FAIRFAX, Va. — Automakers do it all the time.
BMW is known for its concept cars, the “future on four wheels” designs that get car lovers drooling over the possibilities.
But concept homes? Not something you see every day.
That’s what makes Brookfield Residential’s new PureBlue concept home so intriguing. Like BMW’s creations, The PureBlue Home at Avendale in Northern Virginia is not for sale. Rather, it’s an experiment aimed at re-imagining the future of a multi-billion-dollar industry, building better homes for the average family.
“We’re trying to create the next generation of homes and PureBlue is an effort to try to push us there,” said Robert Hubbell, president of Brookfield Residential’s Washington, D.C., division. “We challenged ourselves to come up with a new design that also is energy efficient, so that we can talk about a program where housing can sustain itself.”
THE TEST LAB
Brookfield Residential is no small custom niche builder.
It has more than 50 years of experience and builds homes and communities in 11 major North American markets. Its Washington, D.C., division builds in more than a dozen communities in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. They offer everything from townhomes to luxury estate homes.
To bring The PureBlue Home initiative to fruition, Hubbell scoured his staff and assembled a diverse, ambitious, forward-thinking team. He gave them the freedom to take chances and risk failure on the path to innovation.
From the solar panels on the roof to the recycled fly ash cement foundation, everything was considered as Brookfield Residential sought out ways to make the home efficient, healthy and aesthetically beautiful.
“The PureBlue Home is more than a model home. It’s a test lab,” said Mark Gregas, director of information technology. “Having a real home where you can implement that technology is critical because then we can say as a homebuilder that we know this technology works. We know this technology adds value for our customer. That’s something we want to provide.”
SCORING A VICTORY
Marc Dalessio did a double take when the first score came in. The goal was a “net zero” home, and all along Dalessio, the production manager, suspected they’d be close. They’d put an incredible effort into seeking out and incorporating a wide range of energy-efficient features, as well as new building materials and construction methods.
The Home Energy Rating Index evaluation would tell them if they’d succeeded. A standard home built five years ago scores a 103 on the HERS scale. A score of 0 means the home is generating all the energy that it requires. PureBlue is expected to be even better than that.
“When I saw that we’d received a minus-1 HERS score, that was just an awesome moment,” he said. “This is an ongoing experiment, but it gives us confidence that we can provide an extraordinary level of efficiency without asking homebuyers to alter their lifestyles. We’re actually making their lives easier and more comfortable, while adding significant energy savings.”
Brookfield Residential won’t be offering The PureBlue Home to the everyday buyer. That was never the intention. Instead, they’ll use the lessons learned from the project to expand their portfolio of features, providing additional options that can make all of their homes significantly more efficient.
EFFICIENT, SUSTAINABLE AND BEAUTIFUL
Among Dalessio’s favorite features are the structural insulated panels used for the exterior walls. SIPs, which replace typical stud wall construction, include an insulating foam core sandwiched between two layers of structural board. They’re easy to install, airtight and should create 12 to 14 percent energy savings.
The PureBlue Home also includes solar roof panels, a hybrid hot water heater and a high-efficiency HVAC system for added energy savings. The greywater system minimizes flooding, erosion and runoff, while reducing water usage. And the landscaping uses native, low-water plants that are easily maintained with a drip irrigation system.
“What makes this project unique is that the house itself is not just a standalone building,” said Dustin Dorph, the land development coordinator. “It’s actually an entire system that works with the climate, works with the interior of the building and all the different systems we have in place. It’s all integrated, and the end result is a much better home.”
Brookfield Residential even created the home’s interior design with sustainability in mind. The kitchen bartop was repurposed from a black walnut tree removed during community development. The team enlisted furniture artist Vicco Von Voss to turn it into a masterpiece.
“We really went above and beyond trying to look for new things,” Marketing Manager Erin Smith said. “You can walk through this home and everything truly has a story to tell.”
BUILDING SOMETHING BETTER
The PureBlue Home is ultimately designed to shape Brookfield Residential’s story. Part of the company’s core mission is to always innovate, whether within the homes they build or the communities they create.
Hubbell believes this experiment will pay dividends sooner rather than later. The PureBlue Home opened to the public in March. After a successful Grand Opening at Avendale, it’s seen a steady stream of visitors touring the home, stopping in every room to learn how each unique feature contributes something special to the project.
“If you go back to the automobile analogy, you’ll see concept cars that manufacturers build and what they learn from those concept cars goes into their new designs to make their cars more attractive, more efficient,” Hubbell said. “The same is true for us. Anyone who walks into this home sees something that catches their eye or captures their imagination. When they leave, they know that Brookfield Residential is an innovator and a Brookfield home can make their lives better.”