For new Breckenridge community center, contractors reduce, reuse, recycle |

For new Breckenridge community center, contractors reduce, reuse, recycle

Krista Driscoll /

Note: This is the second of two articles about the environmental initiatives incorporated into the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center and Summit County South Branch Library renovation project. Read the first part at Together, the articles comprise the first of a monthly, five-part series detailing the vision, goals and benefits of the renovation leading up to the building’s grand opening in early December.

After utilizing a historic structure to reduce the amount of raw materials needed, going through an abatement process to remove asbestos and other hazardous materials and assembling a team of subcontractors, two-thirds of whom were recruited from Summit County, thus reducing the carbon emissions from work trucks and other machinery, the architects and builders for the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center and Summit County South Branch Library were still looking for other ways to make the project environmentally friendly.

The plan unfolded with three more avenues for improved sustainability, including reusing existing structural materials, recycling scrap metal and interior framing and implementing energy-saving systems.

The architects and contractor are working to preserve history and meet current community needs.


Once the asbestos dust had settled (and been swept away), other elements of the existing structure were evaluated to see where materials could be reused or recycled. Where possible, areas of stone walls at the lower level that were in good condition were exposed, which helped contribute to the character of the building, as well as reducing the drywall, paint and trim materials needed, the architects said.

Other materials were retained to add to the historic look and feel of the new community center, including a tin ceiling from one of the old classrooms, flooring from the original school built in 1909 and elements from the theater. Most of what the architects intended and planned has been pursued, said Liz Hallas, of Anderson Hallas Architects PC, principal in charge of the project.

“The tin ceiling, that work is starting to proceed,” she said. “We’re putting that back into what will be the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance space.”

The tin squares formed the ceiling of the northeast classroom in the 1909 section of the building and are some of the only intact, historical ceiling materials that could be saved.

“We asked Spectrum to carefully remove, salvage and inventory it,” Hallas said referring to the general contractor. “Due to the acoustical properties, we’ll put it back in the second floor, a different classroom. The story can be told a little more easily in that space. The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance can point to it as a salvaged item.

“It’s currently getting cleaned up and will be repainted and reinstalled in that area. We’re using creative strategies to retain as much as possible. There’s a little bit of a soffit at the perimeter, a smaller footprint that will be installed, because there were some pieces that weren’t able to be salvaged.”

The historic windows, which were in fairly good shape for this climate, are being restored for reuse with new weather stripping for energy efficiency, the architects said, and several of the Speakeasy murals were salvaged for reuse in the new theater, as well as other bits and pieces, said Graham Johnson, assistant project manager for Spectrum and project engineer for the Harris Street renovation.

“The old stage curtain rigging was shared with a local theater for reuse, and old theater chairs were shared with interested parties for reuse in a variety of places,” Johnson said.


Part of the gym floor will stay right where it is in the teen area on the north side of the main library room by the main elevator, Johnson said.

“It will be repaired and refinished,” he said. “It was pulled up and salvaged, reinstalled as a border all the way around the main room of the library; it’ll be going back in its original place as a border with carpet in the middle so foot traffic is quiet. Upstairs in the fireplace nook, we’re using a small section of the floor up there to differentiate that space.”

All the carpets and steel are made of recycled-content materials, and the sheet flooring is also a sustainable material, the architects said. Hallas said adding the gym flooring to the fireplace area is a recent update to the building plan.

“We’re going to be able to reuse some of the existing maple floor up there to highlight that as a special zone within the building,” she said. “It’s a new opportunity to use some of the existing materials that were salvaged.”

Other flooring, such as the Douglas fir from the second floor of the original 1909 school building, will be refinished and reinstalled in the nonprofit offices and the flex-space conference room. The maple dance floor that people remember from the Colorado Mountain College dance studio has also found a new home.

“It’s in the Robert Whyte House in the Arts District project,” Johnson said. “We have some extra maple floor from the gym that will be left over, also. Not sure if there are plans for it, but we’re certainly not going to get rid of it.”


All scrap metal removed from the project, including ductwork, wiring and conduit, is being recycled, Johnson said, and wall framing and structural elements that were placed during previous renovations have been reused many times over for a variety of temporary construction needs. There’s practicality in being able to work through a building systematically and reuse materials three or four times, he said.

“We pulled out a lot of framing that was in good shape,” he said. “It had been put in most of it in the late ’60s or ’70s by CMC when they did their renovations. The drywall was some of the material that had to be abated, but the wood framing left behind after that was good lumber.”

That good material was saved and used for temporary shoring, scaffolding-like structural support that allowed the crews to do work in different areas of the building.

“We built some big work platforms,” Johnson said. “We kept the old attic framing in place for a long time to work above that on the big trusses, then pulled that down and used it for other shorings. In some places, we were able to reinstall the material or use it outside the building.”

Some of the ceiling sheeting was reused in what will become the junior library area, and other material was pulled down, saved and reused as siding for the outdoor dumpster enclosure.

“That was kind of a neat example of being able to reuse,” Johnson said. “I believe we’re also working on finding some of the big beams — in the basement, which are being replaced with concrete and steel — they might be re-used around the fireplace, as the mantle and for some of the elements in that sitting area on the second-floor, mezzanine level.”

Contractors are also recycling cardboard shipping packages to reduce waste.

“That becomes even more common as we’re getting shipments of new materials,” Johnson said. “All that cardboard packaging we do our best to recycle.”


Though a LEED certification was not sought for the Harris Street project to save on administrative costs, many similar strategies were employed, such as installing high-efficiency HVAC systems, adding insulation at exterior walls and in the attic and ceilings to reduce energy consumption and installing energy-efficient lighting fixtures.

“Our team has LEED-certified professionals, we have done that on other projects, but it requires time, documentation, a paper trail,” Hallas said. “Depending on the certification level that’s being attained, it can add tens of thousands of dollars of time to the project.”

Other energy-conservation initiatives included utilizing occupancy sensors to control lights, installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures and bike racks and minimizing irrigation needs by specifying many native plants, architects said.

“All of those will pay off in the long run for the town and taxpayers in having a lower utility usage at the building, so I think that’s a real benefit, as well,” Hallas said.

Given the high elevation and climate, it was decided not to include an air conditioning system on the main and upper floors, thereby reducing the energy demand, the architects said. Instead, operable windows and ceiling fans are designed to circulate the air, and interior windows and transoms allow shared day lighting.

Johnson added that Spectrum has been working with subcontractors to pursue low-VOC (volatile organic compound) and environmentally friendly coatings, adhesives and materials.

“Spectrum also believes in historic preservation and adaptive reuse,” he said. “Working to preserve history while also meeting current community and user needs helps to accomplish the best of both worlds.”

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