Green certification now in style

GYPSUM – The new trophy home, proclaimed theNew York Times, is small and ecological. The newspaper tells the story from Venice, Calif., and cites one woman who says that something energy-conscious “doesn’t have to look as if you got it off the bottom shelf of a health-food store.”

But not just any “green” house will do.The Times also explains that certification by LEED – an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is the new hot designer label, kind of like driving a Prius.

There are four levels of LEED certification: basic, silver, gold and, at the highest level, platinum. So far this year, 10,250 new home projects have registered for one of these levels of LEED certification, more than triple from 2006, the first year of the pilot home-rating system.

Bearing testimony to this trend is a report in theVail Daily of a new “lifestyle” residential complex in Gypsum, between Vail and Glenwood Springs. There, the developer of a project called Sky Legend has homes of up to 4,500 square feet.

But the firm, ASW Realty Partners, is also building smaller homes, most between 1,700 and 2,500 square feet. So far, eight homes are certified to the silver level of LEED. In all, about half of the 247 units planned at Sky Legend may be LEED certified.

Not everyone is a fan of LEED certification. The Aspen Skiing Co. used the LEED certification process for its projects several years ago but found a “Soviet-style bureaucracy,” to use the phrase of Auden Schendler, the company’s executive director for environmental and community responsibility. Using a more modern metaphor, energy activist Randy Udall, of Carbondale, calls the review process an “Abu Ghraib.”

The U.S. Green Building Council, progenitor of the LEED certification, claims it has made the certification process easier. But it remains expensive for a large structure, which is why the Eagle County School District decided to forego LEED certification for its replacement of Battle Mountain High School.

Instead, the LEED checklist will be used as a guide, to achieve the same results, claims John Fuentes, an architect with H + L Architecture. He says that avoiding certification will save the school districts tens of thousands of dollars.

The Vail Daily reports the new school, to be completed a year from October, will be naturally lit, meaning light from the outdoors will be telescoped into classrooms. It is likely that no lightbulbs will be needed until sunset, said Fuentes.

Air conditioning will be installed in the computer rooms and administration offices. To cut down on electrical use, rooms will be fitted with occupancy sensors, meaning that when no one is in the room, any lit lightbulbs will go off.

Steady run-off flows all over state

TELLURIDE – Runoff this year from big snowpack in Colorado had the potential for mayhem. Sand-bags were readied, and homeowners were advised to get their flood insurance.

Instead, temperatures alternated, resulting in rivers that consistently roared – and roar even now – but seemed to have rarely overflown their banks. It has been one of the more remarkably sustained runoffs in memory.

Still, runoff has had its horrors. The Arkansas River, center of Colorado’s commercial whitewater activity, has had six deaths this year. Two people have died after being dumped from horses while crossing creeks. The most recent case was at Beaver Creek, on a popular crossing used countless times.

In Telluride, high water problems amounted to no more than a nuisance, if that.The Telluride Watch says that one of Telluride’s water-treatment plants had to be shut down because of high flows in the San Miguel River. Add to that the fact that the town was full of Telluride Bluegrass festival-goers.  

Heating costs soar all over West

WHISTLER, B.C. – The home fires are getting more expensive from Colorado to British Columbia.

In Colorado, the story is a newly completed pipeline that starts in the natural gas fields about 90 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs. The Rockies Express Pipeline has reached Missouri, and may yet be extended to Pennsylvania.

This will lower prices for natural gas in the Midwest yet increase it in the Rockies.The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that the cost was $5.50 per million British thermal units of heat last September. Now, it’s at $13 per million BTUs. Further increases are expected this winter.

Prices are rising in British Columbia, too. There, the propane for the typical Whistler home is expected to rise $323 per year, reportsPique newsmagazine. A similar increase of 17 percent has also been approved for customers in Revelstoke.

A carbon tax set to take effect July 1 in British Columbia will further increase heating and transportation costs. That carbon tax is being applied to all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel and natural gas. The tax begins at a rate of $10 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions and will rise $5 per year for the next four years. What this means for a typical home in the Vancouver area is $50 more this year on the heating bill, and $140 extra per year by 2012, reports theRevelstoke Times-Review.

The tax is being levied with the goal of encouraging conservation and efficiency, with the ultimate goal being reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Towns take the carbon challenge

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – It works in sports. So why not introduce competition into the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s the idea from Dan Richardson, a private-sector energy consultant who was the first director of the Canary Initiative, Aspen’s greenhouse-gas reduction program. “I think as Americans what we thrive on most is competition,” he said.

Richardson made the comment at a meeting in Glenwood Springs where a new group called Clean Energy Economy for the Region shared its ambitions. TheGlenwood Springs Post Independent reports that 60 to 100 people attended the meeting, suggesting just how much interest there is now in shrinking community carbon footprints.

The group estimates that the stretch from Aspen to Parachute, about 80 miles, spends $250 million a year for electricity, natural gas and transportation fuels. A guest speaker from California suggested that could be cut by 30 percent.

Ironically, part of that region – especially the Rifle and Parachute area – is among the nation’s major energy producing regions, and increasingly a poster child for natural gas drilling. The Roan Plateau is adjacent to the valley.

If such competition does occur, however, it would not be the first. Two Utah towns, Park City and Moab, several years ago faced off to see who would buy the most wind-powered energy. Park City won the bet.

Construction holds pace in Ouray

OURAY – Although carpenters in many places have hung up their nail guns for the time being, that is not the case in Ouray. The town, located on the northern flanks of the San Juans, near Telluride, is holding steady with years past in new construction, reports theOuray Watch.

Still, asking prices for real estate are dropping discernibly. The town’s famous Beaumont Hotel, gussied up to its original Victorian splendor in recent years, is on the sales block. The price has dropped from $8 million to $3.2 million in recent months.

Down-valley at Ridgway, the developer of a hotel that will create artificial hot springs vows to break ground this summer, but nonetheless found financing of his venture to be “very challenging.”


Moose on the rise in Colorado

FRISCO – Moose are becoming more common in Summit County.The Summit Daily News says increased number of sightings has caused state wildlife biologists to warn that the moose can also be dangerous.

Moose are not aggressive but will charge humans to defend their turf and offspring, Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton told the newspaper.

Moose were not unknown in Colorado during settlement in the mid-19th century, as they wandered in occasionally from Utah and Wyoming, but there was not a breeding population. Moose were transplanted beginning in 1978 to North Park, about 50 miles from Frisco and later near Creede, in the San Juan Mountains. Populations have continued to expand, despite hunting and occasional deaths on highways.

Tahoe expects gay marriage boom

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The California Supreme Court ruling that allows same-sex marriages may revive the faltering wedding industry at Lake Tahoe.The Sierra Sun says that 10 same-sex couples have secured marriage licenses in Nevada County, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

– Allen Best


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows