Base Village is ‘green,’ but only so green |

Base Village is ‘green,’ but only so green

The Aspen Skiing Co. deserves kudos for doing everything it can to make its Base Village development as green as possible.

Auden Schendler, the Skico’s director of environmental affairs, told the Snowmass Village Town Council this week that the company plans to exceed the requirements of the energy code by 30 percent.

Schendler said it would be the ski industry’s first truly “green base village.”

Energy extraction and production, with the exceptions of wind and solar energy, are two of the most environmentally damaging activities humans engage in. By focusing on energy efficiency in Base Village’s condominiums, retail, offices and parking garage, the developers, Skico and Intrawest, can have a positive, long-term impact on the environment by dramatically reducing the project’s energy consumption.

With environmentally friendly building materials, lighting systems that require less energy and a centralized heating and cooling plant, the Skico is going a long way toward making Base Village better for the environment.

Most interesting of all is the company’s plan to hire a third-party engineer to monitor the project’s energy efficiency. Hiring an engineer with the sole responsibility of monitoring the construction is an expensive prospect. But the potential increase in efficiency ” between 6 and 40 percent, according to Schendler ” makes it sound worthwhile, especially for future owners and tenants.

The fact that Skico is volunteering to do it rather than being forced to do it as a condition of approval deserves acknowledgment.

Nevertheless, the Snowmass Village Town Council should continue to press the developers to reduce the environmental effects of this proposal.

After all, how truly energy-efficient is a project encompassing hundreds of thousands of square feet (the numbers are still being negotiated) that calls for an 800-car parking garage and the possible construction of a remote parking lot? How energy-efficient is a project that will employ hundreds of people 24 hours a day, many of whom will be forced to commute to work from downvalley or out of the valley in their cars?

When asked by a reporter, Schendler brushed off the first question by saying the project was designed to “utilize mass-transit essentially.” It’s hard to imagine very many of the owners of $1 million-plus condominiums opting to take the bus into Aspen, especially when they can take an elevator into the heated, underground parking garage and drive away.

This community could do a lot worse than The Aspen Skiing Co. when it comes to environmental consciousness. In fact, it couldn’t do much better. And the company deserves credit for this latest initiative. But that should not let either the Skico or the Town Council off the environmental hook. And it should not blind the council or the community to the very real environmental impacts that come from a project the size of Base Village.