Don’t be fooled, building in the mountains is a challenge. Hiring a local architect instead of an online generic designer will save you money when building your Colorado mountain home. Your local architect will help you avoid some of the most common  mistakes homeowners make.

1. Extreme Climate


Caddis Residence Custom Home

Heavy snow, dramatic temperature swings and intense sunlight are just a few of the climate extremes we deal with on every project. How to shed snow, ice and water from roofs and away from people is paramount. An expertly designed roof will minimize the need for heat tape and lower electric bills. Recommendations on heat, window placement, doors, SMART features as well as roof design can all contribute to long term savings.

Breckenridge Highlands Living Area and View

Large insulated windows in this Breckenridge Highlands home maximize natural light and views and take advantage of Colorado’s 300+ days of sunshine.

2. Difficult Sites

Walking the lot with your local architect before you even buy will mean you don’t have surprises once the ink has dried. Steep slopes, water, wetlands and even avalanches are not unusual for the building sites we face daily. The building design and site design are a single process.

Many lots with views in the mountains are on steep sites requiring specialized designs, even elevators. An elevator may not seem like an obvious requirement for your custom home while you are young and athletic but carrying groceries up 3 flights of stairs may become more than a minor inconvenience. What about when your aging parents come to visit? Or you start a family earlier than planned (during quarantine!). Or you blow your ACL flying down Lake Chutes on an epic powder day? A home elevator requires as little space as 6’x6’ and may only add a fraction to the total building cost.

Driveway access, including situating the driveway for maximum sun exposure, snow run-off and diversion all need to be considered to improve accessibility and reduce plowing needs and therefore long term costs.

We pulled out all the stops for this custom home in Blue River: a driveway with switchbacks, a multistory design and an elevator.

The foundation July 2020.

3. Problem Solving During Design

Your local architect will solve building problems during design rather than during construction and identify lot and building challenges, take into account special features and advise you on ways to address these in the design phase, saving you both time and money.

The first phase of design is sketching ideas. Virtual modeling and 3D printing can help you envision your home.

This is especially helpful for dramatic renovations such as this Keystone addition.

Loveland Pass Addition Before
Loveland Pass Addition After

4. Local Knowledge

Summit County includes Breckenridge, Frisco, Blue River, Dillon and Silverthorne. Each town within Summit County has its own building department with its own development and building codes. Unincorporated areas are governed by Summit County. Even within the towns there are areas governed by additional regulations, such as the historic districts and private HOA regulations. 

In 2020 the Summit Sustainable Building Code passed the Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) standards which both Breckenridge and Frisco have already adopted. Summit County adopts the new standards effective Jan 1, 2021, while Silverthorne and Dillon are in the review process. More information on the Summit Sustainable Building Code can be found here.

Don’t know which regulations will govern your project? That is what we are here to help with! We have over 25 years of experience dealing with code officials, HOA review boards and local consultants developing personal relationships along the way.

5. Over 25 years of Experience

On average, winter conditions can add five to seven percent to a project’s bottom line for increased fuel usage, on-site heaters, winter weather equipment and delays. Extremely cold temperatures during excavation or pouring concrete can lead to unexpected project delays. Your local architect’s knowledge of the mountain seasons and project timing can help you avoid these seasonal overages.

Arapahoe Architects has the knowledge and experience to help you avoid the most common mistakes homeowners make when building their custom mountain home. Call us at (970) 453-8474 or email at