Green Technology
NextGen Home Blends Digital and Green
National Demonstration Home offers high-tech solar, HD systems.
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January 29, 2009 by Steven Castle

One of the most popular spots to be at the recent CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and IBS (International Builders’ Show) in Las Vegas wasn’t on the show floors, but located in a residential neighborhood about 5 miles away.

That was the site of the NextGen National Demonstration Home, built to showcase the latest in digital and green home technologies. The five-bedroom, six-bath, 5,200-square-foot home was built in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to reach a level of energy efficiency 51 percent greater than today’s standard home.

There are all kinds of high-tech goodies in the house, including a Crestron home control system, Artison speakers, a booming home theater, Seura mirror TVs, biometric eKey USA fingerprint access,  and streaming of high-def HDGiants movie content. All pretty cool. But I was there to see a green home.

Perhaps the coolest green feature is a flexible 3.8-kilowatt solar roofing system from Uni-Solar. It’s a peel-and-stick laminate that sticks to the roof. NextGen Home organizer Paul Barnett says it provides enough electricity to power the home’s HVAC system, run by a 5-zone Carrier Hybrid Heat system that runs on both gas and electricity and has a heat pump. A heat pump works as an air conditioner in hot weather and reverses the process to heat the home when cold weather arrives. Rather than burning fuel to generate heat, the heat pump moves heat without a flame, making it a more efficient method of heating a home.

The green and energy efficiency features really start with the construction. The home is made from insulated concrete forms by Nudura that eliminate drafts and offer twice the efficiency of traditional stick frame homes, as well as low-E glass windows. There’s also an EWS (Environmental Water Systems) water filtration system that uses no water softeners to process and purify the water, and a Hide-A-Hose central vacuum system that retracts the hose into a wall.

Other cool green touches include Eco-Domo’s leather floor tile insets that are recycled from leather seats in BMW automobiles and recycled glass Vetrazzo counters.

CFL and halogen lights are controlled by the Crestron system, but there were no LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights. And an energy monitoring system available on all the Crestron touchpanels would have been a very green topper. But Barnett says the organizers and builder ran out of time.

Barnett says the green features of the home ranked high at both shows. “Most people lump energy efficiency and green together, but we break it up because there are two different stories to tell. People talk but don’t walk ‘green,’ though they will pay for energy efficiency. With energy efficiency, there is a track record of people seeing that and taking action.”

Barnett will next work on a line of homes branded NextGen, and he says they’ll be “very green.”

Click here to view photos of NextGen Home.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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