The implementation of the new Summit County Sustainable Building Code has been the topic of much debate in the building community and media of late. Concerns have included cost, timing, need and government overreach.

As architects who balance the demands of our clientele and building regulations with the good of the community and the environment, we stand wholeheartedly behind the sustainable vision becoming standard building practice.

Sustainable Building

The most sustainable and efficient square foot of a building is that which is not built. This does not mean that we should not build, rather we should build only that which we need. House size matters. Larger homes consume more energy and net-zero energy use is much more difficult to achieve.

For new buildings the cost of sustainable construction is more easily mitigated. For conversation’s sake let’s assume your proposed 5,000 sq. ft. home is $350/sq. ft. for a construction cost of $1,750,000. Your architect can be efficient in the design and reduce 500 square feet at $350/sq. ft. for a savings of $175,000 or 10%.

Home Size Matters

Here at Arapahoe Architects we excel at eliminating unnecessary space without reducing the space you use. This will more than offset the cost of sustainable requirements, which for our projects have incurred costs of less than 5% of total construction. Reducing window size (the largest source of heat loss) and investing in energy efficient windows will also result in significant energy savings, while reducing energy and maintenance costs in perpetuity, equaling further savings. Remember, the larger the home the more the initial investment required to meet the new building code. Smaller homes will not be impacted to the same extent. Home size matters.

The second most efficient square foot is the one that is repurposed and rebuilt instead of being demolished and hauled off to the dump. This re-energizing of a building is more difficult to achieve but is more sustainable than knocking down and building new.

Smart Design

One of our recent projects was an addition and renovation of an old house off Loveland Pass, which brought the entire home up to the current sustainable standards even though our design was completed in 2016 and construction was finished in 2018, well before the new code was introduced. Working with our client to modernize the home, improve insulation, renew plumbing and electrical and careful choice of windows meant we were ahead of the sustainable building code. The added cost will be offset by the savings in energy and maintenance expenses over time. A win-win situation; a win for the client and a win for the environment.

Companies such as HC3 and Deeper Green Consulting are making the process even easier by helping architects and builders meet the new sustainable building requirements by performing energy audits (existing homes), and energy modeling (new homes,) to provide solutions before design is finished and construction begins. An audit for an existing home costs $99. Energy modeling for the new custom home project we are currently working on cost less than 0.005% of estimated total construction.

At Arapahoe Architects we have been using sustainable building techniques for years, long before “sustainability” was a buzz word in the industry. We encourage our clients to embrace the goal of helping the environment and improving their style of living all at the same time.

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