RISMEDIA, February 6, 2009-(MCT)-Just a few miles south of 6755 Agave Azul Court, in suburban Henderson, Nev., there were at last count 6,300 homes in some stage of the foreclosure process.
Yet here at the edge of the Strip, in one of this desert resort’s oldest neighborhoods, stands the National Association of Home Builders’ pricey annual showcase of products and building techniques-perhaps looking forward to a time beyond record foreclosures and falling prices, when residential construction will start up once again.
This year’s $4.5 million, 8,000-square-foot New American Home, built on a half-acre site, has already been sold to an unidentified buyer. It is the result of more than a year of work by Bill Nolan, a native Philadelphian and chairman of the task force that created it.
Nolan, who built houses in Delaware County, Pa., before moving to the then-booming Orlando, Fla., market almost 30 years ago, cautions that this is a show house, designed to offer builders a vision of a future more sustainable and energy-efficient than anything built before.
“Builders, architects, engineers-anybody with an interest in housing construction-will be fascinated by the natural-gas-powered heating and cooling system, the photovoltaic cells, and the solar water heating,” he says. “Even the insulation in this home is exciting.
“The whole package of energy-efficiency products work together to make this a near-zero-energy home,” says Nolan, who runs the Nolan Group, a housing-industry consulting firm in Altamonte Springs, Fla.
The design of the house, by the architectural firm Danielian Associates, appears to borrow heavily from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater near Pittsburgh-which, as it happens, Wright created for the owner of that city’s Kaufman’s department store during the Great Depression.
Nolan acknowledges that Fallingwater was the inspiration. Officially, though, the style is known as “desert contemporary.”
Still, he says, “the design concepts, construction techniques and materials used in the New American Home 2009 can be adopted for use in any home. In a sense, this showcase … is a collection of ideas for the industry to take away and put into any new or remodeled home.”
As environmentally friendly as the builders made this house, visitors tend to focus on the look of it, especially the way indoor and outdoor spaces blend so seamlessly.
Designer Connie Edwards of Timberlake Cabinets, which provided the abundant dark-cherry cabinetry, leads a small tour group through the show house (a signature event of the International Builders Show, which ended last Friday). A bad knee forces her to use the elevator that travels to all four floors, from the spectacular subterranean courtyard to the north-facing roof deck overlooking the Strip and McCarran International Airport.
“You would think that the sound of the planes taking off and landing would be deafening, but the way the house was sited, the noise travels away from the house and not at it,” Edwards says. A jumbo jet takes off in an unscripted effort to prove her point.
Outdoor spaces are sometimes more important than indoor in those parts of the country where there are few days you can’t play outside.
That’s why this house even has an outdoor bedroom, a “casita” with a wood-framed canopy over the bed that affords an unobstructed view of the starlit desert sky. (It rains in Las Vegas occasionally, so the bed can be disassembled quickly for transport inside.)
The “casita” is off the pool area, adjacent to a koi pond and an outdoor spa. The pool itself, of the “endless” variety, can be lowered four inches automatically when in use (via overflow pipes that run along the edges), so no water is displaced when someone is swimming, Edwards says. You can swim up to the bar, if you wish.
Below the pool area, the subterranean courtyard has a waterfall and a gas-fueled open fireplace.
The nearby great room has three big-screen televisions, a fireplace and seating areas. There are a large dining room, a kitchen prep room, and a large state-of-the-art kitchen, even a place where you can wrap gifts.
Most of the bedrooms are indoors, of course, while connected to the outdoors in some way. Yet because this is officially a zero-energy home, when daytime summer temperatures reach 110 degrees, energy-efficient glass doors can be closed automatically and curtains drawn to reduce the effects of the broiling sun. The task force in charge of New American Home 2009 tried to balance off-the-charts design features with energy efficiency, so architect Art Danielian and builder Tyler Jones sought to do as much as technologically possible.
To minimize the quantity of materials used and reduce waste, Jones employed advanced framing techniques, including premanufactured trusses and floor systems, as well as building materials that did not require additional on-site finishing resources.
Manufacturers and suppliers were selected that could provide recycled building materials, new materials manufactured from renewable resources, or those requiring fewer resources to produce than traditional products.
During construction, a waste-management program included on-site bins for collecting and sorting materials to be recycled.
A major source of free energy for operating the house is more common in Las Vegas than foreclosures-the sun.
A 12,000-plus-kilohertz solar-panel system helps achieve a net-zero level of electrical consumption. A proprietary gas-powered heating and cooling system combines with features such as low-emissivity windows, advanced insulation, vertical and horizontal solar overhangs, and window louvers.
Insulated concrete forms were used predominantly for the basement and structural walls, for insulating properties with R-values up to 50, said Jones, of Blue Heron Builders.
Siting the house was important from an environmental standpoint, Danielian said. Soil erosion and disturbance was kept to a minimum, with storm-water pollution prevention plans and continued on-site monitoring.
From the fourth-floor deck, the home’s new owner will have a view of what’s behind the wall surrounding singer Wayne Newton’s 51-acre estate and horse stables across the street.
“I wonder if you could knock on the door and borrow a cup of sugar,” Edwards jokes.
© 2009, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.