Developer hopes to set ‘green’ standard |

Developer hopes to set ‘green’ standard

Scott Condon
Aspen, CO Colorado
Architect Ace Lane stands in front of one of his "Green" homes in Blue Creek. Devon Meyers photo

GARFIELD COUNTY ” Building trophy homes on an old ranch next to the Roaring Fork River in the midvalley would be the easy way for Ace Lane to develop 100 acres he acquired last summer.

But Lane isn’t interested in taking the easy way out.

He’s got a passion for global cooling and he claims that an 79-residence subdivision he proposed in Garfield County will reflect that passion and set a new standard for “green” development in the valley.

“We’re trying to raise the bar,” said Lane.

The project, called TCI Lane Ranch ” with the acronym taking the first initial from each of his son’s names ” stands out as unusual for three reasons:

– All homes will have mandatory solar devices that supply major portions of the electrical and thermal energy consumption. That’s in contrast to some subdivisions in the valley that put solar devices through careful scrutiny for aesthetic reasons.

– Lane, who owns Wind River Trees, a tree nursery and landscaping business, pledges to plant 1,500 trees on the property. Most will be ponderosa pines that once dominated the ranch but were stripped in the decades since it was homesteaded in the late 1800s. He said planting trees is an effective way to sequester carbon and offset global warming.

– The construction will feature “advance framing,” which includes studs set 24 inches rather than 16 inches apart to reduce wood use and allow additional insulation; and “hollow” corners and smaller headers that allow higher use of insulation.

In addition, the homes will feature stained concrete floors, which are easier to cool and heat; brown cellulose insulation that has a 25 percent greater R-value than fiberglass; and southern orientation to take advantage of passive solar design.

TCI Ranch is located between the Waldorf School and Blue Creek Ranch, a subdivision Lane developed in 2003-2004 just upvalley from Catherine Store. A buffer of at least 200 feet will be preserved between the Roaring Fork River and the closest lots. Cattle pastures along Old Highway 82 will continue to be irrigated and offered for lease to the Nieslanik family for grazing, according to Jon Fredericks, the project manager from Lane’s Noble Design Studio.

Lane and his development firm, Geronimo Ventures, will follow a pattern they established at Blue Creek Ranch, with homes situated in tight clusters where they have neighbors to the sides, but open space in front and behind.

“It proved if you build something really cool, people will come after it,” Lane said of Blue Creek Ranch, where lots sold out quicker than the neighboring developments of St. Finnbar and Aspen Equestrian Estates.

But Lane said the green built homes represent a huge improvement on the Blue Creek model.

“Now that we’ve done one, we can step it up,” he said.

Lane’s firm is building a 2,900-square-foot spec house in Blue Creek Ranch that is the model for all houses in TCI Ranch, according to David Marrs, chief financial officer of Geronimo Ventures. It includes solar panels on the roof for both a photovoltaic system, which will provide about one-third of the electricity, and for a thermal system, that will supply all the hot water for heating and domestic use.

The model house far exceeded the score necessary to win certification in the Built Green Colorado program, which places a heavy emphasis on energy efficiency. The TCI Ranch homes also will exceed the “built green standard,” Marrs said.

Auden Schendler, the environmental expert for the Aspen Skiing Co., said he wasn’t familiar with Lane’s plans so he couldn’t comment directly. However, he said making advance framing and solar devices mandatory create a unique development.

“If you’re building a building and it doesn’t address energy, it isn’t green,” Schendler said.

There are lots of ways to earn certification in various green building programs, whether it’s Built Green Colorado or the widely-known national LEED, according to Schendler. Water efficiency, property ventilation, and use of carpets and paints that don’t emit gases score big points. But they don’t battle global warming because they don’t address energy consumption, Schendler said.

The Skico’s Sundeck Restaurant earned LEED certification even though it doesn’t address energy consumption, he noted.

If Lane’s homes exceed the code on energy efficiency, which the design and increased insulation will allow them to do, and if he uses solar devices, they truly could be green models, Schendler concluded.

The model green house in Blue Creek is listed for $1,595,000. Marrs figured the green features inflated the price by 6 percent.

Sale prices for TCI Ranch houses aren’t known yet. The project is just entering the Garfield County review process. The planning commission is scheduled to discuss the application July 11.

Marrs said the houses on the largest lots will be limited to between 4,500 square feet. The design calls for five neighborhoods which mix large, medium and small free-market lots along with deed-restricted affordable housing lots. The mix is 15 large lots, 22 medium lots, 19 small lots, 12 affordable housing lots and 12 duplexes, some of which will be affordable housing. All units will be between 1,000 and 4,500 square feet, according to the application.

Lane said he wanted a project that integrates rather than separates the housing geared to different income levels.

Garfield County code requires nine affordable housing units. The project proposes 16, Fredericks said. “Furthermore, the project provides free market lots ranging from less than one-quarter acre to one-half acre, helping to ensure that homesites will be attainable for a variety of income levels,” the application said.

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