Vail looks to up green building standards |

Vail looks to up green building standards

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – More insulated roofs, less snowmelt driveways and more energy-efficient building methods are all being discussed as a ways the homes and buildings of Vail, Colorado can be more environmentally friendly.

The town is in the process of creating a new green building program, which would require builders to meet certain standards – such as having a plan to dispose of construction waste, using better insulation, and building a longer-lasting roof that will efficiently keep ice from building up in the winter. The program is based on ideas from other green building programs and input from the local building community.

The goal is to make reasonable improvements in the building code, and create a building process that is clear to builders and developers, said Vail’s Environmental Sustainability Director Kristen Bertuglia.

“We want to make it simple, and we want to make the program easy for developers,” she said. “What we’ve heard from developers is, ‘Just tell us what to do, and we’ll do it.'”

Some of the proposed requirements may end up costing developers and homeowners more initially, but will save money in the long run. For example, one proposed requirement is to eliminate the use of heat tape, which is commonly used on the sides and roofs of homes to help prevent snow and ice build-up.

However, the heat tape is costly to run, and are sometimes accidentally left on even during the summer season. While a better-constructed roof without heat tape may cost more to build, homeowners will save on the cost of electricity, Bertuglia said.

“We estimated that for every 200 linear feet of heat tape, the cost is about $250 per month,” she said. “However, with a better roof, the pay back time is pretty short – about four years.”

One topic that has caught the attention of homeowners and developers is the idea of taxing heated driveways. Snowmelt driveways, while safer and appropriate in some cases, use considerable energy and have a huge carbon footprint, Bertuglia said.

The town has considered taxing per square foot of driveway, as well as limiting the percentage of the lot that is driveway.

In addition to meeting the requirements, the town is also considering asking builders to choose a few other environmentally friendly initiatives from a list of “options.” The options include using pine beetle wood, recycling construction materials and waste, and using renewable energy such as solar or geothermal energy.

Alongside the green building program, the town also plans to adopt the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, which raises the bar for energy efficiency – compared to the 2003 version of the code, which Vail is currently using, the new version will require homes and buildings to be 15 percent more energy efficient.

Matt Scherr, executive director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, applauded the town for taking what he called steps in the right direction, although he said he would like to see many towns do even more. He said the real goal is to not only encourage people to install better boilers or heaters, but to build homes with better insulation and better airflow, resulting in the biggest energy savings.

Adopting the new program and new energy code will help get Vail up-to-date with its peers in green building, and help the town towards its goal of being an environmental leader.

“This is going to be a struggle,” Scherr said of the new standards. “But these steps are going to take the town toward where they want to be.”

Vail will hold a public meeting to talk about the proposed changes on July 24. The programs will be discussed by the town council in September, and if approved, will go into effect in 2010.

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

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