Sunshine Ridge Custom Home Earns Summit County, Colorado’s First LEED Gold Certification

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In addition to receiving Summit County Colorado’s first LEED Gold certification, Breckenridge, Colorado Architect Michael F. Gallagher's design for the Sunshine Ridge custom home won seven awards in the 2010 Parade of Homes and received Mountain Living Magazine’s coveted Peak award.

In addition to receiving Summit County Colorado’s first LEED Gold certification, Breckenridge, Colorado Architect Michael F. Gallagher's design for the Sunshine Ridge custom home won seven awards in the 2010 Parade of Homes and received Mountain Living Magazine’s coveted Peak award.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

In the late 1970s, Breckenridge Architect Michael F. Gallagher wrote his masters thesis on an environmentally sustainable restaurant, complete with an on-site wind generator, greenhouse and solar energy panels. The U.S. was in an energy crisis and alternative energy sources were the wave of the future... until the energy crisis passed and new energy sources were all but forgotten.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Gallagher was asked by an Oklahoma family to design Sunshine Ridge, their mountain home in Summit County. Environmentally responsible, sustainable construction was their goal. Early planning indicated that a LEED Silver rating was possible. As Gallagher studied the U.S. Green Building Council’s certification requirements, the quest for silver turned to gold. Completed in September of 2010, Sunshine Ridge holds Summit County’s first LEED for Homes Gold certification.    

The LEED for Homes certification process is set around a point system that rates design and building strategies to increase performance in energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide reduction, improved indoor air quality and sensitivity to the surrounding environment. After Gallagher learned about the LEED certification process, he turned to the Internet to begin evaluating the myriad of products available for green building.

“After you determine which products have the best performance record, you need to decide if they’ll fit within your budget,” Gallagher says. “Prices are dropping as products become more common, but sometimes the price is still too high or the performance not quite what it should be. Homeowners should ask their architect for a flexible design that allows for retrofitting in the future. If my clients want solar but are concerned about the efficiency of solar right now, I can design a plan that will allow installation of solar at a later date when the technology has advanced and hopefully the price has come down.”

Gallagher says Breckenridge’s 9,600-foot altitude sets additional design and construction limitations.

“On-demand water heaters are typically more energy efficient, but up here with our lack of oxygen and our cold tap water, on-demand heaters don’t work well. The same was true when plasma televisions first came out. The early models simply didn’t work well at this altitude.”

Using recycled products was critical for LEED certification. During the construction of Sunshine Ridge, the builder cleared beetle-kill pine trees from the site, exchanged them at the mill for processed beetle-kill lumber and used this lumber for all of the exterior wood cladding and decking. All of the interior doors, base and casing, interior railings and shelving as well as some of the home’s cabinetry were beetle-kill pine. 90% of the door hardware was recycled with at least half of it coming from post consumer content.

Gallagher goes on online regularly to search for reclaimed and recycled lumber and supplies. For Sunshine Ridge, he and the builder found railroad trestles salvaged from an old track that crossed the Great Salt Lake and incorporated them as structural timbers.    

Incorporating solar power at Sunshine Ridge was a major design goal for Gallagher.

“The best views for this home were facing the west, so I was able to install eight solar thermal panels on the south facing roof to provide all of the home’s domestic hot water plus some of the heating. Thirty-six photovoltaic panels supply 95% of the home’s electricity.”    

Associates III provided the interior design services which exceeded LEED for Home requirements for healthy, sustainable interiors. High efficiency lighting, natural wools, organic cottons and recycled materials were used throughout the home. All finishes and adhesives were low-VOC (volatile organic compounds).

Gallagher said he looks forward to incorporating his green-building knowledge into the luxury mountain home market. And he hopes the world won’t become complacent about the need for energy savings as it did years ago.

“Some people are critical of large custom homes simply because of their size and the fact that they may be second homes. We need to appreciate the fact that these second homeowners have the financial resources to pioneer the green building systems right now. They are creating the demand and spurring invention and manufacturing to make sustainable building more affordable for everyone. Today, many of the systems pioneered by “green builders” are being used in the mainstream. Now even Habitat for Humanity can afford to be green. We’re on the right track....we just have to stay on it this time.”    

In addition to receiving Summit County’s first LEED Gold certification, Sunshine Ridge won seven awards in the 2010 Parade of Homes and received Mountain Living Magazine’s coveted Peak award.

The team working on Sunshine Ridge included: Michael F. Gallagher, Architect; Arnie Surdyk, Double Diamond Construction and Property Services; Kari Foster and Jill Bosshart, Associates III Interior Design; Megan Gilman, Active Energies; Carl Warnke, Engineering Design Works.    

More information and photos of the home can be found at http://www.michaelgallagher.com. For inquiries, please contact Michael F. Gallagher at 970-453-6872 or Michael(at)michaelgallagher(dot)com.    

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