Las Vegas — When it comes to building a home that meets the highest standards, well-appointed means energy efficient in addition to the latest style trends and that's where plastics continue to play an invisible but important role.
Look no further than the 2019 model of the New American Home — this year distinguished by minimal decoration, abundant glass and a flat-sloping roof line — to put a spotlight on innovative products and green building techniques using polymers and other materials.
Built inside a gated community in Henderson, Nev., the 7,900-square foot house is this year's showcase for the National Association of Home Builders, which is putting on the International Builders' Show (IBS) that runs from Feb. 19-21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Tour buses are expected to take at least 15,000 IBS attendees high into the McCollough Range to the contemporary house, which boasts some eye-popping features starting with a four-car, glass-enclosed garage that runs alongside the front walkway. This air-conditioned man cave has large sliding glass doors for car connoisseurs to display vehicles and it doubles as an entertainment room with a pool table and bar.
At the back of the mountainside property, where the surrounding foothills and the Las Vegas strip provide the stunning view, this sprawling single-story dwelling has 16 feet of fireplace. Actually, two fireplaces divided by a sliding door, the combination puts eight feet of flame in the great room and eight feet outdoors.
Another sliding door — this one telescopic — separates the indoor and outdoor kitchen cabinets, also blurring the line of interior and exterior living space.
“When I stepped foot on this property, the first thing I thought was the view is fantastic. I have to get as many rooms as possible facing it and open up as many areas as we can to the outside,” Dan Colletti, president of Sun West Custom Homes, told reporters given a sneak peek on Monday.
Built on a lot that is roughly 110 feet wide, Colletti said he had a building envelope of about 90 feet.
“We have 80 feet facing the strip view,” he added. “We pretty much maximized every space we could to get the view for all the rooms. That's how designs start. It was the catalyst.”
So, how do you build a house with that much glass and make it energy efficient?
It wasn't an easy feat. To offset all the fenestration products of Western Window Systems, the builders increased the R-value (capacity to resist heat flow) of the desert dwelling with Owens Corning insulation for roofs, ceilings, walls and even the slab. One of the products, Foamular, an extruded polystyrene that prevents thermal bridging from wall studs, can be used for basement walls, foundation walls and slabs, above-grade walls, and under vinyl siding.
Putting foam insulation around the slab perimeter prevents radiant heat penetration and enhances moisture control, according to Neil Freidberg, Owens Corning's building science leader.
“To build a high-performance home with such a large footprint, you have to first understand each and every component — from windows to air sealing to the roof and [home's] orientation. In doing so, we can identify and use the optimal materials in the right locations,” Freidberg said in a news release.
The insulation contributed to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index score of 45, according to Drew Smith, chief operating officers of Two Trails Inc., which evaluated the home's performance.
“That's remarkable for this size home,” Smith said. “It's almost breaking records with this amount of square footage and the glass-to-wall ratio. This home tested well and we're really pleased. We're looking at annual energy savings of about $3000 for the future owner.”
With the HERS rating, lower is better. Smith said a score of 45 means The New American Home is about 55 percent more efficient than a standard code built home.
“Size doesn't matter,” he added. “You can still be extremely energy efficient and sustainable no matter how big the house is.”
NAHB says homes built to the greener end of the construction continuum provide greater comfort, lower utility bills, reduced maintenance and increased value.
Every dollar invested in energy efficiency yields $1.24 to $4 in benefits, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. And, an analysis in North Carolina shows when it comes time to move on, high-performance homes have a 9.5 percent higher sale price.
By the way, the asking price for The New American Home is $6.49 million. Situated on a half-acre lot with five bedrooms and six bathrooms, the house also features a spa room, disappearing-edge pool, and innovative structural components, such as a shower with a glass barn door, a wet bar suspended by cables, and a master bed suspended by steel near a cozy corner fireplace.
“This home is the Super Bowl of home building. It's the best of the best of innovation, energy efficiency and technology,” Ted Mahoney, president of Windjammer Construction in Boston and chairman of the New American Home program for the eight last years, told reporters. “…It's ahead of the curve with all the latest bells and whistles.”
Other plastic products used in the construction include Dupont Tyvek housewrap and Sharkbite croslinked polyethylene pipe.