“Green design must be beautiful and functional in the buyer’s eyes,” says the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) in New York City. “This house exhibits my passion for sustainable living.”
So while the eventual buyer of this house—likely a young family moving up—will certainly benefit from right-sized cooling equipment, a tightly built shell, and controlled fresh-air ventilation, they are more likely to appreciate instant hot water at the kitchen and bathroom taps, gas cooking and two fireplaces, long-lasting light bulbs, and an electric vehicle charger.
Meanwhile, an Internet-based monitoring system on a PC in the kitchen tells the owners in real time how much electricity, water, and propane they’re using, ideally inspiring them to adjust their behavior to reduce that use and optimize all that KB Home put into the house.
From the start, the design-build team insisted that each product and system perform at least double-duty, and often more than that, to justify its value and contribution to the home’s overall performance; specs also had to adhere to the design aesthetic and align with the eventual sales price, which KB Home pegged at $380,000.
The flat concrete tiles, for example, are Cool Roof rated to reflect the sun’s heat and are ventilated from underneath to help reduce the home’s cooling load. They also integrate nicely with a tile-like solar array and deliver a distinct and attractive contrast to the more typical red-barrel tile roofs of suburban Central Florida.
The landscape, meanwhile, is a mix of native, drought-tolerant plants and scant turf areas underpinned by a bioswale, the use of municipal and on-site greywater irrigation sources, and an automated, low-flow watering scheme. “When people come up to the house, we want their first impression to be that the garden looks beautiful,” says Stephen Orr, MSLO’s editorial director for gardening. “But the more they look and learn, they find these layers of technology that make it eco-friendly and water-wise.”
Like the landscape, the home’s envelope is layered in technology and products that result in a comfortable and efficient living environment. The concrete block walls are sandwiched by foil-faced foam insulation panels on the inside and a weatherization barrier behind the exterior cladding. The attic and roof gables, meanwhile, are insulated with an open-cell spray foam that both air-seals and provides thermal resistance, resulting in a space that is about 7 degrees warmer than the conditioned space below, even on the hottest and most humid days, to mitigate condensation, reduce duct leakage, and effectively house the mechanical equipment.
The list goes on to include fabric window treatments designed to provide an extra measure of thermal resistance; a dehumidifying, waste heat–transferring, whole-house ventilator; and fiber-cement siding and trim with a factory-applied finish—all of which is off-the-shelf (and often third-party-certified) technology.
Even the floor plan multitasks. A new take on KB Home’s popular Open Series, the three-bedroom, two-bath footprint features flexible-use spaces that accommodate the lifestyle needs of the owners now and in the future. The den, for instance, could easily serve as a media room or kids’ play area; it’s actually listed on the LEED for Homes application as a fourth bedroom to mitigate the rating system’s square-footage penalty.