GreenTech Building

Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s Tour of Solar Homes comes up this October, and the US Green Building Council holds its annual conference (Greenbuild) in Denver this November. With an eye on high performance (“green”) building, Lindsey Shorthouse of Zócalo Development and I set out to unearth on-the-ground examples of mixed-use, commercial and residential (that is, non-municipal) green building in the Denver metro area.

Lindsey found one. And what a find it is.

Last Friday, Cheryl Spector, an architect and developer of high performance (aka, green or sustainable) building, played docent on a tour of her latest project, Nine10Arts on Santa Fe Drive in Denver. Says her marketing material: “Nine10Arts is a gathering place designed to advance all art forms in the heart of Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe…a place where people can come together to work, play, live. Play Creatively. Live Creatively.”

The LEED-certified space is an agglomeration of two existing old warehouses and new construction. It holds residential lofts (at both market and affordable housing rates), artist work studios, exhibit pace and event facilities, a Capoeira studio and a coffee shop.

It’s the first example of truly green building I’ve yet seen – and it’s stylin’: 10-12 foot ceilings, European-styled kitchens, private patios and balconies, rooftop entertaining, off-street parking. And, it’s close to downtown and light rail. The USGBC likes it, too, and named it their 2006 Legacy Project.

“Nine10Arts exemplifies the best of what green building can be, and will be an invaluable resource for the Denver community. We’re truly excited to have Nine10Arts as our 2006 Legacy Project.” –Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chairman, USGBC

Cheryl starts with a philosophy and a vision – and uses her intimacy with the flow of the building…air, lighting, sight lines, inhabitants’ lifestyles…in the design. She has made ample use of daylighting and fresh air flows. Rising hot air is dispensed with the help of an atrium and interior open space. Sleek modern registers radiate heat generated from a boiler. Cooling derives from an evaporative, not a DX, air conditioner. The space is solar-PV and solar-thermal “ready.” Cheryl is also working on two green roofs (live rooftop plantings). The solar panels, when they arrive, will reside on pedestals that sprout out of a green roof.

The space is a showcase of green building materials: low-VOC paints and finishes, wheatboard, linseed-based linoleum. Wood planks rescued from a local university’s concrete pour became stairs. A minority women’s training program refurbished original hanging fluorescent ballasts – which Cheryl had re-hung with T-3 tubes. In the bathrooms, we saw Toto dual-flush toilets (complete with translation graphics for novices) and recharging sink faucets. On-site showers permit the artists to clean up between work and showings – no wasted gasoline to drive home.

Tours of Nine10Arts will be available to attendees of Greenbuild during Greenbuild week (so we thank Cheryl profusely for the private tour!) Tour details will be posted on the Greenbuild website in the coming months.

Next week, I’ll be meeting with Sean Garrett, another Denver architect who “gets green” but “from a different perspective,” he says, than mine. Sean is working on residential projects. MEIZ Development finalized plans to install solar panels at 43 Russia, three contemporary homes in North Denver. Steve Chucovich of Architecture Denver designed these magnificent urban homes. Steve is no stranger to solar or green building principles. MEIZ has plans for another project in North Denver – mixed-use, possibly with built-in PV. I can’t wait…!

Zócalo Development has a small solar PV array on-site, a test run for its planned solar install at its River Clay project. There’s always Belmar in Lakewood which touts its “green-ness,” but I’m not sure what to make of its wide streets (great for cars, not pedestrians) and its rabbit-hutch residences out in the rambling nondescript city fringes…surrounded by big-name box stores and swaths of asphalt (when it could have gone for some Sodpavers!). We also have the Alliance Center, a showcase of sustainable design at 1536 Wynkoop Street in downtown Denver – and the home of many an environmental organization.

We have “the green WalMart” off of I-70 in Aurora (aka, Saudi Aurora). Why would WalMart spin green, but put its green showcase store out in the eastern desert plains? We have the Denver Justice Center – which was going for LEED Silver last I heard. But, for residential, mixed-use and commercial building, the “green field” is mostly wide open.

Other goings on:
A personal plug…I am co-leader of Colorado Interfaith Power & Light, an affiliate of The Regeneration Project out of San Franscisco. IP&Ls across the country will sponsor free screenings of An Inconvenient Truth to interested congregations, from October 1-8. Hundreds of congregations (and a growing list of universities) across the country have already signed up. If you’re congregation or university is interested, sign up here. You will receive a packet with DVD and information pertinent to your state. Have at it!!

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