Summit County builder finishes eco-friendly home just in time for Earth Day |

Summit County builder finishes eco-friendly home just in time for Earth Day

SILVERTHORNE – Just in time for Earth Day, Apex Mountain Homes president Clark Johnson completed his family’s new residence – a custom-built, sustainable home complete with an indoor greenhouse, a masonry heater, an active 8.1 kilowatt PV solar system and a solar/thermal hot-water system. Located in Silverthorne’s Angler Mountain Ranch neighborhood, Johnson hopes it will be Summit County’s first net-zero home, meaning it will produce more energy than it uses.

“Only time will tell,” he said.

The Johnsons designed their home with many sustainable amenities, including an attached Mediterranean-climate greenhouse and an outdoor garden located on top of the flat garage roof. The family hopes to grow much of their own food, and they’ll store their produce in the home’s root cellar.

The residence is also centered around Silverthorne’s first legally-installed masonry heater. Johnson and his wife, Marcia, lobbied for the Town of Silverthorne to amend its solid-fuel burning ban in 2008. They asked for the town to allow masonry heaters, because they’re considered to be carbon neutral.

Due to air-quality concerns in the 1980s and 1990s, the town prohibited solid-fuel burning devices but decided to make an exception for the masonry heaters, which capture heat from combustion and radiate it for a long period of time. Pellet stoves have since been approved by town officials, too.

“The masonry heater turned out to be the neatest feature of the home,” Johnson said. “It’s so cozy, and it retains heat for hours.”

According to Johnson, building his own home to have complete energy independence was a way to study eco-friendly building practices and show people what can be possible.

“We want to do the right thing in building sustainably,” he said. “Until you do it for yourself, you don’t really know what it’s like. I wanted to live in it first-hand to learn how it feels and functions.”

Though Johnson’s home is 2,800 square feet, it feels light and airy, with numerous windows facing south. He noted that building a smaller home is a way to be eco-friendly in itself, and using local and recycled materials increases sustainability.

Pine beetle-killed log ends were used to build the ceiling in Johnson’s kitchen. The local builder also used beetle-killed wood for his kitchen set, and the home’s trim and doors. Instead of dumping wood pallets at the landfill, it was used to build the living-room ceiling.

“Multi-use rooms are a good way to have less space and more function,” Johnson added.

For example, the TV room can be used as a guest room, and his son’s bedroom has the capacity to sleep four people.

“If you give it a little thought, you can make some good choices as far as design,” Johnson said.

Other attributes Johnson hopes will make his new home net-zero include: A 100-percent electric conversion car, a vegetable-oil conversion truck, a passive solar design, thermal mass used throughout the house, no clothes dryer, and more.

To learn more, call Apex Mountain Homes at (970) 668-3402 or visit

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at

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