Summit County developers start to build houses with sustainability in mind
December 25, 2016
New sustainable housing developments in Summit County work with increasing national demand for green housing. A study from Mountain Life Companies, based in Breckenridge, found that buyers are looking for homes with more energy efficiency and healthy indoor environmental standards. The company found that these new expectations began when technology evolved to partner with sustainable construction.
Garratt Hasenstab, the president of Mountain Life, said that he has been involved in sustainable construction and consulting in Summit since he founded the Verdigris Group in 2006. Verdigris was a carbon neutral company, which Hasenstab said was progressive at that time. He was also certified with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in the early days of the program.
"I kind of bleed green," Hasenstab said. "That was where our industry is heading, or it seems to be heading, and I felt a greater connection in my work to something I was passionate about."
Mountain Life Companies acquired Verdigris Group in 2015. Recently, the company started the Epic on French development in Breckenridge. In addition to being energy and water efficient, the homes will learn the preferences of its occupants based on data, using what the company calls an "intuitive smart-home system." Hasenstab added that the system can also cut down on operating costs for a home.
But Hasenstab was hesitant to call the new demand for sustainability a trend.
"I feel like sustainability in the built environment is the new norm," he said.
Matt Mueller, the director of development for the Summit Sky Ranch housing project in Silverthorne said that in Summit County, living green is more of a conscious choice for locals than a trend.
"It's a way of life for the people who choose to live here to enjoy the great outdoors," he said.
Summit Sky is currently under construction near the Blue River Valley. The entirety of the development has been done with outdoor enthusiasts in mind. In addition to restoring lakes in the area from gravel quarries, the development is taking on a special green certification — dark sky.
The International Dark-Sky Association works with communities to use minimal lighting in order to decrease light pollution. Mueller said that Summit Sky Ranch is the only known dark-sky development in central Colorado. Protecting views of the nighttime sky was a personal mission of Tom Everist, the developer for the project. Everist and his family have owned the land Summit Sky is being built on for the last two decades.
"The natural night illumination from the stars and moon have always touched me in a very spiritual way," Everist said. "By using only downcast, shielded and minimal lighting throughout the community, we will preserve the darkness and accentuate the incredible nuances in the night sky. Like all aspects of the community, the name Summit Sky Ranch is an intentional reflection of this experience."
Hasenstab said that many of the towns within Summit have been backing green construction. His experience as a planning commissioner in the county, as well as a board member at High Country Conservation has helped to guide sustainability strategies here.
"Trends in home building come and go. I feel as though the sustainability component is something that is more of, from what we've gleaned from our market study, it's becoming more expected," Hasenstab said. "People are becoming more and more conscious of what goes into their home."