Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.
When you walk into this year’s New American Home, a model created for the International Builders’ Show, it’s easy to get carried away with the mirrors that feature built-in televisions, the gorgeous infinity pools, and the glittering Las Vegas skyline in the distance. But there’s a lot more to this Henderson, Nev., show home than meets the eye.
“A lot of what happens is behind the walls,” says Drew Smith, president of Two Trails, Inc., the Sarasota, Fla.-based company that functioned as the green building and energy consultant on the project. Much of that behind-the-scenes work contributed to the home scoring a -10 HERS rating (meaning that it’s around 110 percent more energy-efficient than a typical newly built home, which would score 100). “I like to think of it as building an above-ground submarine.”
Indeed, the home does much more than its basic goal, which is to showcase products by National Association of Home Builders supplier members. It’s earned Emerald status under the ICC 700 National Green Building Standards (the highest of the four levels bestowed by NGBS), a third-party verified certification program that ensures structures are energy efficient, sustainable, and healthy for inhabitants.
This is home No. 32 in a long line of New American Homes built for the NAHB convention that stretches back to 1984. Built in the Sky Terrace community just outside of Las Vegas, this year’s overall concept is also a little different than usual. Most years, the New American Home is built to demonstrate cutting-edge technology and design in the context of a custom home. But this year, the home was nestled into a "production community” of similar homes. It showcases how the latest materials and systems can be used in a new-home community to hold down the costs traditionally associated with custom home building, while also differentiating homes from the typical properties offered by those working in this traditionally cookie-cutter niche.
Another shift in this year’s project is an integration of the many different construction phases into one company. Blue Heron Design Build functioned as the architect, interior designer, and builder for the project in an effort to streamline the process and keep it as true to the original concept as possible.
“We truly believe that integrating all these disciplines is the way to go,” says Blue Heron owner Tyler Jones. "It's really been an honor to be a part of this."
Warren Nesbitt, senior vice president of residential construction programs at Hanley Wood (publisher of NAHB’s Builder magazine, a media partner for the project), called the vertically integrated architect/designer/builder concept “a rare vision” and “very compelling.”
Apparently the overall concept is compelling enough for home buyers. According to Shelly Stewart, director of sales and marketing for Blue Heron, at least five homes in the development have been sold, with several already occupied.
A final distinction worth noting in this year’s New American Home is its integration of smart home technology. NAHB touts the home as the “first of its kind” to feature a completely integrated home technology solution from one manufacturer. Crestron, a home automation system usually used in luxury custom home projects, provides an app for would-be home owners in the Sky Terrace community available on laptops, and both iPhones and Android devices, to control televisions, music systems, lighting, climate, and security system remotely. The home also features built-in displays for controlling the system from within.