Before breaking ground, the team of pros working to design and construct this year’s New American Home gave themselves a challenge: Instead of creating a one-off custom showpiece, they wanted to explore how much of the technology, sustainability, and design trends that the show home is known for they could pack into a production-style dwelling.
Although it exudes the luxuriousness of a custom dwelling, the desert contemporary—which will be open for tours during the 2015 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas—was designed for buyers across a range of price points. In fact, once the show is over, it will serve as the model for a collection of 36 production homes in the Sky Terrace community that design/build firm Blue Heron calls “pre-designed custom.” These houses, with price tags from $750,000, allow customers to choose from select floor plans and finish options. Although Blue Heron also is known for its custom projects—it has built two other New American Homes—founder/owner Tyler Jones wanted to show off what can be done on a practical scale this year.
“The whole idea was to make sure the architects and builders who see this home realize you don’t have to have a $5 million custom home to utilize all the latest and greatest methods and innovative design concepts,” he says. “All of that stuff can fit together into a predesigned package, making it a lot more economically viable and attainable, and more efficient to design and build.”
The project team started with a relatively compact floor plan compared with other iterations of the 32-year-old show home program, sponsored by the NAHB and BUILDER. At just under 5,900 square feet, the home is efficiently laid out to encompass a spacious living area, four bedrooms (including a separate guest casita), and plenty of flashy entertaining spaces. The Blue Heron design team focused on integrating rather than segregating spaces, Jones says. For example, the kitchen, breakfast nook, dining area, and great room share one open space that also connects to the backyard pool area and central courtyard.
The second-level wine bar and rooftop sky loft are sited to perfectly capture breathtaking views of the Las Vegas strip and nearby mountains. “We spend as much time designing the outside living spaces as we do the interiors,” says Jones. “We know that people love it and respond to it.”
Inside, Blue Heron interior design consultant Miquel Hutton used off-the-shelf products and materials in innovative ways to provide extra pizzazz without breaking the bank. For example, wood-look floor and wall tiles provide a warm, organic feel; inexpensive backlighting adds sophistication to the bar’s stone countertops; and a luxurious freestanding tub in the master bathroom is filled by a faucet in the ceiling. “Just because this is a production-style community doesn’t mean we can’t apply some amazing materials and really craft an individual design for each one of our clients,” Hutton says.
In addition, the 2015 model will be the first in the New American Home lineup to achieve net zero electrical usage, thanks to a superior insulation package, passive solar design, LED light fixtures, Energy Star appliances, and an 15 kW photovoltaic array. Planners anticipate it will achieve the highest levels of certification from the National Green Building Standard and LEED for Homes programs.
Show attendees undoubtedly will end the tour wondering how Blue Heron crammed so many amenities into a home that’s replicable and economically accessible to middle-class buyers. Jones says it wouldn’t have been possible without the integrated design/build collaboration that is at the heart of each of the firm’s projects. With architectural, interior design, and construction professionals in one office, the team was able to leverage the expertise of each specialty from day one.
“The only way you’re going to include new technology and complicated concepts that require outside-the-box thinking is massive and very, very tightly scripted coordination,” he says.