Insulating the 6,700-square-foot New American Home against its harsh desert locale is no small task, but it’s a critical one for this high-performance project, which is aiming for National Green Building Standard-Emerald certification. To keep occupants comfortable during Nevada’s blazing afternoons and cool nights, the project team is relying on the most effective type of air sealant on the market: spray polyurethane foam (SPF), which can provide an R-value per inch up to 6.5. With foamed-in-place insulation, the material fills wall and ceiling cavities completely.

TNAH crews recently applied Bayseal open-cell foam from Bayer Material Science on the walls, lid, and subfloor, where it also acts as an effective sound barrier. For the roof they used Bayseal closed-cell spray foam coated with the company’s Bayblock thermal and moisture protection, a feature that the project team really likes. “Not only is it very efficient at doing what it’s supposed to do--which is keep water out--but it also adds R value and makes the home tighter and more energy efficient,” says builder Josh Anderson.

The insulation job was inspected by the project’s energy consultant, Drew Smith of Two Trails, for any leaks or voids that could compromise the envelope. “It should be sealed as tightly as an above-ground submarine,” he says.

The house passed Smith’s careful inspection and is on track for certification. Emerald-level homes must demonstrate energy savings of 50 percent more than national codes through independent, third-party verification. Other areas to be inspected in the future will include site and lot design, water efficiency, and indoor environmental quality.

Looming Deadline
Anderson and project manager Joe Niswoger are under a rock-solid deadline since the house will soon be toured by thousands of conference attendees as part of the International Builders' Show Feb 4-6 in Las Vegas.  They are surviving each action-packed day by anticipating changes and staying flexible, says Anderson. For example, the design of the home changed drastically from the early phase of the project, and then crews were delayed by one of the rainiest summers on record that ruined 350 sheets drywall.

“It’s a constant battle to make time up for a home like this with all the moving parts,” says Anderson. “We’ve always got a Plan B.”

Now that the insulation is complete, work will pick up on both the exterior and interior, including housewrap installation, stucco application, and drywall hanging.

“It’s a large house and then you have all the details and all the gingerbread that’s going into it,” Niswoger sums up. “It’s like building 10 houses.”

Click here to view construction videos from TNAH job site.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.