Vail golf course gets greener |

Vail golf course gets greener

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyFrank Meier, of Germany, uses a hammer to secure part of the roof on the new Pump House building Friday at the Vail Golf Club.

VAIL, Colorado ” The small pumphouse on the greens of the Vail Golf Course may soon be one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in Vail, Colorado.

The building, which is being rebuilt as part of an irrigation improvement project on the course, will be built entirely of wood, specially cut in a way that requires minimal nails, and no insulation or drywall.

“This is a totally natural, green, environmentally friendly material,” said Gordon Pierce, owner of Pure Wood Solutions, the company producing the wood walls for the building. “And it can be built in a factory and put up in a matter of days.”

When the Vail Recreation District looked into options for replacing the 24 foot x 36 foot building, building manager Scott O’Connell was looking for something that was cost effective and could be built quickly. An architect told him about European technology that was eco-friendly as well as fast and easy to erect.

“We felt it fit along with how we would like to be stewards of the land for the golf course,” O’Connell said. “If there are things we can do to be more environmentally friendly, we want to do that. And we saw that ecologically this was a wonderful product.”

With traditional buildings, the wood frame work goes up, then insulation, drywall and other materials are added, taking months to complete. Even buildings constructed with recycled materials still take immense energy to produce and use materials such as glues and other toxins in the process.

However, the wood-paneled walls that make up Pure Wood Solutions buildings are produced with minimal energy and from sustainable sources, according to the company.

“Green technologies aren’t always so green because of all the hidden costs,” said Todd Pierce of Pure Wood Solutions. “But trees grow by themselves, as well as sucking up carbon dioxide from the air. They take no energy to produce.”

The buildings are energy efficient once they are built as well, he said ” compared to traditional walls with insulation, the wooden walls retain heat more efficiently and keep the interior cooler in the summer.

The walls, roof and floors are made of several layers of custom cut wood pressed together, which are held together with wooden pegs. The panels are made in a factory, shipped to the building site, and inserted into slots on a specially constructed foundation ” like pieces of a giant puzzle.

Rich Haas, vice president of the project’s general contractor Weitz Company, compared constructing the building to “building with full-sized Lego blocks.”

“It’s hard to make a mistake. I can get a whole building up in a day,” he said. “I’m very proud of Vail for accepting this product.”

On the golf course, a crane lifts up big slabs of the numbered wooden walls and fits them into their corresponding spots in the foundation.

O’Connell estimated the building would be up and finished in three days. The most difficult part was getting the large slabs from the road onto the golf course, he said.

The wooden panels had to be shipped from a factory in Austria, because currently there are no factories in the United States. Despite the shipping costs, the building still cost less than a traditional building because of money saved on labor and construction costs.

Pierce said he hopes to build a factory in the United States, which would cut costs even further. The company is currently looking for a lead investor and plans to build in Utah or Wyoming, he said.

The factories themselves are efficient, he added. The company can use the leftover wood to burn for enough electricity to power the factory and sell back to the grid.

Pierce said he sees great potential for the green building technology in the Vail area, and several projects have already shown interest, including Timber Ridge, Solar Vail, the Gorsuch building and some private residences.

Research is even underway to see if beetle kill wood can be used to make the products.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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