Roaring Fork Family Practice moves into a beautiful new space today, a triumph for both clinic owner Valley View Hospital and a town that emphasizes community and environmental consciousness.
The clinic is the first major public building constructed after Carbondale adopted a version of the International Green Construction Code. Since June 2013, new commercial buildings and major commercial renovations in town are subject to the code, albeit with some revisions.
Although many of the green elements that make the new clinic unique were not visible last week at an open house that drew a strong showing from the public, the event helped quell fears that the project might be out of scale. The building tries to fit in with a neighborhood which includes a preschool and a mix of residential and light commercial through extensive landscaping, a relatively modest 10,500-square-foot design, and community focus in the decor.
Large existing trees salvaged during construction are coupled with new trees to soften the exterior. Local artists from Andy Taylor to Frank Norwood brighten up the space, and a selection of high school artwork brought smiles to folks on self-directed tours. Attendees mostly lingered in the lobby, where a legacy display on the wall showed influential Carbondalians compiled, and mostly photographed, by Valley Journal co-founder Rebecca Young.
Chad Kruse, facilities director at Valley View, said the space holds to the standards that make the hospital “one of the flagship Planetree facilities,” referring to an approach Valley View has adopted that emphasizes patient-centered care.
As for the green code, Valley View had the chance to beat the deadline, but opted not to rush the process. Hart, Freeland and Roberts, architects who have worked with the hospital for over a decade, were asked to take another look at their design.
“We could have beat the curve and put a real nice expensive building in, but it wasn’t going to be efficient,” explained John Morton, a superintendent for JE Dunn Construction, which built the clinic.
By the time the building permit was filed, everyone involved knew it would come with a host of requirements for energy and water usage, long term monitoring, materials sourcing, air quality and more.
Dunn was up to the challenge.
“A lot of health care codes we follow are very similar to the green code,” Morton said.
The building code contains numerous zoning requirements, which are being written into Carbondale’s Unified Development Code instead of being enforced by the building department. The building code does require significant recycling during demolition, which Morton said his crews met or exceeded.
A report from mid-May, when the construction was 99 percent complete, shows the project had recycled 21 tons of metal, 54 tons of wood and 246 tons of concrete. About 130 tons of trash went to the landfill. Coupled with on site reuse of rock and topsoil, the project boasts a recycled diversion rate of around 80 percent.
The building itself also incorporate around 250 tons of recycled materials. Many new materials, including concrete, were locally sourced.
The renewable energy offset requirement (10 percent for an on-site installation, 15 percent for off-site or credits) is met by a 6,200-watt solar array. The building will not store energy or sell back to the grid, but the system should be enough to run the lights. Motion sensors and efficient appliances will also help minimize resource consumption.
Water efficiency is also a requirement, although the biggest challenge on that front had nothing to do with the green code. The Weaver Ditch, part of Carbondale’s extensive system, flows through the property. It serves numerous homes and ranches downstream and is a central feature of Sopris Park. Pumps were brought in to maintain flow while a permanent pipe was installed, a project that had to be completed before heavy equipment could access the whole site.
Air quality, by comparison, was free of surprises. The green code’s air requirements largely overlap with the Facility Guidelines Institutes health-care standards. Paint and carpets must be low on volatile organic compounds and air must circulate regularly. The building is designed with radon mitigation, an important feature in a county with high levels of the toxic gas.
After seven months of construction through the heart of winter, the building is complete and the finishing touches are made.
The building will still need to be approved for a permanent Certificate of Occupancy and will be subject to an inspection and fine tuning after 12 to 24 months of occupancy to ensure everything is performing as intended, but Morton and Kruse are confident it will pass both tests.
Meanwhile, Carbondale has seen the construction of a couple of warehouses under the code, and is getting used to the sort of judgment calls required to apply it.
“The town of Carbondale’s building department were wonderful to work with on this,” said Kruse.
“It’s an incredible challenge for a department that’s never used the code before. I give them all the credit in the world.”
Other towns in the area have discussed adopting the International Green Construction Code, but only Carbondale and Snowmass Village have done so.
Although Morton estimated the green code added between 7 and 10 percent to the cost of the project, the increase was accounted for in budgeting, and the building should last longer without being more expensive to maintain.
“I think it’s a great community product that definitely fulfills everybody’s hopes,” Kruse said.
“You can still tell it’s Valley View but it also has that Carbondale feel,” Morton agreed.