Vail wants a green building without added expenses
April 17, 2012
VAIL – How much is a plaque on the wall worth?As the Vail Town Council considers how to build a new municipal office building, town officials have insisted on the most environmentally friendly building possible. Usually, that means a Leadership in Environmental Energy & Design certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council. But those certificates aren’t cheap – certification for the West Vail fire station carried a six-figure price tag. Council members decided Tuesday that the certificate just isn’t worth the price.The decision came as Town Council members considered a number of options for the building during a session with architect Will Hentschel, of Boulder-based Oz Architects, the company designing the building.Hentschel told council members that there are a couple of alternatives to LEED certification. “Green Globe” certificates are similar to LEED, and the cost can be covered through a federal grant program. Alternatively, a project can be built using the best environmental practices with oversight from an independent consultant, who follows both the work and its results several months after a building’s complete.Most council members agreed that building the project to LEED standards would probably be sufficient, without getting the actual certification. But council member Margaret Rogers said she doesn’t want to see the town backing off its green-building commitments.”Let’s build it to the standards,” council member Kerry Donovan said. “We don’t need the plaque.”During the two-hour review session, council members also got a look at a rough outline of what the office space might look like. In Hentschel’s preliminary model, the town council chambers and the administrative offices would be on the third floor. Those offices could end up on a fourth floor, depending on whether town officials agree to spend somewhere between $2 million and $2.5 million to add roughly 5,000 square feet of office space for nonprofit groups.Council members agreed to look into the prospect of adding the space to the building, despite some serious reservations from town manager Stan Zemler.Zemler said he’d recently toured the municipal building in Snowmass, which has private office space in addition to town uses.”It was terrible,” Zemler said. “That example really soured me.”But, Rogers said, providing office space in the municipal building for organizations such as the Vail Recreation District or the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens could free up office space elsewhere.Rogers said if Vail had a lot of available land, there would be no need to consider adding space. But in Vail, where land is at a premium, the topic is worth investigating.That investigation will have to happen fairly quickly. With groundbreaking expected next year, the town’s Design Review Board needs to have its first formal documents on the project in June.