Vail on verge of ‘colossal errors’ | VailDaily.com
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Vail on verge of ‘colossal errors’

Tom Boyd

Nearly everything about the Vail and Lionshead re-development is state-of-the-art, well designed, and pleasing to the eye.So far, so good.But the New Dawn is on the verge of using old ways. The buildings we make now will last for 50 or more years, so we should be using the most modern and efficient building techniques. Our buildings should be cost-effective and not wasteful but so far we have continued to use old, inefficient techniques as we redesign our town.In the United States, buildings account for 65 percent of electricity consumption, 36 percent of total energy use and 30 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions (according to The Economist magazine, Dec. 4 edition). An intelligent community like ours should be capable of understanding the benefits of building energy efficient structures, and we should be proactive about getting it done. Our new conference center, the new Arrabelle building, and the new Crossroads structures should be built with energy efficiency in mind, not just because it’s environmentally friendly, but also because it will make excellent economic sense in the years to come.Generally speaking, when I’ve brought this up with town and county officials, they’ll start talking about LEED certification (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). I agree with those who think LEED certification is essentially a waste it’s far too costly and time-consuming, and in the end it may simply be a form of greenwashing.I also don’t believe that this county should be as strict as Pitkin County, which, by the way, has an admirable green building plan in place (see “Better building” by Caramie Schnell at vailtrail.com, Nov. 18 edition).There is much to be learned from Pitkin County’s green building policies, but heavy regulations don’t work well in independent-minded Eagle County.What this county needs is awareness. These ideas make good sense, and most people just need to be told that they exist.Town council members and government officials need to make people aware of sustainable building techniques. Once developers realize how much money they’ll save in the long run by building efficiently, they will probably be open to the idea.The term “green building” isn’t even accurate anymore; “sustainable building” is. Yes, these building techniques happen to have positive environmental benefits, but first and foremost they make economic sense. The use of recycled building materials, for example, can reduce materials costs and it also happens to keep waste out of the county landfill. These materials are available at the RECON lot located right near the dump. If you’re a builder or an architect, get in touch with Matt Scherr at (970) 569-3890 or mscherr@eaglevalleyalliance.org to learn more.The other key element in building efficiently is to make sure that our building teams and construction crews are unified. Designers, architects, engineers, developers and builders all make decisions that serve their own interest, but create waste. Smart thinking from general contractors can go a long way here.The Dec. 4 article in The Economist is among many which detail the worldwide success of efficient building techniques. Architecture is going through a revolution not because architects are environmentalists, but because the methods make very good sense.Here in Vail we are at the top of the world we have intelligent people, talented architects, capable builders, and sensible people in government. Our environment is our golden egg. We should be leading the efficiency movement not wallowing behind, only to realize 20 years from now how ignorant we were.Right now we are months away from making colossal errors in the way we build our town. Something needs to be done immediately to pull our town’s designs out of the dark ages and into the modern era. We are in a time when economics and environment exist in symbiosis, we should take advantage of it, and show the world how smart we are. That way, when people of the world come to visit, they can see our beautiful, efficient buildings and take new ideas home with them. People should leave this town with a sense that we are savvy, not sluggish.Rather than argue for days on end about the color of the conference center’s roof, we should be deciding what kind of solar panels work best on that very same roof.Rather than argue about the now-defunct bowling alley inside the Crossroads building, we should be asking if the windowpanes are leaking too much heat, or if the roofline is designed correctly.Rather than bicker about the petty things, we should be researching the use of a special glass, in production right now, which reduces the need for interior lighting, keeps heat and ultraviolet rays out, and minimizes heat loss in winter. We should be asking if builders have considered using natural gas powered fuel cells instead of traditional boilers. We should be making sure that, in the future, our pocketbook, as well as our planet, isn’t hurting because of our lack of foresight. VTSend letters to Tom Boyd at tboyd@vailtrail.com.


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