The construction of the 2014 New American Home has been more of a challenge than builder Josh Anderson ever imagined.
He knew that pulling together the multifaceted project of national magnitude, with dozens of product suppliers and sponsors would not be easy. He would be working with a pre-determined project team—including an architect and interior designers he’d never met before—to build a 6,700-square-foot home certified to more than a half-dozen green building programs.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle was the deadline: the house had to be completed in time to welcome thousands of building pros and national and international press coverage at the 2014 International Builders’ Show (IBS), taking place Feb. 4-6 in Las Vegas.
Even knowing all of these factors ahead of time, 35-year-old Anderson, owner of Henderson, Nev.–based Element Building Co., says he couldn’t have imagined what lay ahead when he signed on in fall 2012 to the project, which is co-sponsored by BUILDER and the NAHB.
CHALLENGES BEGIN EARLY
The challenges started early in the design phase, when Anderson reviewed preliminary drawings and was troubled by the siting of the house on its lot in the tony Sky Terrace subdivision. He also balked at the floor plan, which encompassed a traditional design aesthetic and opulent touches such as four master bedrooms and classicly styled columns, which Anderson knew weren’t appropriate for Las Vegas’ contemporary-driven market. He also felt the layout did not take full advantage of the beautiful desert site’s stunning views of the Las Vegas strip. As preparations continued, tragedy struck when the project’s architect, 77-year-old Barry Berkus, passed away in November 2012. Son Jeffrey Berkus, owner of his own bustling architectural firm in Aspen, Colo., took over the project. With construction scheduled to begin and the plans still not to Anderson’s liking, the builder and new architect had a pivotal on-site meeting during the 2013 IBS.
“From a design standpoint at that point in time, I’m saying, ‘I’m not going to build this house, it’s not the right fit for neighborhood, it’s not the right design,’” Anderson recalls telling Berkus.
After viewing the site, Berkus agreed that the design needed to be tweaked. His revised T-shaped plan better embraces the shape of the site and offers unobstructed views from the first-level master bedroom, dining room, and rooftop terrace. Both sets of plans will be on display at the home during IBS.
“I want to credit Josh for pushing us to make a great house that works with its site because he’s the one who had to pay the price because we lost two months in that process,” Berkus recalls. “It stressed the heck out of us and it stressed the heck out of him, but the result is a much more inspired house.”
NO LABOR AND TOO MUCH RAIN
The revised plans were complete and approved by the city in mid-May. As construction finally got underway, Anderson faced his next challenge: a serious labor shortage. The Las Vegas housing market had picked up considerably during the first five months of the year, and many of the area’s most experienced subcontractors already were busy with other projects. It was particularly difficult to find skilled framers—Anderson called seven companies before finding one with availability. He also ended up paying more than he had planned for most of the labor.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.