Transforming the traditional home into an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient structure requires vision, creativity and innovative thinking. Home builders are taking steps to show they are up to the task.

Like a futuristic concept car at an auto convention, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) unveiled the 2009 edition of its New American Home at the NAHB’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas in January. The home features a blend of cutting-edge energy efficiency and contemporary design. NAHB promotes it as a real-world demonstration of the latest concepts in architecture, construction techniques, new products and lifestyle trends.

According to NAHB, the New American Home was sited to optimize solar resources and incorporates landscape design that helps limit water and energy demand. The development avoided environmentally sensitive areas. Soil erosion and disturbance was kept to a minimum with stormwater pollution-prevention plans and continued on-site monitoring and implementation of best management practices.

To minimize the quantity of materials and reduce waste, the builder employed advanced framing techniques, including premanufactured trusses and floor systems, and used building materials that don’t require additional on-site finish resources. Manufacturers and suppliers were selected that could provide recycled building materials or new materials manufactured from renewable resources or those that required fewer resources to produce than traditional products. During construction, a recycling and waste management program included on-site bins for collecting and sorting materials to be recycled off-site.

Perhaps most importantly, the New American Home benefits from a comprehensive design approach to achieve extraordinary energy efficiency. Insulated concrete forms, which have insulating properties with R values up to 50, predominately were used for the basement and structural walls. A proprietary gas-powered heating and cooling system with a seasonal energy-efficiency ratio rating of 18 combined with other energy-efficient features, such as low-E windows, advanced insulation, vertical and horizontal solar overhangs and window louvers, enabled the home to achieve a Five Star-Plus Home Energy Rating System score of 57. This is before factoring the installation of a 12,000 kHz solar panel system, which could allow the home to achieve a net-zero level of electrical consumption.