It's Not Easy Building Green

BY Ali Margo | April 29, 2019 | Feature Features

A series of local seminars explores affordable green building.

Green building is quite the buzz word these days. Builders, architects and anyone who is in the home building trade loves to toss around terms like “LEED certified” and "HERS ratings,” about the latest technology for energy efficiency, implementing state-of-the-art renewable energy systems and installing smart home technology for lowering costs and conserving energy. It’s easy to achieve that when you’ve got high-dollar budget typical of building a home in Aspen.

It’s a good thing there are people out there not only thinking about how to achieve green building on a budget, but making it a reality. That was the case on April 14 with the kickoff event for “Smart Design: Affordable Green Building,” a series of seminars in downtown Carbondale on site at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Urban Farmhouse, which is currently under construction. Presented by Green Line Architects, Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), ACES and Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), the continuing series will cover the green building techniques and systems as they are being implemented into a house that is currently under construction.

Participants, including architects (who received an AIA continuing education credit for $25), builders, engineers and realtors gathered in the raw space that will eventually provide affordable housing for ACES faculty and staff—the key word being affordable. “This project is really about community and sustainability,” said Marty Treadway, program director at CORE. “It’s an opportunity to take a look at an active job site and talk about design, construction and the details of what we’re doing here.”

As he spoke, chickens clucked about in the coop next door, providing an idyllic backdrop for the project’s vision: to create affordable housing that is energy efficient on a budget. The chicken coop is also the reason the project came together. Kim Stacey, who lives next door, donated the parcel to ACES because she wanted the chicken coop (which is part of a community co-op that also includes an organic garden) to remain, protected from private development.

Steve Novy, principal of Green Line Architects, gave a presentation on foundations, the focus for the first seminar. Perched on a microlam precariously balanced on two saw horses, he explained the big picture: “We like to take a whole systems approach of integrated design, not just the architectural design. The best way to do that is to bring every stakeholder to the table early on in the project to be there during the design process to make sure it’s headed in the right direction.”

Novy, whose firm has completed several public community projects, from nonprofit buildings to affordable housing, is invested in putting green building techniques into practice not only for his clients but for the industry as a whole. “Our intent is to put together a replicable model for other affordable housing projects,” he said. “Whenever you’re in an affordable housing setting with a tight budget you have to be creative about how to keep material costs down. You can’t just throw money at the problem. They’re challenging projects but that’s why we’ve enjoyed working on them.”

The final two talks of the series are April 30 and June 11. For more information or to RSVP, go to In partnership with City of Aspen, Town of Carbondale, CLEER and USGBC Roaring Fork.

Photography Courtesy Of: