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5 Tips for Green Building at Elevation

Photography by Derek Israelson

Today’s modern mountain homes are not without their energy needs, especially given these structures’ large expanses of glass and their exposure to strong winds, heavy snow loads, bitter cold and summertime heat waves. Thankfully, these challenges can be adequately addressed through today’s improved technologies and high-tech products, as well as through sensible siting. Julie Chahine of J Squared Interiors and her husband Ken did intensive research before following these steps in their LEED Gold-certified Park City home:

1. Invest in environmentally cognizant features. Properly seal and insulate the structure; do a blower door test; use triple-paned windows vs. double-paned; consider concrete, as it is a great insulator; choose LED lighting. 

2. Be space-efficient by having rooms that do double duty. The main living area hosts a hidden projector and screen that is great for Super Bowl parties but hides away when not in use (no need for a secondary entertainment area). 

3. Geothermal energy. The residence uses geothermal energy for both heating and cooling; this eliminated the need for two HVAC systems. 

4. Make the most of passive-solar efficiencies. Use overhangs to provide shade in the summer while allowing sun in during wintertime, when the angles are lower, and site the house to make the most of southern sun exposure. 

5. Hire an energy consultant (the Chahines relied on Heliocentric in Park City) or an architect with experience in designing for energy efficiency, especially if your goal is LEED certification. Even though the Chahines had professional knowledge, had been researching the topic for years, and chose an architect experienced in green building, they still felt hiring a consultant was the smart thing to do. Explains Julie, “We felt we should make the right choices with respect for the environment.”

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