Net-Zero Ready Home

Sustainable Living in Downtown Portsmouth

When Gregory and Elizabeth LaCamera conceived of a sustainable new residence to be built in their densely populated Portsmouth, NH neighborhood, they faced some unique challenges. 

Their goal was to build a net-zero home that would operate as near to carbon neutral as they could get within a fixed budget, and one in which all materials would be low maintenance and low-emitting for a healthy indoor environment. Walls would be thick and have extra insulation for maximum heat retention in winter and cooling in summer. Everything would be powered by renewable energy, generated primarily by solar panels. They envisioned a home with plenty of natural light and open space for entertaining, despite their property having a relatively modest footprint, sitting tightly at the corner of a city block. Adding to the complexity, a nearby telephone pole with a jumble of wires hovered overhead. To build on this lot required variances from the city’s planning board.

Enter WINTER HOLBEN. To help tackle these challenges, Gregory and Elizabeth turned to our architecture and design team to bring their ambitious vision to life. The collaboration resulted in one of the most inspiring and Earth-friendly properties in the area.

“We couldn’t be happier with the design and WINTER HOLBEN’s engagement,” says LaCamera. “This will be an amazing home for years to come and their support is to thank for that.”

The traditional design vernacular of the gabled structure, typical in the home's neighborhood, is made modern with high contrasting color, shape and scale—"the WINTER HOLBEN touch," as Gregory says. Horizontal, white, low-emission siding joins with wide, black, vertical panelling and trim, both coming with extended warranties to guarantee a long lifespan. Honey-hued wood accents complete the aesthetic, warmly welcoming visitors to the front door. Rooftop solar panels run electricity into the home through concealed inverters, and an electric vehicle charging station sits along the garage and driveway for easy access. 

In addition to the environmentally conscious exterior, a healthy and attractive indoor environment was created using high performance ventilation, eco-friendly materials, and a strategically arranged layout. Although the energy saving thick walls decreased the interior square footage, we were able to successfully navigate the spatial limitations to design a pleasing flow through sunny, open living areas. Further enhancing the homeowner’s experience, multi-level outdoor decks and a surprisingly spacious back patio were designed to take full advantage of the lot’s exterior space.

According to Holben, “Greg and Liz are really great to work with and we were aligned stylistically from the start. Their passion for achieving a net-zero home with a multitude of constraints was an exciting challenge.”

The home is considered "Net-Zero ready" or "almost Net-zero" because the solar panels, a last minute pandemic-related replacement to the more powerful panels the team originally planned for, emit just under the required amount to make it fully net-zero.


Photography by Douglas Schmidt and Ginny Lea RE Photography



  • 2023 NH Home Design Award for
    Green Design: Net Zero Ready
mcdonough house exterior project image
McDonough House Exterior and Front Door
McDonough House Interior Top Floor
McDonough House Interior Kitchen Design
McDonough House Interior View Upstairs
McDonough House Interior Details
McDonough House Exterior Main Entrance