Breck condos get recycled facelift |

Breck condos get recycled facelift

BRECKENRIDGE – Five years ago, the Tannhauser Condominiums on Breckenridge’s Main Street looked straight out of the 1970s, sans the disco lights. The fake-wood roof line, wood siding and fake-rock walls needed yearly maintenance.

After years of planning and construction, the building now appears brand new – thanks to new technology that allowed crews to use recycled materials for almost all aspects of the $500,000 face lift to achieve what the architect is calling a “traditional look.”

“It wouldn’t take paint anymore,” said Jim Wheeler, who manages property and rentals at the building, located at 420 S. Main St. “I don’t know how many colors had been used. It was absolutely worn out. Before, it could have burned, too. Now, it couldn’t burn, no matter what you do.”

The decking, guardrail, steps, support beams and hand rails were replaced last fall, using almost 90 percent recycled materials.

The decking, for example, combines recycled plastic and recycled wood fibers. Plus, it doesn’t freeze in the winter and has a 10-year warranty. The guardrails use PVC pipe and has a lifetime warranty.

The siding, Wheeler said, turned out to be the real treat. Pulp fibers, sand, Portland cement and clay combined to form a surface with a Class A fire rating that insects can’t bore into. It also comes with a 50-year warranty.

The question, then, is why don’t other buildings use recycled materials? After all, the initial increases in cost would be made up by the lack of annual maintenance and long-term warranties.

“We are allowing more of it because it looks like wood,” said Breckenridge town planner Mike Mosher. “Five years ago, it didn’t look like wood. It looked like plastic.”

The bottom line, Mosher said, is the appearance. In the historic district, for example, all buildings must be renovated using wood, not man-made materials. New houses can use these new materials, but the town isn’t encouraging them.

“We have flexible zoning,” Mosher said. “But everything needs to go through the planning commission.”

When Wheeler and other Tannhauser property managers decided a major renovation was needed, they quickly decided to use the recycled materials. They renovated a hot tub area using the decking, which won the favor of property owners. The vote at the annual owners meeting was nearly unanimous to continue construction using these engineered products.

“Their emphasis was on low maintenance,” said Michael Gallagher, architect of the project. “The real challenge was sorting out the products that don’t work. And there are a lot of them.”

Gallagher submitted three plans to the owners, who picked a traditional appearance. Meanwhile, the town of Breckenridge stood aside, happy to see the 30-year-old structure falling in line with the rest of Main Street.

“The town and the homeowners have been great,” Gallagher said. “I respect them for the vision they had.”

With two minor items left to be completed (filling planter boxes and seal-coating the parking lot), the renovation is nearing its completion. David Nelson, supervisor for the project for Travis Construction Inc., said these products are being used around the county, mostly for decking.

In the end, Gallagher said, those wanting a real wood look should stick to wood. But those wanting low-maintenance supplies should think about recycled materials.

“There’s a lot of places built in the “70s and “80s that need upgrading in Breckenridge,” Gallagher said. “Don’t forget: This whole building is not only renewed – it has been completely recycled in a sense.”

Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-3998 ext. 257 or at

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