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Eco-Conscious Architecture

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The Wood River Valley has been affected by the population growth and building boom of the past five to ten years in more ways than just the landscape and the local economy. As the roads become increasingly congested and parking less available, water scarcer but the desert greener, and the cost of living more prohibitive even as our cherished “quality of life” deteriorates, our collective conscience is beginning to get the picture. The undesirable elements of popularity are producing (albeit slowly) a fresh review of priorities.

For many years, a few devoted nonprofit organizations have been at the vanguard of this movement, fostering awareness and responsibility regarding environmental issues specific to our area. More recently, however, environmentalism is gaining a foothold in the private sector, where its longevity depends not only on an edifying, ennobling sales pitch but also onemerging technologies that can be cost-effectively introduced into our daily lives.

One local company that has taken on this challenge is Developing Green. A collaboration of Morgan Brown, an electrical engineer and principal of Sun Valley Solar, and Martin Flannes, a land-use attorney and environmental activist, Developing Green was started in 2003 with the goal of profitably creating or consulting on environmentally sustainable and healthy housing developments. Whether a plan comprises homes, commercial buildings or neighborhoods, the underlying philosophy stays the same.

Using established objectives and parameters from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, Brown and Flannes have customized for application in the Wood River Valley a set of building guidelines called the Built Green Rating System.

In addition to following the five essential focal points of the LEED criteria—site planning and land use, energy efficiency, water economy, building materials/resources, and healthy indoor environment—Built Green addresses design innovation and building size (generally, smaller is better). An interested homeowner or landowner can use the rating system to determine how “green” an existing home is—or, better still, use it as a reference for constructing a new house or building. Brown’s residence, for instance—which was designed with these standards in mind by his wife, Rebecca Bundy, and features comprehensive solar energy components—registers between the gold and platinum levels of certification. Yet, according to Brown, there is much that can still be done to further the “green-ness” of the house, and some of these changes are currently underway. As with any learning process, early lessons have led to later efficiencies.

One of the area’s earliest students of green building and an outspoken proponent is architect Dale Bates, who has preached and practiced the lasting benefits of a healthy living environment for over twenty years. His efforts have required great patience, since the green building industry in general has had to overcome substantial disadvantages versus conventional construction in cost, contracting expertise, and architectural community support. The unfair playing field has made potential client education and enlistment a tough business. Today, although not all of the gaps have been filled, technology and far greater public awareness have put green building on nearly equal footing with traditional construction. Consequently, as well as in recognition of his longstanding commitment, Bates and his associates have lately been enjoying unprecedented activity. >>>

 

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