home Nicely’s company, Carmel Building & Design, is constructing in Cachagua was untouched while other homes in the immediate neighborhood were reduced to ash.

There’s a burn scar that runs right up to the home’s back deck and stops. Only a few trees on the property were scorched.

“It was nerve-wracking because there were several days you couldn’t get any definitive information,” Nicely says. “I knew it had been designed not to burn, but you never know what’s going to happen.”

The structure didn’t burn for several reasons, according to Nicely and Gentry: The house is all electric so there are no gas lines or propane tanks to ignite; it’s airtight and made with a non-combustible roof and exterior walls plus compressed wood fiber insulation inside; it was constructed using a wildland-urban interface code, which regulates building materials used, landscaping management and other ways of mitigating wildfire danger.

The men are reaching out to jurisdictions where homes were damaged or lost to encourage them to incorporate incentives to use passive house building concepts for rebuilding.

Armed with data extolling the benefits of passive houses, from the personal – individual energy cost savings, comfort, filtered air, fire safety – to the overall good of the planet, the semi-retired Gentry volunteers nearly full time promoting passive houses to as many people as will listen and facilitating the creation of possible new passive house developments. He combines his passion for the cause with skills he honed throughout his career in sales then later teaching businesses how to take new products to market through his consulting business.

Nicely has the construction background, having spent the last 35 years in the business. About 20 years ago he started exploring green building practices, which eventually led him to passive houses. He was certified in passive house building in 2012 and built one of the first passive homes on the Central Coast in Carmel in 2013, which Gentry helped market.

Last year the two men decided rather than focus on moving the passive house concept forward throughout the state – something Gentry likens to shoveling dirt into the Grand Canyon – they zeroed in on Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. In January they invited about 500 elected officials, planning staffers and builders to the in-progress house in Cachagua, then in the early stages of construction. They gave tours and explained each feature of the house and its benefits.

That event was the catalyst for one Monterey city planner to be trained in passive house building and for city housing officials to include passive house concepts in the RFP for the affordable housing developments in downtown Monterey.

“We’ve had a remarkably good response, people are leaning in and wanting to do this,” Nicely says. “Having said that, it’s unfortunately a problem that needs to be solved. It takes time to get these things done. And we don’t have a lot of time.”

Thinking about our air filtration systems during smokey times
As fires and dense smoke persisted in California this season, the use of indoor air filtration systems increased dramatically. Here’s a look at ways to ensure that your home is properly prepared to keep indoor air healthy and safe. Read the article by James Herrera in the October 8 issue of the Monterey County Herald.

Concept Growing In The Monterey Bay Area
February 20 meeting launches Monterey Bay area movement to reduce carbon emissions that lead to climate change.

Passive House Battles Climate Change
Our latest certified Passive House project, currently under construction in Carmel Valley, was showcased at an open house event January 22 to 25, 2020. This Passive House is designed to inspire a movement to bring carbon neutrality to the Monterey Bay area. The article in the Sunday, January 26 issue of the Monterey Herald provides an overview of the efforts to lower carbon emissions that lead to climate change.

See how Passive House building strategies work in a Carmel Valley home under construction
Here’s a clip of a KSBW TV news story about our third Passive House project, now underway in Carmel Valley. Passive House standards are proven to lower the energy demands of a building and significantly cut carbon emissions that lead to climate change. This is only the beginning!

Carmel Building & Design on KAZU and Dwell
We are proud to be a sponsor of programming on our local NPR station, KAZU (90.3 FM). You can hear our message about our dedication to sustainable building practices through the end of June by tuning in to KAZU. You’ll also find us on and with a new ad series drawing the connection between your home and Earth’s environment. To us, it’s all living space. Ads rotate throughout the stories on so take time to explore.

We want every home we build or remodel to be healthy living space for the owners while significantly scaling back the home’s carbon footprint. Healthy for you. Healthy for the planet. It’s A better way to build.

Rob Nicely earns Passive House Consultant certification
Rob Nicely, president and owner of Carmel Building & Design has earned Passive House Consultant certification by the North American Passive House Network. Three additional staff members are in the process of completing this certification. “This intensive training included energy modeling software that we will put to work within our firm,” said Nicely. “This software enables us to virtually ‘build’ the home and test how it will perform from an energy standpoint. We can make adjustments until we get to the desired performance. It gives us a way to fully plan out a project from the choice of materials, type and placement of windows, wall assemblies and sealing materials—literally everything that goes into crafting high-performance homes. It takes the guess work out of the planning process.” He cites this software as a tremendous breakthrough in creating high-performance buildings. The firm is first in the area to acquire this training and energy modeling software.

NAPHN’s Certified Passive House Designer/Consultant course is a training program for Passive House building professionals, specifically designed to teach the international Passive House Standard to American professionals making Passive House buildings in the U.S. construction industry.

Rob Nicely elected to Passive House California board of directors
Rob Nicely, president and owner of Carmel Building & Design was elected to the board of directors of Passive House California at their January 14, 2018 meeting. He will serve a two-year term as the board’s vice president. “This is a great opportunity to address and shape the impact of the building industry on reducing carbon emissions in the built environment,” said Nicely. “Building to Passive House standards is part of our progressive building practices and a proven way to create high-performing homes with excellent indoor air quality and many other benefits to homeowners.”

Article published in Home Energy magazine
An article, co-authored by Rob Nicely and Melanie Bretz, appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Home Energy magazine. It’s republished here with their permission, copyright 2016.


Carmel Building & Design featured on Houzz
See the full article on Houzz.

Carmel Building & Design is first to install the Nexus eWater system in a U.S. residence
See the full article in The Monterey County Herald.


Second certified Passive House featured in the Monterey County Herald
An article about our second certified Passive House, written by Kathryn McKenzie, appeared in the October 24 issue of the Monterey County Herald. In the online version, she also included a link to the first in a series of videos we’ve created to highlight some of the amazing water and energy saving technologies we’re using in a Carmel Point home. A simple click here will take you to our site where you’ll find the article. For a printable version, click here.

Rob and Steven on the Neal & Larry Show
Listen to the Saturday, October 18 Neal and Larry Show as they talked to Rob Nicely (president/owner Carmel Building & Design) and Steven Jungerberg (president/owner Retro Green Homes). They explored the latest innovations in plumbing, water heating and grey water recycling that we’re using in a Carmel home, and other green building strategies that are integral to every home we build. These are not your everyday approaches.

Central Coast region reduces water usage by 14.4%, surpasses State average of 11.5%
The State Water Resources Control Board released a report showing that Central Coast residents reduced water usage by 14.4 percent in August compared to a year ago. Around the State, residents reduced water use by 11.5 percent in the same period—that’s a whopping 27 billion gallons less water! The article quotes State Water Board chair Felicia Marcus, “Every gallon saved now is a gallon that we won’t have to ration in the future.” Read the entire article in the San Jose Mercury News, October 7, 2014.

Warrior for Sustainability: Rob Nicely featured in Home Energy Pros blog
Rob Nicely, president/owner of CBD was the topic of a recent blog by Tom White, publisher of Home Energy magazine. It’s a nice telling of the commitment of Rob and his team to building the “right” way—for the homeowners and the planet. Click here to get the whole story.

Justin Pauly wins AIA honor for Carmel Passive House
We couldn’t be more proud of Justin Pauly, AIA, Pauly Designs, for taking top honors in the Monterey Bay Chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ 2013 Awards Program for Design Excellence. Justin was recognized for his thoughtful work that resulted in this beautiful, functional and energy efficient Carmel home—Central California’s first certified Passive House. “Award-winning homes like this do not happen without a great team,” says Justin. “It was as much a testament to a great client and a great builder as to the design.”

A collaboration between Pauly Designs and Carmel Building & Design the home was also named 2013 “Best New Home” by Fine Homebuilding magazine.

Carmel Building & Design featured in Monterey County Weekly
Passive House is just one of the environmentally-mindful strategies Carmel Building & Design has in its tool box. Check out this Monterey County Weekly article featuring two of our latest projects.

Passive House featured in The Monterey County Herald
See why Passive House owners Mica and Laureen Hill love their “earth-friendly” home. Read the article by Kathryn McKenzie in June 8, 2013 issue of The Monterey County Herald.

Green Goes Mainstream For New Homes
Check out the article Green Goes Mainstream for New Homes, by Cecilie Rohwedder, published May 3, 2013 in The Wall Street Journal. It confirms what we’ve long believed, and practiced—that environmentally mindful (“green”) homes can be beautiful, architecturally expressive and extremely energy efficient. And they can significantly reduce energy costs and help protect the planet!

CBD Wins “Best New Home” Award

FineHomebuilding House 2013 Awards Issue

See why our Passive House in Carmel took the title of “Best New Home” in Fine Homebuilding magazine’s 2013 Houses Awards issue. And made the cover of this highly-respected national publication! Read articles by builder Rob Nicely of Carmel Building & Design and architect Justin Pauly of Pauly Designs by clicking on the PDFs below. Also check out the Video and our Work section for more info and photos of Central CA’s first certified Passive House.

Read the article by Rob NicelyRead the article by Justin Pauly



Passivhaus Movement
Carmel project incorporates pioneering German standards to get aggressive energy savings. Check out this Monterey County Weekly article featuring two of our latest projects.