Production Platinum Homes

Las Vegas, NV

May 5 2009 By Rob Wotzak | 1 comments

General Specs and Team

Location: Las Vegas, NV
Bedrooms: 3

Living space: 1,487—1,960 sq.ft.
Completed: 2008
These are the first four of 185 planned LEED Platinum homes.

Builder/designer: Pulte Homes


Foundation: post-tensioned slabs; uninsulated
Floors: open-web trusses
Walls: 2x4 studs at 24-in. o.c.; blown-in cellulose (R-13)
Windows: low-e (U-factor = 0.36, SHGC = 0.31)
Roof: trusses at 24-in. o.c.; blown-in cellulose (R-22)


Heating/cooling: 15.0 SEER air conditioner (York)
Water heating: gas instant water heater, 0.87 EF (Rinnai)
HERS index: 44
Annual energy use: To come

Photovoltaic: roof-integrated tiles (1.76kW, SunPower SunTile)

  • In-home energy and water monitoring system (ecoConcierge)
  • Energy Star appliances and fan
  • CFL lighting
  • Sealed ducts, insulated attic

Water Efficiency

  • Dual-flush toilets
  • Low-flow faucets
  • Drought-tolerant landscaping

Indoor Air Quality

  • Pressure-balancing ducts in bedrooms
  • Low-VOC finishes and adhesives

Green Materials and Resource Efficiency

  • Cellulose insulation
  • Advanced framing
  • Precut framing packages


LEED for Homes: platinum
Energy Star rating: 5+ stars
Environments For Living: certified

Four Model Homes Plot the Future Production of 185 Green Homes in the Southwest

Villa Trieste is Pulte Homes' response to a number of things—an overtaxed regional infrastructure; a challenging real estate market; and consumer demand for more durable and energy-efficient homes. For years, Pulte has complied with Environments For Living(EFL). A green building program that focuses on building science to improve home energy efficiency and comfort. EFL is administered by Masco Contractor Services. (EFL), a voluntary green-building program established by Masco Corporation, a for-profit construction conglomerate. But now Pulte is aiming for LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. certification for the 185 homes in this community, both to set the bar higher and to get the word out that it means business when it comes to sustainable construction. So far, Pulte has built four model homes.

Creating and studying energy
Pulte isn't alone on this project—a partnership with The UNLV Center for Energy Research and the utility company, NV Energy, brought in approximately $7 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to build and study homes that use 50% to 65% less energy than typical homes in the area. The money defrays some of the cost of roof-integrated photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) arrays, and it pays for energy-monitoring systems that will help researchers and homeowners better understand how to reduce energy use.

Built-in integrated designBuilding design in which different components of design, such as the building envelope, window placement and glazings, and mechanical systems are considered together. High-performance buildings and renovations can be created cost-effectively using integrated design, since higher costs one place can often be paid for through savings elsewhere, for example by improving the performance of the building envelope, the heating and cooling systems can be downsized, or even eliminated.
With the scale of Pulte's construction projects, it makes sense that most of the project management is done in-house. Having coordinators, engineers, and other key team members on staff streamlines the integrated-design process so crucial to green home building. The initial goal for the Villa Trieste community was LEED Silver, but the team quickly realized that many standard details, such as airtight ductwork, well-sealed building envelopes, and energy-efficient mechanicals already met LEED requirements, so it upped the goal to Platinum certification.

Most of the people building the homes are company employees, too. That, along with premeasured materials packages, enable efficient communication and production, resulting in less waste on job sites.

Top priorities
Though Pulte took a whole-system approach in designing the homes, energy and water conservation take precedence in the Nevada desert. Cellulose insulationThermal insulation made from recycled newspaper or other wastepaper; often treated with borates for fire and insect protection. at the roof plane instead of the ceiling keeps attics cooler and puts less load on air-conditioning systems. Lighting and appliances are all Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. rated. Because it meets EFL standards, Pulte guarantees energy costs and comfort for all of its homes.

The drought-tolerant plants in each yard are a responsible, low-maintenance choice for the hot, dry climate. When it does rain, water sensors keep the automated irrigation systems from wasting water, and permeable landscape surfaces absorb most surface runoff.

Setting a standard
Based on the feedback on Villa Trieste, and because it makes economic sense to standardize construction methods, the success of this project could change the way Pulte builds all of its homes.

Lessons Learned

Balancing sustainable strategies and cost is a big stumbling block for any builder these days. This issue is tough enough when your design team is writing specs for one neighborhood—imagine what it's like setting standards for multiple neighborhoods in multiple states. This was the impetus for adopting a theme of simplicity in Pulte's designs. The resulting efficiency would pay off for any builder, but it's especially valuable when you have many different crews building similar homes.

Getting the word out
Although educating consumers might be easier with the growing knowledge base for green home building, it's still a challenge to actually show potential buyers more than bamboo flooring, Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. labels, and CFLCompact fluorescent lamp. Fluorescent lightbulb in which the tube is folded or twisted into a spiral to concentrate the light output. CFLs are typically three to four times as efficient as incandescent lightbulbs, and last eight to ten times as long. CFLs combine the efficiency of fluorescent light with the convenience of an Edison or screw-in base, and new types have been developed that better mimic the light quality of incandescents. Not all CFLs can be dimmed, and frequent on-off cycling can shorten their life. Concerns have been raised over the mercury content of CFLs, and though they have been deemed safe, proper recycling and disposal is encouraged. lighting. Pulte addresses this challenge with a Quality Construction Room in each of its model homes. Here, thermometers verify the cool attic temperatures, interactive displays let you see and feel how low-eLow-emissivity coating. Very thin metallic coating on glass or plastic window glazing that permits most of the sun’s short-wave (light) radiation to enter, while blocking up to 90% of the long-wave (heat) radiation. Low-e coatings boost a window’s R-value and reduce its U-factor. windows work, and transparent panels reveal the normally hidden insulation, framing, and ductwork.

Further Resources

Watch a video tour of Pulte's Quality Construction Room.
More about Pulte Homes Las Vegas: "Efficiency in the Desert"

—Rob Wotzak is associate editor at

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Image Credits:

  1. Dan Morrison
  2. Pulte Homes
  3. Rob Wotzak

Nov 23, 2009 12:03 AM ET

Orlando Real Estate
by Doug Lasley

Kudos to Pulte for actively pursuing new methods of integrating green technology into their construction methods. I am specifically impressed by the attention to detail that the consumer might never notice. Many builders trying to cash in on the eco-craze focus only on those features of a home which they can physically point out to buyers as examples of their eco-consciousness. Only when we go below the surface and make conservation a part of every step of the build (which it sounds as though Pulte has) will true benefits take place.
Doug - Orlando Real Estate

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