“It was a real community event that took a year to complete,” he added. Aptly called “The Next Great American Home,” his home showcases how Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) can be used to create a modern, strong, efficient and nearly maintenance-free home at the same cost — or less — as traditional building techniques.
He hand picked the best and the brightest to build his dream house, similar to the one-week, barn raising event he organized over a decade ago on ABC TV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” In 2007, he was the selected architect for a “Makeover” home in Bridgeport, CT, which demonstrated a fast-paced, fun and successful.
For his own home on Ash Creek in Fairfield, he enlisted more than 100 contractors, suppliers and communications experts. This dream team created a dedicated website plus organized numerous in-person tours to educate the public as well as their trades’ colleagues about the value of building an environmentally sound, efficient home for the future.
Their innovative two-story, 3,000-square-foot house on a .19-acre lot is located at 110 Shoreham Terrace and features a spacious home office. Overland's pioneering design work will become the model for new home construction in the United States, with climate change and more frequent weather hazards.
Since 1980, Overland’s office had been headquartered on Main Street in Danbury. “Even before the pandemic, I decided to consolidate operations and have our staff work remotely. The timing just happened to coincide with the home office trend.”
In fact, previously, he also was named the winner of the 2021 Members Doing Business With Business Contest by the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Fairfield County (HBRA).
“Leigh has exemplified what it is to be a member of the HBRA by strengthening area businesses, the HBRA and the construction community in Connecticut,” noted Kerry Brunn, Executive Officer at HBRA of Fairfield County. He hired over 20 HBRA members, including builders, remodelers, suppliers, manufactures, subcontractors, and engineers. In addition, he educated them about ICF building techniques.
An ICF home can look like any style of residential building when completed and cuts air conditioning, heating and insurance costs by 50-75% while minimizing maintenance for years to come. Overland’s house also features a SIP roof (no roof rafters), metal stud interior walls, (factory made, delivered and set up in a few days), in-floor radiant heat and cooling, and triple-pane European doors and windows. His home resists fire, storms, mold, rot, mildew and termites.
Overland used the best practices he gathered from his 40 years experience as an award-winning architect and incorporated them into one sleek, indestructible home that saves energy, fits into the natural surroundings — and has great views. His home overlooks an expansive scene: a small waterway — Ash Creek — draining into a salt marsh just feet away from the picture windows.
“Nature is as close as it can get without being inside the house,” Overland says. “We weren’t planning to move, just refurbish my existing house, until we saw this lot. Within minutes we decided we should build here. It had extraordinary views of nature that awakened my senses to look, listen and smell. I sat there for a half-hour near the creek and did absolutely nothing, every moment seeing something new that caught my interest.”
The property is on the edge of Long Island Sound, a highly desirable neighborhood in the town of Fairfield.
However due to climate change and a rise in sea level, Overland knew he would need to build a home that would withstand the hurricanes and Northeaster storms that regularly blow off the Sound.
The concrete walls make it stronger, fireproof, and much quieter than a wood-frame home and Overland designed many features to improve sustainability, including triple-paned windows and long-lasting roofing and exterior elements that withstand all types of weather.
So when he saw the lot on the sound, he started creating. “When I design a house for someone, I draw a portrait of everything I learn from my client’s life, hopes and wishes,” Overland said. “So I put myself in the client’s position and thought about what mine and my wife’s hopes and wishes are at this stage of our careers and lives. This house represents a self-portrait.” He has created a house that is environmentally sound, easy to maintain, and durable.
Being built so close to the Wetlands, instead of a traditional poured concrete foundation, piles were pounded into the soil to a depth of 30 feet, where ground pressure could support the structure. The anchors are attached to a grade beam, on which the house is built. A deck of ICF forms filled with concrete became the bottom floor of the garage and is as strong as a traditional concrete slab while being insulated and sound proof.
What would be the first floor of most houses is a garage with openings in the walls. Even dramatic flooding will not damage the structure or affect the living spaces, which are a full 10 feet above ground level.
An elevator with curved Plexiglas and magnificent views from the three-story window whisks visitors to the living room and bedroom levels. The home is equipped with features that provide comfortable, carefree and luxurious living, without exorbitant price tags.
Among the home’s offerings are:
· Solar panels and battery storage that provide most of the electricity for the home.
· A heat pump that operates to minus-20 degrees to provide heating and air conditioning in the floor. A system of energy recovery ventilation will precondition the air being exhausted from the home to capture most energy and reuse it to bring healthy, fresh air into the home.
· LED bulbs rated at eight watts provide the equivalent of 60 watts from traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs and supply all of the supplemental lighting in the house.
· Exterior window overhangs block the sun when it is high in the summer sky and allow it to shine in when it is lower in the winter. Sometimes, however, an additional exterior shade is necessary to keep rooms as cool as possible in the summer. That is when programmable shades automatically close or open in reaction to temperature.
· All interior studs for framing walls and ceilings are metal, which saved the equivalent of 10 trees and create a fireproof interior as well.
· The exterior of an ICF house can be the same as any traditional house, from wood clapboard, to vinyl, stone, brick or stucco. To lower long-term maintenance costs, the siding on Overland’s house is a synthetic material that is waterproof, stain-proof and will last for years and years.
· The home is wired for smart applications, with voice-activated controls, automatic window shades, and a security system that covers the entire house and property.
· To control rain runoff, gutters on the roof will deliver water to concrete galleys buried in the ground that will retain large amounts of water and let it slowly percolate into the soil.
The kitchen opens to the family area, separated only by a Caesarstone-sided island and seating area. A 12-foot x 8-foot window at the prep sink allows a wide view of the creek.
Each of the three bedrooms has an ensuite to evoke a nearly hotel-like experience for guests. In addition, the home features wood flooring throughout and unique tile designs in the bathrooms.
Three gas fireplaces provide a cozy feeling in the minimalist interior of white walls that are broken up only by windows and doors that provide stunning views.
“In the end,” he said, “this detailed project will result in a home where our families, friends and extended acquaintances can gather for good conversation. It’s a place where Nancy and I can revel in the natural beauty of the environment. At the same time, the Next Great American Home is more than a single building. I think of it as a movement that combines existing innovations to create a new type of home that is energy-efficient, resilient to climate change and more livable for today’s ever changing world.”
In addition to private homes, over the past 40 years Overland has worked on creating architectural designs for banquet facilities, office buildings, medical offices, retail stores, restaurants and other creative buildings that are sustainable.
Now that Overland’s home is finished, he is receiving many inquiries from all over the country about ICF Construction. He is working on commercial projects for dental offices in Georgia and Tennessee as well as building ICF homes in Florida, Arizona, Staten Island, NY, and several in Connecticut. Licensed in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut, Overland is also able to practice nationally and welcomes inquiries.
The team involved can be found at NextGreatAmericanhomes.com contact list.