Sustainable by Design

David Patterson
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Imagine that you open the second-story bedroom window in your new mountain home, only to see an ugly, flat rooftop covered in asphalt and gravel. Not the kind of view that drew you to the high country? Now, fancy that you open that same window and the plane below is a swath of flowering sedum. Yellow, white, red and pink flowers provide a colorful foreground to the view of meadows and mountains beyond.

Welcome to the world of green roofs, just one of the many significant eco-friendly features of this stunning 4,000-square-foot home just outside Steamboat Springs. “Green roofs build a quieter relationship between the house and the landscape,” says designer Jeff Gerber, who collaborated with owner/designer Laurie Reed and former partner Robert Hawkins to craft a house with a focus on sustainability. “They lift the land up,” Hawkins says.

And green roofs don’t just look good. They have a number of planet-sustaining advantages, says landscape architect Lisa Lee Benjamin, the designer of this installation. First, she says, the roof lessens the impact of the home on its site by “replacing” land. “We wanted to mitigate our human footprint on the property.” Second and third, Benjamin adds, the roof provides additional insulation for the home, and reduces the amount of rain and snow runoff. Fourth? It serves as a small habitat for wildlife. “This mat of life provides a safe haven for insects and birds,” Benjamin says. But the biggest advantage is to humans. “People feel good when they do something good for the planet.”



Other green features in the home range from big to small, from the photovoltaic array that collects energy from sunshine and the geothermal heat that warms the floors, to the recycled blue jeans used for insulation. The planet’s health was considered with nearly every design decision.

The home’s building materials are earth-friendly as well—and hail from a variety of interesting sources. The timbers are reclaimed from a train trestle that was docked deep into Utah’s Great Salt Lake. All the wood flooring is re-sawn wide-plank pine, and “includes peg holes and worm holes” from its previous life, chuckles Gerber. Even the exterior siding is recycled hardwood—oak, maple and hickory—from a fairground in Fergus County, Montana.

Gerber and Hawkins joined several architectural forms together to create a tight structure that tucks into the side of the meadow. On one side, facing Emerald Mountain, are the living, dining and kitchen areas. That two-story expanse opens to a deck, which in turn leads to the wide-open meadow. A smaller structure houses bedrooms and guest rooms. The two tall gables are linked with two lower rooflines covered in the green roof. “One way to respect the site is to build small,” says Hawkins, “and this is the smallest home in the subdivision.”

The interiors reveal a pared-down sensibility. Pine or slate floors and wood walls and ceilings are enhanced with an uncluttered selection of contemporary and mid-century furniture. “I like spaces to be very simple,” says homeowner Laurie Reed, who designed the interiors, selecting finishes with the help of Habitat team member Kande Iken.

Trained as an architect herself, Reed is passionate about sustainable design and knew she needed the right experts to finesse the project. “It takes a team of believers to build a home this committed to green design,” she says.




INTERIOR DESIGN Laurie Reed, homeowner (with the help of Jeff Gerber of Gerber Berend Design Build,, Assoc. AIA, 3815 Design LLC, Seattle, WA, (206) 459-8651, ARCHITECTURE Jeff Gerber (now of Gerber Berend Design Build,, lead designer, with Rob Hawkins and Laurie Reed, Rob Hawkins Architects, Steamboat Springs, BUILDER Mike Roberts, builder of record and Brad Bartels, construction site supervisor and manager (now of PureBuilt Construction,, Habitat Construction, Steamboat Springs, SOLAR PANELS Susan Holland and Tim McCarthy, Emerald Mountain Energy, Steamboat Springs, LANDSCAPE & GREEN ROOF DESIGN Lisa Lee Benjamin, Evo Catalyst, GREEN ROOF SUBCONTRACTOR Andy Creeth, Green Roofs of Colorado LLC, Steamboat Springs, (303) 912-1941, RADIANT HEATING SUBCONTRACTOR Jeffrey Campbell, Simply Radiant Heating, Steamboat Springs, (970) 879-6555 CABINETRY Ron Clow, ULLR Designs, Steamboat Springs, (970) 879-5699 DINING ROOM TABLE & BENCH Manufactured by Meyer/Wells, Seattle, WA, (206) 282-0076, DINING CHAIRS West Elm, PENDANT Tech Lighting, The Light Center, Fort Collins, (970) 226-3430, KITCHEN WORK TABLE Aero, available at CABLE LIGHTING ABOVE SINK Tech Lighting, The Light Center, Fort Collins, (970) 226-3430, CARPETS IN LOFT & LIVING ROOM Bereket, Driscoll Robbins, Seattle, WA, (206) 292-1115, LIVING ROOM SOFA Lifewood Sofa by Flexform Italy, available at In Form Interiors, Seattle, WA, (206) 622-1608, CHANDELIER LBL Lighting, The Light Center, Fort Collins, (970) 226-3430, LOFT EAMES LOUNGER Herman Miller, available through Inform Interiors, Seattle, WA, (206) 622-1608, VINTAGE BARCELONA CHAIR Knoll, Modele’s Consignment Shop, Seattle, WA, SMALL PENDANT Lightsource, Seattle Lighting Center, Seattle, WA, (206) 622-4816, LARGE PENDANT Access, The Light Center, Fort Collins, (970) 226-3430, MASTER BATH WALL SCONCE LBL Lighting, The Light Center, Fort Collins, (970) 226-3430, PENDANT EuroFase, The Light Center, Fort Collins, (970) 226-3430,





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