Denver architect using green building in designs

Denver architect using green building in designs

by Lindsay Murphy

When Judy Dorsey designed her family's home, building green wasn't just an option - it was mandatory. "It's what I do for a living, and I couldn't imagine building our home without employing the principles of sustainable design," says Dorsey, a LEED Accredited Professional and the president and principal engineer at The Brendle Group, a Fort Collins engineering consulting firm that makes sustainability a priority.

Workers broke ground in November 2005 on Dorsey's 3,200-square-foot home, located on an infill plot in an established Fort Collins neighborhood, and it received LEED silver certification a year later, making it the first home in Colorado to obtain any LEED rating. Since then, three more homes have been certified and 28 more projects, totaling 772 units, have registered for the program.

Zocalo Community Development Inc., for example, is just completing its six-story, 60-unit RiverClay condomimiums in Denver's Jefferson Park neighborhood. The condos, which are expected to be the first in the region to garner a silver LEED rating, are priced at $289,900 to $607,700. Its many green features include solar energy, low-Volatile Organic Compound adhesives, stains, paints and coatings, water-efficient fixtures and preferred parking for fuel efficient vehicles.

Zocalo hopes to break ground this spring on another 60-unit condo project, 20/20 Lawrence in downtown Denver's Uptown neighborhood. When 20/20 Lawrence is completed in 2009, it will be the first residential property in the region certified LEED gold, says David Zucker, Zocalo partner and development manager. "We're the first to do highly sustainable housing in this area," he reportedly says.

The idea of new construction initially caused some caution and fear among Dorsey's Fort Collins neighbors. "But, when they realized what we were doing and how groundbreaking it was, they were extremely excited," she says. The home, which incorporates a long list of green elements, such as geothermal heating, photovoltaic cells and soy-based polyurethane insulation, underwent what Dorsey describes as a "unique" certification process. Paid for by the State Energy Office, Colorado State University's Institute for the Built Environment hired Amy Kreye, a CSU graduate student and LEED Accredited Professional, to lead them through the paperwork of what was then still a pilot program. Dorsey maintains that LEED for Homes certification wasn't that difficult. "Because of the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Star, there was plenty of energy efficient lighting available in our price range and design style," she says. "It just takes a little bit more up-front research."

But Joe Sullivan, president and owner of Archer Homes, which built Dorsey's home, admits that building green can add 8 to 25 percent to a new home's final cost. "But, short of the big initial cost, most folks are pretty agreeable to it," he says, adding that the extra research is definitely worth it. "Once we get past this housing slump, I think [LEED for Homes is] really going to take off," he says."


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