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Foam, other plastics featured in 'The New American Home'

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

February 11, 2014

LAS VEGAS — The architects and builders of The New American Home weren't just going for the wow factor when they created a 7,400-square foot stone veneer house that opens to a two-story atrium with large white porcelain tiles forming a runway through a dark shallow pool.

Inside, a floating-riser staircase also catches the eye by a luxury kitchen with a double island — one for cooking and one for kids doing homework — that gives way to a comfy living space.

Five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, two powder rooms and a carriage suite in creams, mochas, grays — the "new neutrals" — combine for a clean, warm feel with multi-generation function.

Then, there's the view. The 31st showcase for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) sits on a terraced mountainside with the Las Vegas Strip glimmering below. There is much to ooh and aah about.

However, what's underneath it all got a lot of attention Feb. 3 during a media preview on the eve of the 2014 NAHB International Builders' Show. This year's house takes green building techniques to a new level, meeting the highest designations of emerald status for the National Green Building Standard and platinum status for the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program.

Drew M. Smith, president of Two Trails Inc, a green build consulting firm, looked over the shoulders of the employees of Element Building Co. to help incorporate some of the highest-performing products into what the industry considers its perennial construction lab.

One of the products he picked is Bayseal, an open-cell spray polyurethane foam insulation system made by Bayer MaterialScience LLC.

"We're big advocates of the spray foam industry because it really is the best way to tighten up a house and make it extremely energy efficient. It has come a long way," Smith said. "We're more of a fan of open cell because it allows a house to breathe a little more and doesn't trap so much moisture between the dry wall and insulation."

Bayer also supplied a roofing foam and coating for The New American Home, which eventually will be sold for yet-to-be-determined millions. The company manufactures high-tech polymers for the automotive, electrical and medical industries, too.

Architect Jeffrey Berkus agreed Bayseal was a good choice for the desert house, which will have to work overtime to keep out sand and dust as well as heat.

"Spray foam insulation and roofing is the perfect solution to keep the inside of the home comfortable while helping to keep out pollutants and allergens," Berkus said in a statement.

Tyvek Stucco Wrap and DuPont Flashing Systems products also were used in the house's building envelope. Other green features include LED lights, tankless water heaters, a 16 kilowatt solar photovoltaic panel system, natural gas and electric car charging stations, and a weather-sensitive, moisture-controlled irrigation system.

Every year since 1984, The New American Home serves as a showcase of building and design innovation and best practices that can be replicated for any house in any price range.

"It's a collection of ideas for the industry to take away in large pieces or bit by bit to be put in millions of homes across the United States," said John Ted Mahoney III, chairman of the task force for this year's home.