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Intertwining Japanese and American Design

By Sophia Acevedo

Chōwa, an ancient Japanese term, is a concept that embraces a spirit of partnership; it can represent a balance of life, well-being, sustainable value and a connection to nature.

Through the creation of Chowa Concept Home, award-winning architecture firm KTGY Architecture + Planning, home building company Woodside Homes and Japan-based homebuilder Sekisui House manage to achieve exactly that. Together, the team welcomed this concept with open arms and integrated it into their very design.

“This home represents bringing together American and Japanese culture into a single vision, implementing a truly innovative solution,” Bill Ramsey, Principal and Board of Directors member of KTGY Architecture + Planning. 

“This house engages with a growing preference for homes that support health and well-being, highlighting the balance between indoor living and outdoor life, between technology and privacy, between comfort and simplicity, and between residents and their community and the natural environment,” says Bill Ramsey, Principal and Board of Directors member of KTGY Architecture + Planning.

Embracing the Spirit of Partnership

The partnership between these heavy weights sought to embrace Japanese design and building while also meeting requirements for building in the United States and even more specifically, Las Vegas. They overcame challenges in creating a unique design that would appeal to Americans — specifically higher-end Generation X homebuyers — while making an exterior that complied with the architectural guidelines for the Summerlin community.

When creating the design of the Chowa Concept Home, inspiration was drawn from Japanese Buddhist Temples in Kyoto and Nara, and midcentury designs of Joseph Eichler. Japanese architects from Sekisui House and U.S. architects at KTGY each made their own plans for the house and then collaborated by merging these two plans together. “This home represents bringing together American and Japanese culture into a single vision, implementing a truly innovative solution,” says Ramsey.

Once the design was set, the home building process continued the collaborative process, making way for incorporating Japanese methodology and ideas and practice in a new turf. The home’s structural components, exterior wall system and cladding were manufactured in Tokyo and shipped to the United States. A methodology that was incorporated into the process was through Sekisui House Ltd. SHAWOOD homes’ structural innovations to make the home’s post-and-beam style structure. The process in creating the structure demanded rigorous pre-site engineering, design and manufacturing, but resulted in easier and faster assembly.

Rethinking Sustainability

Chowa Concept Homes has received a whopping number of green certifications, which isn’t a surprise considering one most important goals when building and designing the Chowa Concept Home was to make a healthier space for living.

“To do this, the design team had to rethink sustainability, shifting it beyond the environment and focusing on the end-user,” says Ramsey.

The team sought to address the negative impact of fluorescent and blue light by creating a lighting system that controls indoor lighting so that it is in tune with the body’s natural circadian rhythm. The team also wanted to touch on the problem that indoor air quality is often worse than the air outside so they created monitors that integrated with Panasonic’s Cosmos Healthy Home System, a Smart IAQ System to track and improve air quality by getting rid of toxin and reducing allergens.

Smart home technology was incorporated into the home’s kitchen and bathroom through voice-activated sink faucets and showheads. The home also has solar paneling and a storage battery and inverter to make the home Net Energy Positive.

The Finished Product

The end result was a home of 5,470 square feet with four bedrooms, five-and-a-half baths, two garages, and two floors with loggias and balconies on each floor. In order to appeal to American homebuyers, the architect teams incorporated typical American features like en-suite bathroom, larger door openings and high ceilings. It also brought in Japanese design through the effortless transition of indoor and outdoor living environments.

“One of the main goals of this project was flexibility and the home’s ability to work for families in several stages of life. The mother-in-law or grandparent suite speaks to both cultures and offers a private, living area,” said Ramsey.

Hence, while the ideal homebuyer is from Generation X, the team and builders and developers wanted to also consider the concept of multigeneration living, as it more adequately reflects how the nation looks like. In 2016, 20% of the U.S. population lived in multigenerational homes and that was something that the team wanted to keep in mind in the finished development of the home.

Sophia Acevedo is the Editorial Assistant at Builder and Developer Magazine. She can be reached at sophia@builder.media.