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Green scene: Environment the focus of new building ideas

Dennis WebbPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Computer Design/Roaring Fork Lodge
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Terry Claassen is interested in putting some beetle-killed trees to good use in his Roaring Fork Lodge proposal in Glenwood Springs, and maybe incorporating some environmentally friendly bamboo into the project as well.Will Humphrey envisions thousands of trees being planted in some wildlife refuge to offset the carbon production of nearly 200 homes his company is proposing for the Reserve at Elk Meadows development up Four Mile Road just outside of town.Such ideas may be helping usher in a new era of development in Garfield County. Developers are touting green initiatives as major components of both projects. Local government planning officials say they wouldn’t be surprised to see more such initiatives for both their environmental and marketing appeal. In the meantime, officials in Glenwood Springs are beginning to discuss whether developments should be encouraged or even required to take more steps to be green.

Some developers are starting to lead by example.”As these projects come through, they tend to set the bar a little higher each time, which is very nice,” said Fred Jarman, planning director for Garfield County.The Reserve at Elk Meadows’ goal of being carbon-neutral may be raising the bar more than a little.”I think it is a pretty admirable goal. In Colorado there haven’t been very many precedents,” said Ashley Muse, a sustainable design consultant for Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit based in Old Snowmass that promotes efficient use of resources.Andrew McGregor, community development director for Glenwood Springs, praised the carbon-neutral proposal.

“It’s certainly pretty ambitious to try to offset the entire carbon footprint of a brand-new, 190-home subdivision,” he said.He also credited Claassen for his pledge to incorporate environmentally responsible techniques into his building construction.”That’s great, and I think it’s good business. These guys are business people and they probably wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t think it would ensure some kind of return on their investment.”Said Muse, of RMI, “It’s definitely a gutsy move for developers to make but it’s also a smart move for them to make.”Claassen said taking care of the local environment is an important part of his project. While market considerations also are behind green development and building initiatives, they are in response to demand from people with an environmental mindset.”I think as it becomes more popular and more at the forefront in general, there’s growing sentiment among consumers who want to use properties who practice conservation and energy efficiency and (use of) organic materials,” Claassen said. “My wife’s one of them, and her mom, and we’re raising our kids that way.” Humphrey is senior vice president of Westminster Swanson Land Partners in Illinois, and previously that state’s director of the nonprofit Conservation Fund. Westminster Swanson is proposing to pay the Conservation Fund to plant trees offsite to make up for the carbon impacts of the Elk Meadows project. The Conservation Fund typically uses contributions to plant trees in wildlife refuges.”It’s not cheap but to us it’s worth the cost of trying to do something innovative and creative,” he said.With market demand growing for green projects, the question for government officials is whether they should further encourage them, or even take some steps to require them.”I think a lot of people are talking about the value of green buildings,” McGregor said. “The (Glenwood Springs) planning commission is looking at ways to encourage or incentivize greener buildings as something to strive for – if not necessarily to require then certainly to encourage and promote their use.”Meanwhile, the city also is creating a new commission to look at energy consumption and opportunities for increased energy efficiency in Glenwood Springs, as part of the city’s decision to sign on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. McGregor said that commission may take an interest in what can be done on the construction front.He said it’s possible that developers could be offered incentives such as being allowed to increase building area or height in exchange for creating a green-certified building.He said he thinks Aspen and Pitkin County are much farther along in having provisions address green construction, particularly in the area of energy conservation.Carbondale’s town board also is close to adopting a green building code that seeks to achieve about a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency. Mayor Michael Hassig said homes would have to earn a certain number of points for things such as insulation levels and use of solar, with more points required for larger houses.Hassig said the new code is part of a broader climate protection plan that includes aspects such as public education, making town operations greener, installing a municipal photovoltaic system, limiting sprawl and better accommodating walkers and bikers.Jarman said Garfield County commissioners haven’t directed him to look into the issue of green building, but he’s been happy to see developers taking their own initiative. He said the Blue Creek Ranch subdivision near Catherine’s Store included a couple of “very green,” energy-efficient affordable housing units.Claassen said he’d prefer to see government incentives such as tax credits rather than requirements when it comes to green construction. He thinks governments should consider the transportation side of development as well.”I would love to see the city start going the other way in their parking requirements,” he said.Rather than Glenwood worrying about developers providing ample parking – which requires a lot of surface area and absorbs heat – he thinks it should encourage mass transit, walking and biking. Claassen plans to provide a shuttle service at his lodge to reduce the need for customers to drive while there.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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