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Green Homes

Production Platinum Homes

Windows working well. Because of the scale and layout of the Villa Trieste community, solar orientation wasn't specifically addressed when designing the homes. Still, the simple open plans let in plenty of light. They also make what might be considered a modest size home feel very spacious.
Image Credit: Dan Morrison
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Saving space and water. The Villa Trieste homes are set relatively close to the street, keeping yards small and the community on a walkable scale. Much of the landscape is covered with drought-tolerant plants or permeable paving.
Image Credit: Pulte Homes
Low-profile PV. Each home has a 1.76kW array of photovoltaic roof tiles. Though the tiles are darker in color, their low profile, the flat terrain, and the shallow-pitch roofs make them virtually invisible from the ground.
Image Credit: Pulte Homes
Living outside the box. Trees, roof overhangs, and garden walls define each home's patio, creating an inviting outdoor space.
Image Credit: Pulte Homes
Seeing is believing. This "Quality Construction Room," found in all Pulte model homes, lets buyers see and feel what they're getting in terms of energy efficiency and durability. Insulated ducts and roofs should add up to increased comfort, but the thermometers are the proof.
Image Credit: Pulte Homes
Simple details done well. Good choices like insulating the roof plane and carefully locating interior ducts have a lot to do with the efficiency of these LEED Platinum homes. 1.76 kW PV systems help take some pressure off of the maxed out Las Vegas power grid.
Image Credit: Rob Wotzak
Accepting offers. The first four homes in Villa Trieste are models for the potentially 181 others to come. Once homes are occupied, The UNLV Center for Energy Research and NV Energy will both be collecting detailed energy use data.

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 voluntary green-building program established by Masco Corporation, a for-profit construction conglomerate. But now Pulte is aiming for LEED 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) arrays, and it pays for energy-monitoring systems that will help researchers and homeowners better understand how to reduce energy use.

Built-in integrated design

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 insulation 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 Star 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 Star labels, and CFL 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-e 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"

General Specs and Team

Location: Las Vegas, NV
Bedrooms: 3
Additional Notes: 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

Construction

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)

Energy

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

Energy Specs

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

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

Alternate Energy Utilization

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

Certification

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

One Comment

  1. Doug Lasley | | #1

    Orlando Real Estate
    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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