Courtesy BYHYU

When complete, a new home in Arkansas will serve to show off solutions on topics of importance to residential builders, including sustainability, storm resistance, smart technology, and stylish design. The concept for the Ultimate Idea House stems from home building podcast Build Your House Yourself University (BYHYU) and is being developed in partnership with RESNET, developer of the HERS Index.

The net-zero energy house is currently in the planning and permitting stages near Little Rock, Ark., an area prone to tornadoes, termites, heat, and humidity, says Michelle Nelson, podcaster for BYHYU.

“The aim of this case study project is to educate builders and homeowners about the benefits of structural and building envelope upgrades and to inspire building professionals to distinguish themselves in the marketplace by incorporating those valuable upgrades in their new builds,” says Nelson. “Additionally, this large, well-appointed idea house will dispel the notion that a sustainable house has to be a certain size or style.”

Courtesy BYHYU

High-performance builder Keith Wingfield and HERS energy rater Ron Hughes are leading the home's creation. Its sustainable features include a tight building envelope with high performance windows, dehumidification, a low maintenance stone and stucco exterior, a properly-sized HVAC system, and energy-efficient water heaters.

To resist strong winds from tornadoes, the house will have an above-ground storm shelter and be built with a continuous load path. This method of construction uses connectors, bolts, and screws to link all major parts of the home’s frame together. The roof is securely tied to the second floor, the second floor to the first floor, and the first floor to the foundation. Smart home automation will also be incorporated to enhance the home’s security, functionality, energy efficiency, and comfort.

For the home’s overall design, the team chose a practical floor plan that will allow for comfortable day-to-day living, the option for owners to age in place, and easy indoor/outdoor entertaining. The house plans also include a mix of transitional architectural features, such as black-on-black windows, window walls, a courtyard entrance, a rooftop deck with nearly 360-degree views, and a barrel-vaulted entry hall.

The Ultimate Idea House is scheduled to be complete by early 2020 and will be presented at RESNET’s 2020 Building Performance Conference, where it will be open for virtual tours. To follow the construction progress, look for quarterly project updates at or go to