Green Building Tour showcases extreme energy efficient homes

Colorado Mountain College’s sustainability-minded communities offer our sustainability students incredible access to explore sustainability in many forms. On Saturday, Nov. 9, CMC students took part in the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Green Building Tour. Article first published in the Steamboat Today.

Colorado Mountain College student Caroline Jordan examines a chair inside Ron Davies' home during Sunday's Green Building Tour in Clark. Just about everything inside Davies' home, down to the chairs and countertops, were designed with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind.

Colorado Mountain College student Caroline Jordan examines a chair inside Ron Davies’ home during Sunday’s Green Building Tour in Clark. Just about everything inside Davies’ home, down to the chairs and countertops, were designed with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind. Photo: Ben Ingersoll.

Ron Davies shows off the insert in his living room wall that shows spectators exactly what is insulating his house. Davies’ custom-built Clark home is a straw bale design, meaning 100 percent natural straw lines his stucco walls.

Instead, you’d find stacks of compressed straw bales, like the floor of a farmer’s barn.

About a mile down the street from Davies’ home, you’d find an even more unconventional approach to a home’s framework. Inside Kathleen Titus’ walls are approximately 1,000 tires with densely packed dirt inside.

It’s all about energy efficiency and sustainability, the homeowners say.

As unlikely of structures as Davies’ and Titus’ homes are, dozens of spectators walked through into their homes Sunday as part of an educational experience put on through the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s 2013 Green Building Tour.

Sustainability Council Executive Director Sarah Jones said it’s more of a learning experience than anything. It was the first year with exclusively North Routt green buildings.

The annual event started in 2008 and the five tours have showcased homes less than 2,500 square feet that take energy efficiency and sustainability to new heights in the Yampa Valley. Throughout the years, it has evolved to even more than that, Jones said.

“A huge piece of what we do is collaboration in government, individuals, nonprofits, businesses,” Jones said. We’re “trying to promote sustainability.”

Home tourists bouncing between this year’s selected four green buildings included Colorado Mountain College students, architects and visitors simply checking out the designs. Some were taking notes to take home for their own projects.

The final stop on the tour circuit was the North Routt Community Charter School facility, which was finished in 2012 as one of the “greenest schools in the whole state,” YVSC member Josh Nass said.

Everything from flooring, countertops, stoves and window locations were the highlight of the four buildings being toured. Nass called the North Routt community a quiet one regarding its sustainable homes, but the four selected gave spectators a lot of variety.

“It was kind of tough for us to find properties that we wanted to get on the tour,” Nass said. “But I think we did a really great job of finding a diverse group.”

Energy efficiency goes hand-in-hand with cost efficiency. All-natural building materials were a common theme among the four buildings. In Davies’ home, which he designed and built through his company Fair & Square Construction, the stucco plastering and straw bale insulation are 100 percent natural materials.

In Titus’ home, known as an “Earthship” for its building materials, recycled materials are customary. Along with the packed dirt inside the wall are recycled aluminum cans.

As Nass puts it, few sustainable homes are the same, even if they have the same goal in mind.

“The whole point of the tour is diversity in what we’re looking at,” Nass said. “Materials, construction techniques and lifestyle. Everybody is doing it a little bit different, that’s what it’s all about.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll