Sustainability features of the International Builders Show 2015 New American Showcase Home


Las Vegas, NV – The NAHB 2015 International Builders Show held in Las Vegas, NV at the Las Vegas Convention Center is the culmination of building industry professionals meeting on new initiatives, learning about best practices and the latest products showcased by industry manufactures. This years New American Home is the first semi-production showcase home to be sustainable and Net-Zero. Two Trails was also chosen for a fifth year in a row to be the Sustainability Building Consultants and verifiers for The NAHB 2015 New American Home and has also been chosen to be on The 2016 New American Home project team. The New American Home is one of NAHB’s most successful and visible programs produced and presented by the NAHB Leading Suppliers Council. The design, construction and amenities are market driven, and showcase the latest in innovative products for the future of home building. The show home demonstrates “Builders' Best Practices:" concepts, materials, designs and construction techniques that can be replicated – in whole or in part – in housing built any place and in any price range.  Incorporating such elements as the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, safety and universal design as well as market value is a principal goal of The New American Home program. Its mission is to show that housing performance can be incorporated into the most simple or most complex homes, and that it’s equally as important as aesthetics.

The Homes’ Design/Build Team, Blue Heron, introduced many unique and cutting edge design elements while keeping in mind the importance of incorporating sustainable building techniques. With the advisement of Two Trails the home was able to achieve multiple sustainable building certifications. “ The NAHB Leading Suppliers Council put together a great design/build team and suppliers to build a remarkable home this year!” stated Drew Smith COO of Two Trails Inc.

Energy Efficiency and Innovation

As the NAHB’s official show home, The New American Home is a symbol of energy efficiency and innovation. The home exhibits cutting-edge products from manufacturers all over the world. It is the 1st year in New American Home history that the home has hit Net Zero energy. Since the home is a semi-production home, this home can easily be replicated. Demonstrating that semi-production homes can achieve the same sustainable features and be Net Zero with photovoltaics as custom homes.

TNAH 2015 is designed to exceed the requirements for certification to the Emerald level of the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard™. Its energy-efficient features can be used in homes in a hot-dry climate at any price point with similar energy savings. The home will also be certified Platinum under the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED for Homes program, the EPA Energy Star program as well as the Indoor airPLUS program and Builders Challenge.

Two Trails, Inc. worked closely with NCHI to ensure energy efficiency and innovation in TNAH 2015. This home boasts a HERS Index of -13! It is expected to consume 104% less energy than if it were built to code (2009 IECC). At this level of energy efficiency, the home is designed to provide over $4,700 in annual energy savings to the homeowner.

Key Energy Features

The New American Home achieves a very high level of energy efficiency. The most noteworthy features of TNAH 2015 include the air tightness of its thermal shell and the use of solar energy. Under blower door testing, the thermal shell achieves 4.81 air changes at 50 Pa, an amount that is considered very airtight and keeps unwanted outdoor dry air from en­tering the home. Open-cell spray foam insulation is used on the inside of walls and underside of the roof deck, as well as around any penetrations, to prevent air leakage.


The home uses solar energy to power a portion of its electrical systems, space conditioning and hot water systems. The 15.045KW Photovoltaic (PV) system will provide approximately 83% of the annual energy needs for the home. A synchronized system of (2) Bosch natural gas-fueled tankless water heaters satisfies all of the hot water needs. The home also features both Natural Gas and Electric car charging stations in the Garage.

Systems Engineering Approach

The systems-engineering approach unites segments of the building industry that have previously worked independently of one another.

The concept is simple: systems-engineering can make America’s homes cost effective to build or retrofit and energy efficient to live in. Energy con­sumption of new houses can be reduced by as much as 30% with little or no impact on the cost of construction. Similar performance can be achieved in existing homes.

To reach this goal, the Blue Heron Building team worked with their building partners to produce a home that incorporates energy and material saving strategies from design through construction. First, the team analyzed and selected cost-effective strategies for improving home performance. Next, the team evaluated design, business, and construction practices within individual partnerships to identify cost savings. Cost savings could then be reinvested to improve energy performance and product quality. For example, a design that incorporates new techniques for tightening the building envelope enabled Blue Heron Building to install smaller, less expensive heating and cooling systems. The savings generated in this process can then be reinvested in other high-performance features to further reduce energy use.

The “pilot” or “test” home is the field application of solution design. The team assisted Blue Heron in building TNAH according to strategic design, then tested each system for efficiency and made any necessary changes to increase efficiency and cost effective­ness. Before additional houses are built, these changes are incorporated into the design. This process of analysis, field implementation, reanalysis, and design alteration facilitates ultimate home performance once a design or retrofit strategy is ready for use in production or community-scale housing.

Understanding the interaction between each component in the home is paramount to the systems-engineering approach. Throughout design and construction, the relationship between building site, envelope, mechanical systems, and other factors is carefully considered. Recognizing that features of one component can dramatically affect the performance of others enables the Blue Heron team to engineer energy-saving strategies at little or no extra cost.

Thermal Shell

■Exterior frame walls insulated to R-20 with Bayer open-cell spray foam insulation

■ Unvented and air sealed attic with average R-38 open-cell spray foam insulation on underside of roof deck

■ Sierra Pacific windows and patio doors with low-e coating and argon gas fill to limit solar heat gain (SHGC = 0.17, U-value = 0.39 max) air tightness

■ Openings and penetrations sealed to achieve 4.81 natural air changes under blower door testing at 50 Pa

■ Open-cell spray foam insulation creates airtight attic space

■ Large overhangs to aid in protecting the home from the harsh Nevada sun

■ Energy Star rated roof to aid in keeping the home cool

■ Light colored exterior to assist in reflecting the sun


■ Space conditioning is provided by Trane Variable Speed Comfort Link II 18 SEER Heat Pumps with and mini-split systems.

■ Variable speed compressors in outdoor heat pump units adds efficiency and quietness

■ Ultra-violet light air treatment system improves indoor air quality

■ Mechanical ventilation provided by efficient energy recovery ventilators (ERV)

■ Space conditioning system located entirely within conditioned space

■Ductwork sealed for air tightness to have 0.015 leakage to outdoors

Hot Water

■ Natural gas-fueled Bosch tankless water heaters (EF = 0.95) provides the hot water


■ 100% of all interior and exterior lamps are energy-efficient LED lighting, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs)

■ ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances, including dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, and clothes washer

■ 15.045KW Solar Photovoltaic (PV) system

About Drew Smith | Two Trails, Inc. was founded in 2001, by an innovative builder who set out to change the methodology of conventional building science. Drew realized that the only way to change the industry was to become the resource for the knowledge on how to implement healthy, sustainable projects. He “hung up his hammer” and opened one of the first sustainable building consulting firms in the nation.

By helping to develop standards for the American Lung Association, National Home Builders Association, Florida Green Building Coalition, and USGBC LEED for Homes by either writing the standard or testing the viability of the standard in the field, he was able to provide his firm with a thorough understanding of the science of building sustainable, healthy, environmentally conscious, and affordable solutions for the building industry. He was “green” before “green” was more than a color.

About Two Trails, Inc. | Two Trails, Inc. is a Sustainable Building Consulting firm established in 2001. We provide sustainable consulting services nationwide for commercial, residential, remodeling, and developments looking to obtain LEED USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, Energy Star, & Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) certifications.

Our COO, Drew M. Smith, LEED AP, was the founding President of the Florida Green Building Coalition and is the first Governor appointed Green Building Commissioner for the State of Florida. Two Trails, Inc. provides hands-on consulting making it easy to achieve certification.