The crown jewel of the International Builders’ Show – The New American Home – demonstrates the latest innovations in residential new construction by showcasing cutting-edge floor plans, the newest appliances, and high-tech control systems plus trend-setting flooring, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, and lighting.
Photography Courtesy of Trent Bell
Since 1984, The New American Home program has represented high-performance building practices and showcased the newest products and materials available. It also acts as a harbinger of the type of floor plans and amenities today’s American families are seeking. Not only is it a show home, but it is also for sale on the market. Most of all, the New American Home is best known for presenting a collection of ideas for members of the building community to take away – in large pieces, or bit-by bit – and put into millions of homes across the country each year.
Responsible for the lead design was the father and son architect team of Barry and Jeffrey Berkus. (Sadly Barry, an award-winning residential architect who founded the renowned Santa Barbara firm B3 Architects and Berkus Design Studio, died at the outset of the project at age 77. His son, Jeff, of Jeffrey Berkus Architects in Colorado, took over the reins in bringing their combined vision for the 2014 New American Home to fruition.)
According to Jeff Berkus, the concept for this year’s New American Home harkens back to the 1980s, when he and his father were working together on a project in Japan and were struck by how seamlessly Japanese homes accommodate multiple generations under one roof.
“That was 30 years ago, and as we looked ahead we thought there would be a time we would need to do this in the U.S,” Jeffrey Berkus recalls. Sure enough, the timing was finally right. The 2014 New American Home was designed to meet buyers’ evolving needs while spaciously accommodating multiple generations. The 6,700-sq.-ft. Las Vegas-area home was built by Element Building Company in the foothills of Henderson’s Sky Terrace housing development, which includes 44 custom and semi-custom home sites on a terraced mountainside.
“This house was designed to be the only house a family ever needs to own,” says Warren Nesbitt, executive vice president at Hanley Wood (publisher of Builder magazine), which has long collaborated with the National Association of Home Builders on the annual New American Home project. “It is able to transition seamlessly from a successful young couple of professionals, to accommodate their growing family, to boomerang kids, to parents who may require live-in healthcare assistance.”
To maximize the layout, Marc Thee and his team at Winter Park, Fla.-based Marc-Michaels Interior Design Inc. created a series of interiors that illustrate the lifestyle today’s home buyers desire. “The open floor plan creates a seamless indoor-to-outdoor lifestyle that is so appealing, especially in the Las Vegas climate,” Thee says. “We complemented this fluidity of the plan with complementary layers of backgrounds and finishes.”
Beneath the attractive exterior and ultra-functional floor plan, the New American Home is built to the National Green Building Standard’s Emerald level under the guidance of Two Trails Inc., one of the country’s premier green-building consulting firms. Everything from the floor plan to the fixtures works together to be as efficient as possible. And when it came to the landscape architecture, the responsibility fell to Knäak Design Group LLC, which has offices in Texas, Florida, and China. The firm specializes in designing master-planned resorts and communities, parks and open spaces, and private residences.
All in the Family
The inclusion of a master bedroom/owners’ suite on both levels of the house, allows for convenient one-floor living quarters for two sets of residents. In addition, a detached carriage suite has a separate and private entrance for either boomerang children who have come back to the family nest or for live-in caregivers. Those staying in the carriage house can access the interior of the house without going outside thanks to a handy elevator.
Multiple Cooks Welcome
In the kitchen, the inclusion of two islands is both a nod to consumers’ ongoing demand for the must-have kitchen feature and a response to the growing popularity of distance-learning programs, which allow students to attend class from the kitchen counter. “We used to go study in a corner, and it was thought that you had to have quiet and isolation. That is absolutely not the case anymore,” Berkus says. “It’s changing homes.”
Go With the Flow
The late Barry Berkus was known for making the most of every inch of space, and the 2014 New American Home is no exception. Its open plan employs walls of telescoping glass doors to blend interior living spaces with the richly appointed outdoor areas.
Both the elder and younger Berkus believe in designing houses that have a natural flow. Jeff Berkus has explained that he and his father envisioned the center of the home (on both floors) to be the hub of activity, with more private living areas branching off of that core central space.
Low Ceilings = More Intimacy
The father and son architects eschew the large soaring 20-foot ceilings that have been popular in the not-too-distant past. In an interview about the design philosophy of The New American Home, Jeff Berkus said the kitchen, dining, and family areas were situated under a lower than typical ceiling.
“We had found that in houses where the family room is directly on top of or next to the kitchen, that there is a lot of tension created between the generations and the noise generated between the two becomes distracting,” Berkus explained. Adding a second island helps create more distance and acts as a buffer between those busy areas while still maintaining the open floor plan and allowing family members to remain in sight of one another.
This not to say that there are only low ceilings in the New American Home. The design plan offers a mix of high and low ceilings; it’s just that their use is strategic.
Every Room Is a Home Office
When home offices first became popular, they were separate rooms that often were outfitted with a large desk with a computer, fax machine, and phone system. With the evolution of technology, most of those accoutrements are now portable. Taking this into consideration, the New American Home boasts plenty of casual sitting areas where residents can curl up with their tablet, e-reader, laptop, or smart phone.
Tops in Technology
The New American Home demonstrates the capabilities of an integrated home automation system that includes audio, video, home theater, security, lighting, climate, and shades on a single platform. On display was the Vantage Automation mobile app that allows homeowners to monitor, manage, and control various systems remotely – including the security system and surveillance cameras – from one fully customizable interface on their laptop, tablet, or smart phone. Mobile control also makes it easy for the real estate agent and the builder to demonstrate the technology, whether they are walking through the home or meeting with a potential buyer off-site.
This year’s New American Home is expected to achieve Emerald status under the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS). The standard was developed by NAHB and the International Code Council and is approved by ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. Emerald is the highest of the four levels of green building achievement that the standard recognizes.
The New American Home’s eco-friendly building features include photovoltaic panels and closed spray-foam insulation that also reduces sound transmission through plumbing walls. It also includes a weather-sensitive irrigation system that automatically adjusts usage relative to the immediate climate, tankless water heaters, hydronic air handlers, intelligent fireplaces, and sustainable building materials.