2014 Lifestyle Home

The Evolution of the Traditional Family Home.

When people tour the 2014 Lifestyle Home, builder Ryan McNeil thinks it’s going to be the attention to detail and functionality of the home that will make the biggest impression on them.

“This home has a huge walk-in pantry that’s the size of a small bedroom, and people really love their pantries,” says McNeil, President of Stonewater Homes. “We’re actually calling it ‘the Costco room.’”

From the gleaming granite countertops and custom cabinetry to the rich hardwood flooring and the custom-tiled shower in the ensuite, the home is a testament to luxurious materials and quality construction.

“It has a lot of bells and whistles. It’s a loaded house, for sure,” says McNeil. “We’ve been in business now for almost 10 years, and we’ve built hundreds of homes, so the Lifestyle Home is a great opportunity for us to put our work on display.”

McNeil and his crew broke ground on the project a few months back, and the home will be open for public viewings from 1-4 pm on weekends starting May 24. It’s Stonewater Homes’ first time building for the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association’s Lifestyle Home project, which has been running since 2000.

Paul Pettipas, CEO of the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association, says the Stonewater crew has done “extremely well” – despite having to battle serious winter weather during the build.

He says the Lifestyle Home is always an ideal opportunity to show homeowners some leading-edge developments within the industry – and that getting out and “kicking the tires” of a home like this a good idea for people interested in building or renovating.

“With model homes like this, it’s really good for consumers to be able to see them, and touch them,” says Pettipas. “It’s one thing to see a picture or read a description, but when you get to see it in action, it makes quite a difference.”

Sherry Donovan, Communications Director for the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association, says the Lifestyle Home has always served as a great way for people to learn about some of the latest technologies and industry trends.

Each year’s home has a different theme to show off different aspects of the industry, and this year’s theme is “The Evolution of the Traditional Family Home.”

“Because the traditional family looks so different for everyone, we’ve incorporated features that will appeal to a wider audience,” says Donovan. “There are features to help homeowners age in place, as well as the ability to move teenagers down into basement bedrooms, or create home for your aging parents.”

“There’s just so much adaptability.”

Many Nova Scotians are moving towards building retirement homes that will allow them to live comfortably in their own home as they age. In order to accommodate aging in place, the Lifestyle Home has been designed so people using a walker or wheelchair can easily navigate it – and access everything they need.

“There are wider doorways to get into the house and move throughout the house, as well as a custom shower in the ensuite, and light switches that can easily be reached from a lower vantage point,” says Donovan. “The kitchen has also been designed so anyone can easily move about it effectively and with ease.”

The layout of the home has been carefully designed to allow for numerous scenarios. The walk-out basement has a spacious games room or family room, and it’s already roughed-in for a wet bar if the family’s needs change down the line.

It’s a home design McNeil’s crew has built before, only they’ve made some modifications and added many upgrades.

McNeil says he’s received a lot of positive feedback on the home’s design and layout, and he seems to have found the sweet spot for sizing.

“It’s a very family-functional size – large enough for any family, but not so large that it’s difficult to maintain,” says McNeil.

The home’s spacious, open-concept layout was an obvious choice for McNeil, who says a traditionally divided home is just not something most people want these days.

“I can count on one hand how many homes we’ve built in the last five years that haven’t been open-concept,” says McNeil. “That’s just the way everything is going. Everyone likes an open-concept, inviting space on the main floor for family living.”

“There are bedrooms on both floors, so if someone needs or wants a quiet space, there are plenty of rooms for privacy.”

The TechReady home is wired with whole-home automation for controlling lights, thermostats, and other utilities from home or while away using a mobile app. It also has a multi-room audio system, and an alarm system throughout the entire home.

“This allows you to advance the technology within the home at your own pace – you can do as much or as little as you want,” says Donovan.

How we live in our homes is changing, and McNeil says the 2014 Lifestyle Home reflects the many ways of spending time there. Technology is allowing us to keep tabs on our homes whether we’re at work, out of town, or on the other side of the world.

“Home automation is huge. Even the way children come home from school has changed,” says McNeil. “They used to put a key in the lock to let themselves in, and now they can unlock the door using a keypad – and parents will automatically get a text that their children are safely home from school, so they know when they’re coming and going.”

“The sky’s the limit now, when it comes to technological upgrades.”

But the technology doesn’t end at speakers, security systems, and keypads. The EnergyStar-rated house was built with optimal energy efficiency in mind, and features top-of-the-line EnergyStar appliances, low-flow plumbing, and a drainwater heat recovery system.

“A house can’t be affordable if it’s not energy-efficient,” says Donovan. “If you don’t look at how energy-efficient a home is, you’re not looking at the long-term viability.”

Many homeowners are curious about the differences between LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs and CFL (compact fluorescent lights) bulbs, so the Lifestyle Home includes both types of lighting to demonstrate the different colours and temperatures.

Both types of lighting are significantly more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. CFL bulbs use 1/5 to 1/3 of the electricity of an incandescent bulb, and can last up to 8,000 hours – compared to 1,200 hours with an incandescent bulb. LED bulbs are more expensive, but they are far more durable, use far less energy and last up to 50,000 hours.

With its R-32 exterior walls, rigid foam insulation, and zero thermal bridging, the home is going to be snug and warm next winter – as well as quiet. The home also features a high-efficiency air-to-air heat pump system, which is one of the most economical solutions for many homes – especially in Nova Scotia’s climate – because it can be used to supplement even fossil fuel systems.

Solar heating is steadily growing in popularity, as homeowners realize the savings to be had, both in energy and in dollars, as well as big rebates from the government. McNeil says the home is roughed in for solar, in case the future owners decide to pursue it as an energy source down the road.

“A lot of folks don’t necessarily realize that there are other ways to be efficient with energy use, and part of that is just energy management,” says McNeil. “It’s not just the type of equipment you have – it’s managing that equipment correctly. We can now automate and monitor our homes to better manage energy usage. For example, if you forget to turn the hot water tank off before you leave on vacation, it can be programmed to turn off if it’s not used for two days.”

“There are so many little ways to reduce energy costs.”

While the interior of the house is sure to impress, the exterior has its own striking beauty. Located at 193 Sawgrass Drive in the family community of Oakfield Woods, the Lifestyle Home sits on a lush, well-treed homesite. All of the homes in the neighbourhood sit on 1-2 acre estate lots, which means everyone has plenty of peace and privacy.

Oakfield Woods is HRM’s first hybrid open-space development, balancing spacious homesites with the preservation of natural habitat. Only 20 per cent of the trees in the area are allowed to be cleared, which gives homeowners the feeling of being nestled in the woods.

The 2014 Lifestyle Home will be open to the public for 4-6 weeks, beginning on Sunday, May 24. It will be included as part of the 2014 Energy Efficiency Showcase of Homes, running across the province on weekends, May 24 – June 8 (read more about the showcase of homes starting on page 15, or see the Lifestyle Home listing on page 27).

Once the tours have wrapped up at the home, it will be available for purchase.

“We’ve had a few sneak peeks, and it just has so many features that will appeal to a wide audience. It has a lot of depth,” says Donovan. “It will appeal to those with a smaller family, those with a growing family, those planning for retirement – there’s really something for everyone.”

She says spring is the perfect time to tour a home like this, because you can see industry trends first-hand.

“People are always interested in seeing the latest advances in construction,” says Donovan. “You can tour the house, ask questions, and learn about what makes it different.”

“It’s a good place to be inspired.”


Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist whose work regularly appears in many Atlantic Canadian newspapers and magazines, including The Chronicle Herald, Metro, Hub Now, Business Voice, Dugger's, Progress, East Coast Living, Bedford Magazine, and Southender Magazine. She also has several corporate clients.