The New American Home

Midcentury modern roots and the latest in energy efficiency make this the New American Home for 2012.

New American Home

2012 New American Home, Winter Park, FL. Photo: James F. Wilson/courtesy BUILDER Magazine

Take the classic white box architecture popularized by Richard Meier and others in the 1960s and 70s and add the latest in building technology, design trends and energy features, and you have the New American Home—the centerpiece of this year’s International Builders’ Show, which took place in Orlando, FL, in February.

The New American Home, an annual co-sponsored project from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Builder magazine, is designed to educate and inform building professionals of new innovations in construction, materials and products. As the name implies, it is a model home of considerable note.

This year’s house, designed by Florida architect Phil Kean of Phil Kean Designs, Inc., occupies an urban infill lot in an older neighborhood in Winter Park. While ranking as the smallest-ever New American Home, this year’s entry, at 4,183 square feet, exemplifies the modern aesthetic by which it is inspired—a blend of functional and transitional spaces combining to create a living environment that is casual, low-maintenance and perfectly suited to its climate. “I wanted this house to honor the past,” notes architect Kean, “but take full advantage of current technologies and design trends.”

Outside, the house features a white stucco façade accentuated by Osceaola Prairie Stone—long, linear panel stones designed specifically for this project—which adds a subtle rock-faced texture to the exterior and unites the home with its surroundings. The cantilevered roof, floor-to-ceiling windows, and cube-like design play up the home’s modernist roots.

Inside is another hallmark of modern architecture: an open plan. In this house, the airy layout includes expansive glass areas, stone veneer walls, a suspended staircase and limestone plank flooring. The kitchen-family room, adjacent to the dining room and gallery on the first floor, form an L-shape footprint that not only makes full use of the narrow urban lot, but also helps define the enclosed backyard space. Moveable glass panel walls and motorized screens provide seamless transitions from indoors to out, where a deck, swimming pool, and outdoor kitchen provide the ultimate in resort-style living.

The kitchen, which anchors the main living areas of the house, is highly stylized and dramatically distinguished by its dark, “near-noir” Maple Espresso-colored cabinetry (from Timberlake), as well as by the center island of DuPont Zodiac Quartz solid surfacing. Jenn-Air appliances outfit the kitchen with the latest in technology and Energy Star-efficiency, including an induction cooktop, built-in refrigerator and convection oven featuring the industry’s first “touch anywhere” LED screen controls.

The second-floor master bedroom suite includes a luxurious marble bath with fixtures and accessories by Kohler, among them the Numi toilet, Revee bubble/massage bath and Waterlite shower, complete with sound panels, integrated spray heads and steam generator. The room extends to a generous closet area configured with Closet Factory doors and storage, and a concealed laundry room. Balconies on the second floor extend the interior space and provide shade below.

As one would expect, green technology is factored into every aspect of the 2012 New American Home’s design and construction, from its Logix ICF (insulated concrete form) exterior walls and open-cell spray foam insulation to an ultraviolet light air-treatment system designed to improve indoor air quality. With 4KW photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, low-e aluminum windows and patio doors, Energy Star-rated appliances, LED/CFL lighting in the home and around the property and air-tight thermal shell, the house is expected to consume 52% less energy than a standard home—or provide $1,536 in annual savings to the homeowner. The house exceeds U.S. Energy Star standards, meets LEED Platinum certification and has been recognized by the National Green Building Standard with “Emerald” certification—the highest level of classification.

In keeping with the eco-friendly features of the house, the exterior landscaping utilizes artificial turf for lawn areas—reducing the need for water, maintenance and pesticides—and features only native Florida plants.