Going green in style; Homes combine beauty, efficiency

ORLANDO, Fla. - For 25 years, the National Association of Home Builders has built The New American Home to demonstrate the latest in building materials, construction techniques and design.

Among the goals of building the home is to give builders an example for producing more energy-efficient and durable homes without sacrificing style, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

The home is co-sponsored by the national council of the housing industry and Builder Magazine. It is a showcase home for the International Builders Show, held recently in Orlando, as well as a house that is for sale.

Most of the features and innovations in the home are available to builders and consumers in most areas.

The 2007 New American Home is in Orlando's Lake Eola historic district and is within walking distance of downtown Orlando. It is surrounded by upscale contemporary lofts, condominiums and social and cultural activities.

The three-story urban loft home is a modern interpretation of bungalow architecture. The infill lot on which the home is built was chosen to demonstrate how builders can revitalize an older neighborhood.

The Lake Eola neighborhood was developed between 1905 and 1925 and includes Craftsman, Mediterranean revival, Colonial revival and frame homes.

The home offers the latest in universal design, energy efficiency and technology, including low-voltage systems such as home-run structured wiring, whole-house lighting control, entertainment and security.

The home was designed by Bloodgood Sharp Buster Architects & Planners of Des Moines, Iowa, with the interior designed by Robb and Stuckey Interiors of Altamonte Springs, Fla. It was built by Carmen Dominguez of Orlando.

Beside the 4,707-square-foot of living space in the main house, there is a 576-square-foot suite above the detached two-car garage, a roof plaza, courtyard and swimming pool.

A major theme of the International Builders Show was "green" building, or building environmentally friendly homes. That theme is demonstrated with the building of the New American Home, which was certified "green" by the Florida Green Building Coalition.

Among the reasons for the certification are the home's photovoltaic system, which is a way of generating power through solar collectors; impact-resistant windows; a generator and a cistern which collects rainwater for irrigation.

Builder Carmen Dominguez said the home presents the best of both worlds by offering luxury living in the convenience of a downtown setting.

The home is also Energy Star rated. It is heated and air-conditioned using three high-performance HVAC systems. The shallow basement, first floor and second floor are served by two heat pumps with 17.8 SEER performances. The third floor is served by a 15 SEER gas and electric unit, according to the Department of Energy.

A solar thermal water system preheats incoming water for tankless water heaters fueled by natural gas.

The photovoltaic system lightens the electric energy load by 9 kilowatt hours per day on average, the Department of Energy reported.

The New American Home was built with pre-cast, insulated concrete sandwich walls with a thermal performance equivalent to R-26 wood-framed walls, according to the Department of Energy. It is built on a solid foundation of pre-cast concrete walls with R-5 exterior insulation.

Other features include windows and sliding doors made of impact-resistant glass with a low-emissivity coating to limit solar heat gain and provide storm protection. Windows on the south- and west-facing sides are covered with overhangs that include a layer of vegetation.

Fluorescent lighting and lower wattage incandescent lamps save electricity and provide cooler indoor conditions, the Energy Department said.

The house was framed with steel framing for faster installation into concrete exteriors, floors and ceilings. The concrete walls provide a more air-tight home, the Energy Department reported.

Overall, tests of the home's systems show it uses approximately 73 percent less energy for heating and cooling and 54 percent less energy for hot water, compared to a similar home.

Aesthetically, the house is a blend of elements from Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, built in Pennsylvania in the late 1930s, and contemporary interior design.

The sleek third-floor kitchen features stainless-steel appliances, a large work island with seating and a mix of cabinetry including frosted-glass doors and dark wood doors with long stainless-steel handles.

The adjacent open space is configured to serve as a dining room or family room by furniture placement. The adaptable space can be changed as easily as moving the furniture.

Glass French doors lead to a roof plaza shaded by a deep overhang, topped by a green roof system that includes drought-tolerant plants. It is among the first operational residential green roofs in Central Florida, the National Council of the Housing Industry said.

The three-story house includes universal design meant to make the home comfortable for anyone, regardless of mobility or other disabilities. One element that makes the home more accessible is an elevator that serves all floors.

Beverly Bryant: .

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