A Look at The New American Home for 2015

The outer structure of a unique architectural design of a home, showing lots of lighting on the inside.

: The New American Home, the official show home of the International Builders’ Show from the National Association of Home Builders, marries the world of custom and production seamlessly.

Pre-engineered custom” might not be a familiar phrase, but there’s a good chance that it will become one of residential construction’s buzzwords if the official show home of the International Builders’ Show slated to open in mid-January in Las Vegas is any indication.

Rather than creating a unique one-of-a-kind show home, the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) opted for a different approach this year, making The New American Home (TNAH) a production home that feels individualized. Think of it as production meets custom.

Now in its 32nd year, TNAH showcases the latest in building science, technology, finishes, materials and products. It’s also a venue where manufacturers launch new products. “TNAH has been on the leading edge, but not over the top. Everything used in the home is mandated, everything has to be readily available,” says Tucker Bernard, director of NAHB’s Leading Suppliers Council.

This year’s TNAH — a 5,891 square-foot desert contemporary masterpiece — might seem like a singular creation, but NAHB says it can be rolled into mass production quickly and efficiently and offers ideas for 
builders in every price point. The home has a production floor plan that can be built with a range of structural and finish options and uses a number of off-the-shelf products, often in innovative configurations.

For Blue Heron Homes, the Las Vegas design/build firm selected to 
design and construct this year’s TNAH, pre-engineered custom is not a new concept. “If you look back on our work, you’ll see this is just a continuation of what we have done in the past,” says Tyler Jones, founder and CEO of Blue Heron. “Some builders will see this as an experiment, which it is not. For sure, we are going to do more and more of this type of neighborhood and this type of a home. It’s not an experiment for us.”

Blue Heron has other pre-engineered custom homes slated for Sky Terrace, the development outside Las Vegas that is the location of TNAH — TNAH is one of five different plans Blue Heron offers. The use of high-performing production plans with custom finishes is also an idea other custom builders are taking a look at as a way to appeal to a broader range of consumers.

Almost everything in the house, materials and techniques, can be easily replicated in a variety of price brackets. “Housing industry professionals who tour this home are going to leave Las Vegas with a lot of great ideas they can start using immediately,” says Bernard. Ask about new trends showcased in the home and Jones will tell you he sees the entire house as a takeaway.

Green, Greener, Greenest

When it comes to energy efficiency, the TNAH has always been leading edge and this year’s home takes green beyond accepted benchmarks to the next level. “We’ve surpassed the standards of LEED Platinum and NAHB’s Emerald,” says Bernard. With a HERS score of minus-10, this home is expected to use 104-percent less energy than a standard new home. 

Such a high level of efficiency is achieved with a combination of technologies, including the use of open cell and closed cell foam insulation that seals the exterior and reflects UV rays, keeping the roof cooler, extensive solar panels, hydronic air handlers and low-maintenance building materials. For example, the exterior looks like wood, but it is actually a high-performance stucco.

“I’ve been able to achieve a true net zero, which is a huge achievement above and beyond LEED Platinum. It’s a special thing to get to net zero with an almost 6,000 square-foot home and we’ve not sacrificed design. It has all of the glass and all of the design elements consumers want,” says Jones.

Integral to what makes this plan work so well is the way the rooms relate to each other and to the outside, both visually and physically. Inside, beginning with the entry adjacent to a side courtyard, the home seems to unfold, offering multiple places to gather, have a drink or dine, inside and outside. The second level offers a central space that functions as a place for games or billiards, a media hub, a casual seating area and a wine room that opens to a deck. A huge backlight Quartzite stone bar steals the scene here, only rivaled by the spectacle of the Las Vegas skyline.

The home is sited to maximize the changing panorama of extensive city and mountain views. The floor plan also incorporates perspectives of the courtyard, terrace and pool. Blue Heron has expertly orchestrated viewscapes. Every room offers access to the outside.

The architect has given as much attention to exterior spaces and views as those on the interior. “This house is about the indoor-outdoor relationship. How you frame the views and open those spaces up to the exterior is key to the interior design of the home,” says Jones. Extensive pocket doors achieve seamless transitions. “When the pocket doors disappear, you really don’t know if you are inside or outside,” he observes.

Another catalyst merging indoors and outdoors is the way interior designer Miquel Hutton, also with Blue Heron, has finished the home using materials applicable to both environments. Finishes often flow from the interior to outside spaces. And an overlay of neutrals with color accents is an ideal canvas to showcase views.

One Room, Many Uses

The ability to use spaces in multiple ways is becoming a priority for a growing number of homeowners who scrutinize every square foot. Many consider having a room devoted solely to one use, such as a home theater, an unacceptable luxury. To make the best use of interior space, Blue Heron created a media room and home theater that adapts to a range of uses without sacrificing the quality of a viewing experience.

The home also includes a two-level casita, which faces the side courtyard. With its own outside entrance, it is ideal for an office, but is equally suitable for a nanny, guests or aging parents.

Technology is integrated into every aspect of the home, but the one application Jones believes will be of interest to all homeowners is the energy management system. Almost everyone wants to understand more about their home, how much energy it is using and, in the case of TNAH, how much energy it is creating.

In the end, what makes this New American Home so desirable is the synergy of indoors and outdoors, energy management and creation and how all the facets of the home work together to create an experience that enriches the everyday. It all starts in the beginning, says Jones, with a great deal of planning and making it simple.

Camilla McLaughlin is an award-winning writer specializing in house and home. Her work has appeared in leading online and print publications, such as Yahoo! Real Estate, Unique Homes magazine and Realtor Magazine. She has also freelanced for the Associated Press.

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