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Making a green building greener

CMC CornerJonathan SatzGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Colorado Mountain College made a first in green history in 1981. We opened the Glenwood Center at 1402 Blake Ave., the first public, passive-solar facility to receive a large grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Central to the passive-solar concept in this facility was almost 1,500 square feet of south-facing glass, providing natural daylight and heat, as well as a masonry “Trombe” wall that would either radiate heat (in winter) or retain heat (in summer). Insulating curtains automatically dropped down over the glass to further regulate the desired building temperature.We were honored to be one of the pioneers in implementing this new technology. But if one is willing to be one of the first, one must also assume that better technology and superior building materials will be developed. Both the green building industry and we as an institution have learned vast amounts since those early days of solar. Over time, it became obvious we needed to modify our building design to overcome a number of challenges. Almost immediately, the insulating curtains failed and could not be repaired. Our classrooms became too hot, or too cold, and at times, too uncomfortable for optimal learning. We addressed it at first by revamping the mechanical systems to provide conventional heat and cooling.As time passed, the needs of the facility also changed. There were more students, more classes, more services and staff. Spaces which had once been offices were converted to classrooms. Within the past few years, 25 years after the building’s opening, we realized we needed to think about a major remodel – one which would acknowledge and honor the original green intent of the building. The first step was a comprehensive analysis (conducted by Architectural Engineering Consultants) of heat losses and gains in the building, and consideration of newer, environmentally friendly solutions that would help reduce energy waste.The report compared current energy usage with expected usage in a facility remodeled with the proposed structurally insulated panels (SIPs) and low-emissivity (low-E) tinted glass windows. The projected efficiency is substantial, particularly in the atrium area, where large heat gains and losses were recorded.In addition to the SIPs, the exterior is also covered by Trespa rain screen panels, a “floating” skin engineered to prevent moisture intrusion. Improvements on the replaced wood siding, both materials are less susceptible to rotting and do not require painting or staining. They are considered one of the most environmentally responsible building choices available today. Shorter, low-E glass windows (themselves made of recycled glass) were installed in upper-level classrooms, replacing floor-to-ceiling glass panels that were creating heating loads, for which the mechanical system could not compensate.CMC is proud to have employed the very best of current environmental technology, leaping further forward into a greater, greener future. We invite you to take a class or visit our building to view these changes for yourself.Jonathan Satz is director of continuing education at Colorado Mountain College, Glenwood Center.


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