09 Feb Tucson Business Trip 2015
Looking for fresh ideas in high end finishes and green water technology, Artifex recently went on a fact-finding journey to Tucson, Arizona, guided by Martha Staten, a high-energy, high end realtor with Long Realty.
Because of the dry desert climate, Tucson builders need to pay particular attention to water saving practices and protection from the intense heat. Accordingly, Artifex first visited the Vision House in the charming Armory Park del Sol neighborhood of Tucson. Listed for $888,000, the 2500 sq. ft. Vision House was built in 2013 by John Wesley Miller, the general contractor for Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona and a national leader in energy conservation and green building practices. Miller’s role as Chairman of the National Research Committee for Housing for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) made him a particularly interesting builder to investigate. Since Artifex president Dan Zolkowski was certified in 2012 as NAHB Green Builder, he is continually seeking out affordable and innovative green options for his homes in Chicago. He was impressed with the house’s thermo-mass storage construction in which the home’s concrete block walls were filled with concrete and then wrapped in insulation and covered with stucco. While this technique isn’t likely to be approved soon in Chicago under the city’s older building code, it was intriguing. Of special note was the home’s white floor tile that was made of recycled porcelain (think old toilets!) but looked just like marble. Dan also liked the stunning kitchen counter tops of Emerald Coast 3cm green float glass with oyster shells and marble from Vetrazzo. The home’s programmable thermostats, dual pane low-U windows, energy efficiency appliances and high R-value were similar to what Artifex uses in their Chicago area homes construction.
To find out what’s popular in Tucson high end and top of the market homes, the realtor then took Artifex to the northwest side of Tucson where they toured a number of homes. Two standouts were both in the Canyon Pass subdivision of Dove Mountain. The first was a $1,495,000, 5,391 sq. ft. contemporary home overlooking the North Gallery Golf Course. As expected, the Tucson climate and local norms made it quite different from the typical high-end urban Chicago homes Artifex typically builds. The sprawling home featured rear-facing floor-to-ceiling windows, which looked out on a swimming pool, barbeque area and magnificent mountain sunset views. The indoor-outdoor flow was seamless — something not easily replicated in a northern climate but greatly desired. The mesquite hardwood floors and extensive use of cooling travertine floors looked fresh and inviting. The home boasted zoned heating and cooling and high-efficiency windows and doors.
Within the same saguaro cactus-studded canyon subdivision was a stunning 6,819 sq. ft home listing for $4,999,900. This one story home was laid out in a boomerang shape with the well-appointed backyard nestled up against a rock wall for unrivaled privacy. Outdoor features included a fully appointed poolside kitchen with Sub-Z appliances. There was a one-of-a-kind cross-shaped infinity pool, a two-tier fountain and a misting system to cool outdoor guests. Again, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors in the rear plus floor finishes that ran from the inside to outside made for a seamless transition. The oversized Viking-appliance kitchen had well-crafted dark wood trim throughout and featured an abundance of dark stone counter tops. The enormous master wing included a workout gym with dozen of machines, a second laundry facility, closets galore and a gargantuan all stone master bath. The high-end treatment of all elements of the home’s four-car garage was a surprise. Fine wood finishes, similar to those found throughout the rest of the house were also used in the garage including stained wooden baseboards and heavy carved wooden doors leading to utility closets.
In summation, Artifex gives the Vision House high marks on efficiency but found it to rate fairly low on over all style and quality of finishes. The other two homes Artifex toured had a much higher levels of craftsmanship but green technology seemed lower on the builders’ priority list. Because Artifex’s vision and reputation combines high style and outstanding workmanship with affordable and desirable green elements, the trip provided plenty to consider in their new construction developments and renovations in the year to come.