Green building may be about to boom | VailDaily.com
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Green building may be about to boom

Dennis Webb
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Gregory Franta remembers one of his early experiences using a low-flow shower head.”It felt like you were taking a mist rather than a shower,” said Franta, principal architect for the Rocky Mountain Institute nonprofit organization in Old Snowmass.But water-conserving showers have come a long way. So, for that matter, has the whole green building industry. It’s becoming increasingly mainstream, as may have been evidenced by the turnout Tuesday at a conference at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. “Really, the market is very ripe for the building community to want this kind of education,” said Katie Hoffner, an event organizer with Sustainable Conferences.High energy costs have contributed to a growing interest in green building. So has a desire to build structures that are healthier and do less environmental harm.Franta, who spoke at the conference, ran through reams of ideas for building in a greener way.Franta has worked with the U.S. Green Building Council on its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, also known as LEED. The program provides a national standard for buildings to earn green ratings, and for contractors, architects and other professionals to be accredited in the industry.The LEED standards run the gamut from landscaping, stormwater runoff control, water and energy conservation, and reduction in light pollution.Some green-building techniques are better-known, such as using low-flow plumbing, installing energy-efficient windows and planting native vegetation rather than water-consumptive lawns. Others are more subtle, or in some cases unusual.For example, conventional buildings can act as islands that soak up heat and raise temperatures in urban areas. This effect can be reduced by using light-colored, more reflective roofs. More exotically, vegetation can be planted on rooftops to make a building less of a “heat island,” Franta said. The latter approach also can absorb more stormwater, reducing problems with runoff.Choosing where to put a building also has environmental ramification, but also, Franta said, provides opportunity. The LEED standards consider whether a building is in a city or farmland, if it’s near mass transit, and if it’s safely above floodplains and away from wetlands. On the transportation front, further “green” credit can be earned for providing bike storage as well as showers and changing rooms for commuting cyclists, and preferred parking for people driving hybrid vehicles. Brent Wilson, of Architectural Engineering Consultants in Eagle County, said the company is involved in green design, including solar, geothermal and geoexchange energy projects,. His customers are finding it to be increasingly economical, especially as energy costs rise, he said.”It’s gained a lot of momentum. Being energy-conscious is becoming a lot more important in our country,” Wilson said. On the net: U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design http://www.usgbc.org.Vail, Colorado


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