Pitkin leads the way on green building | VailDaily.com

Pitkin leads the way on green building

Bret Hartman/Vail DailyTom Luby stands next to the solar and electric panels on the roof of his home in Eagle.

Around the High Country, town and county governments are starting to understand the role they play in protecting the environment and are mobilizing to provide a healthier environment to their residents.

Pitkin County is the role model to which surrounding counties aspire. The county has had an aggressive environmental building code in place since 2003, which applies not only to new buildings, but also remodels and additions.

The Efficient Building Program mandates some measures, such as recycling construction debris and insulating all hot water pipes. Other green building aspects are encouraged, not required.

But builders earn points for each green aspect they implement and are required to earn a certain number depending on what kind of structure they’re building ” a 2,000-square-foot home requires 65 points, but a 50-square-foot addition only requires 1 point.

Extra “innovation points” are given out for a few types of buildings, including a location-efficient project ” buildings within a quarter of a mile of a transit stop ” or for using an innovative product or design for the home.

Pitkin County is also considering limiting new homes to 15,000 square feet ” something Eagle and Summit counties aren’t doing, but Pitkin County also has the largest homes in Colorado.

“We have a beautiful place here ” elk and bighorn sheep ” and the public said they want to preserve these herds,” said Ezra Louthis, Pitkin County’s land use planner.

Eagle County recently implemented Eco-Build, a new set of environmental building regulations that requires all new single-family homes on county land to take measures to reduce energy and water use, along with the amount of stuff tossed into the landfill.

Like Pitkin County, Eco-Build operates on a point system. Rack up significantly more points than required and builders can get a 25 percent break on building permit fees. But miss the mark, and extra fees apply.

In Eagle County, where lodgepole pine trees are being killed off by pine beetles, builders can earn extra points if they use beetle-killed wood in more than half the home.

In Summit County, officials are letting the people decide what sort of development they want. Residents of the upper Blue Basin encompassing Breckenridge decided they didn’t want to see growth in the backcountry, while residents of the lower Blue Basin, including Silverthorne and Keystone areas, are opting to preserve farm lands while allowing growth in the urban Silverthorne area, said Kate Newnan, a Summit County planner.

Again the leader on cracking down on decadent building, Pitkin County prohibits any building on ridgelines for both aesthetic and environmental reasons, Louthis said. Eagle County doesn’t allow it if the home can be seen from Interstate 70, and Summit County is considering some ridgeline restrictions.

“Aspen is a great example for the rest of us,” Newnan said. “But we’re still working on it.”

All the counties have regulations about building in wildlife corridors or other sensitive areas where homes may cause erosion or other dangerous situations. They also encourage building in clusters to avoid sprawl, including building fewer roads and less infrastructure.

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

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