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Vail ‘renaissance’ light on green

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyLocal developer Bob McNichols has taken some environmentally sensitive steps in the One Willow Bridge project, including installing boilers that save in oil.
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VAIL ” Vail’s “billion dollar renewal” involves a lot of green, but not a lot of green buildings.

Environmental officials say Vail developers could be doing more to ensure their buildings are kind to the Earth.

Matt Scherr, director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, cited green building projects in Avon and Edwards, but said he wasn’t aware of any in Vail. Scherr said he’s disappointed with the lack of green building in Vail’s “renaissance.”

“Vail has that opportunity to lead the way,” he said.

Many of the large private projects in Vail are using green practices, but apparently none is doing enough to quality for certification as a green building. Green-building methods range from minimizing erosion during construction to building with recycled materials to using solar heating.

Middle Creek Village, an affordable housing development in Vail that opened in 2004, received an award from Built Green Colorado as well as recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its energy efficiency.

Vail Resorts Development Company tries to incorporate green building practices, said spokesman Paul Witt.

“Where it’s practical and applicable, we’ll try to use those guidelines,” he said.

The company is building the Arrabelle at Vail Square, the Front Door project at the base of Vail Mountain, the Ritz-Carlton Residences-Vail and the Gore Creek Townhomes, all in Vail.

One of the most well-known green-building programs is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, and none of those projects is aiming for certification from the organization, Witt said. Green building sometimes isn’t practical for high-end development, Witt said.

But the company has recycled concrete, metal and extra wood from its Vail projects, Witt said. Dirt from the Front Door site will be used for terrain parks on the mountain, which will reduce snowmaking, he said.

Also, the company will use recycled rubber floors and recycled wood for some of the walls for the planned skier services building at the Vista Bahn, he said.

The company is trying to get LEED certification for a golf clubhouse it is building at Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Witt said.

Bob McNichols, developer of One Willow Bridge Road said he probably would have sought LEED certification if he had known about it when he started the project.

“As a developer, I will think about it when I build again,” he said.

But his project does use higher-quality insulation and a boiler system that will cut down on oil use, he said. Those building features are more expensive but aim to save energy costs in the long run.

Craig Cohn, who works for Solaris developer Peter Knobel, said the cooling of the ice rink and the heating of the sidewalks may be integrated, but LEED certification hasn’t been discussed yet for the project.

“It is really expensive, but I don’t know,” he said.

Chuck Madison, partner at East West Partners, said the company is aiming for LEED certification for its Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon. LEED adds about 3 percent to the cost of larger projects, Madison said, and that premium often is returned in energy costs within a decade.

If the company is chosen to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure in Vail, it will pursue LEED for that project, as well, Madison said.

The Traer Creek shopping center in Avon and the new Vail Christian High School are aiming for green certification, Scherr said.

The town of Vail doesn’t have any special green building regulations, said Charlie Davis, the chief building official for the town of Vail. But there are “efficiency” elements in the building codes that dictate things like what kind of materials and how much lighting is used, Davis said.

Aspen and Pitkin County have a program that requires green practices like recycling wood and metal scraps.

Bill Carlson, the town of Vail’s environmental health officer, said he’d like the town to enforce green-building standards.

“I think a lot of these large projects have green energy-efficient and construction techniques in them,” he said. “I don’t think they’re aimed at receiving any kind of a certification or standard.”

Mayor Rod Slifer said he will push for a green building code for Vail.

“Contractors just haven’t taken the time and effort to become educated about LEED and green building practices,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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