Go green, even when it's white

Environmentally-friendly principles as winter approaches

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The new Steamboat Springs Community Center, shown here under construction on Tuesday afternoon, is slated to be finished as a L.E.E.D certified building.

'Green' your home

Tips to lower utility bills:

- Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs

- Program the thermostat at 62 degrees in the winter

- Plug air leaks with weather stripping

- Tune up heating and cooling system

- Choose Energy Star appliances

- Use less water by adding aerators to sink faucets

- Plant trees to provide shade protection

- Use nontoxic gardening techniques

- Use rapidly renewable flooring materials

- U.S. Green Building Council

"Going green" is second nature to Sarah Fox, so when the vice president of Fox Construction entered her father's contracting business, her environmental principles followed her into the workplace.

"I'm obviously young, in my mid-20s, and if I want to have a future, I think it's necessary to have green building and sustainable design," Fox said.

"We have to change the way we are doing things in this business," she said. "A lot of contractors will say, 'We have done this for the past 20 years, why change now?' Well, why wouldn't you? It all makes sense."

Fox said building green also makes sound business sense.

"In the long run, most things you do will save you money on your home or building if you look at the energy efficiency," said Fox, who presented a "building green" lecture Oct. 11 to promote sustainable building practices.

Yampa Valley Electric Association General Manager Lawrence Covillo said energy costs are only going to increase in the future, and he urged homeowners to take measures to cut down on electric and gas usage.

"The average home in our area uses about 600 kilowatt-hour of electricity a month in the peak of summer," he said. "Those customers paid $64.30 in July, and usage doubles in the winter to about 1,700 kwh. You can see how the price obviously goes up, and it's tough on a lot of people."

Fox said existing homeowners can take steps, such as replacing incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs, to make their homes and businesses economically and environmentally friendly. CFL bulbs are replaced once every seven or eight years.

Fox said homeowners can take additional steps to be green and save money, such as adding a geothermal heating system, which uses the Earth's warmth - a renewable resource.

"The front cost is going to be more, but with the way energy prices are going, the payback should be in seven or eight years," she said. "Also, everyone gets their house painted every so often, so there's a choice to use regular paint with toxins, which your family will be inhaling constantly, or more environmentally friendly paint."

More expensive paint may last longer and prolong the next painting investment.

"Another thing they could do is install a light-colored roof," Fox said. "It won't cost anymore than a dark-colored roof, and it will help with the heat gain into the house."

Programming a home's thermostat in the winter to 62 degrees, plugging air leaks with weather stripping and tuning up heating and cooling systems are other ways to save money in the winter.

For those looking to build from the ground up, Fox said there are many steps to take when designing a green building, including site location, storm water management, light pollution, water efficiency, construction waste management and using products with recycled content.

"It sometime seems to come off a bit extreme to what people are used to," she said. "And clients don't always choose the sustainable options, but we do some green practices in our company that are standard, like using zero (toxic) paints, and we do in-house recycling."

Fox added that the demand for green building in Steamboat is rising, evidenced by the City Council's plans to have the new Steamboat Springs Community Center rated as Northwest Colorado's only LEED-certified building.

"People are getting more and more educated about what it means to be green and how to do it," she said. "It felt like two years ago, no one knew what green building meant, but I think that we'll be seeing many more LEED buildings in our city as people become more aware."

- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com

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