Avon science school building hits ‘dry’ milestone | VailDaily.com

Avon science school building hits ‘dry’ milestone

NWS Walking Mountain 1 DT 3-3-11

AVON, Colorado – On a soggy March day, it was dry – and pretty warm – at the new headquarters of the Walking Mountains Science Center. And that prompted a celebration.

While many construction projects celebrate putting the topmost beam on a building, Walking Mountains Thursday celebrated a “dry in” – meaning the building isn’t finished, but the inside is now protected from the elements.

The celebration treated the crews working on the building to a catered lunch from Moe’s Original BBQ. It also gave board members and donors to the nonprofit group a chance to check out the progress of the roughly 9,000 square feet of buildings being built along Buck Creek, on the way up to the Mountain Star neighborhood.

The buildings are being built to the “Platinum” standard set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program. Part of that building was on display Thursday, in the form of blue polyurethane insulation that’s been sprayed on most of the building’s exterior walls.

That insulation will be augmented with another 6 inches of cellulose insulation – made from mostly recycled materials. Barry Monroe, the project manager for R.A. Nelson and Associates, the local company building Walking Mountains, said the end result will be buildings that use less than half energy of structures the same size built to conventional standards.

But LEED certification is about more than energy efficiency. Architect Brian Sipes, lead designer of the Walking Mountains campus, said other factors include things like water use, and even the amount of fresh air that circulates through a building.

And getting the building to meet the LEED standards was tricky, Sipes said. LEED certification is based on a point system, with points given for various building techniques and environmental factors.

“We knew starting out we couldn’t get about eight points, and another six would be expensive to achieve,” Sipes said. “In the end, we had about 55 available points and we needed 52.”

But the designers remain confident they’ll hit the standards.

When the building is finished, those who visit will be greeted with a variety of educational and informative displays, including a “nature nook” that features a replica of a beaver dam that kids can climb around.

Sitting in the shell of the building Thursday, Walking Mountains office manager Tiffani Hoole said the new campus is a “tremendous milestone” for the school.

“I’ve been here three years, and it’s something we’ve talked about,” Hoole said. “But it’s exciting to have the momentum now.”

Kristen Belschner, the marketing manager for the school, said she’s looking forward to more community members getting a look at the campus. She said a sign on Nottingham Road is on a vacant lot, so it’s easy for passing motorists to think nothing’s happening on the property.

“When we’re finished, this is going to be a huge value to the community,” Belschner said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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