The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission will consider a proposal Sept. 25 to replace these aging duplexes with two live work buildings promised to achieve LEED gold green certification.

Photo by Tom Ross

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission will consider a proposal Sept. 25 to replace these aging duplexes with two live work buildings promised to achieve LEED gold green certification.

Green building project goes for 'gold'

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— The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission is scheduled to hear a proposal for the city's first LEED gold-certified green buildings Sept. 25, when it considers the development plan for InSpiritu Verde.

The project would entail demolishing two yellow stucco 1949 duplexes at Fourth and Oak streets to make room for two new buildings. They would include three live/work units, an affordable housing unit and two employee units.

The developer is Denver architect John Buchanon, who entered the city planning process in July 2007. He has gone to considerable lengths to capture solar energy.

The project would be notable for several qualities, including a gabled roof that is skewed from the building rectangle to capture full solar gain, a driveway snowmelt system that relies primarily on solar power and an automated underground parking garage that would accommodate eight vehicles by stacking cars on top of one another.

Senior City Planner Bob Keenan described the unusual gabled roof at InSpiritu Verde, which combines solar panels and portions of the roof where beams are exposed.

"Downtown Steamboat Springs' lot and block grid is oriented to the Yampa River rather than the sun," Keenan wrote in a memo to City Council. "The applicant has rotated the roof to orient to the sun, while keeping the front façade parallel to Oak Street to respect the (neighborhood) design guidelines.

"The roof of the building on Oak Street has been oriented to true south, while the front of the structure is kept parallel to the street," Keenan continued. "The proposed building to the rear of the property (on Fourth Street) has not been oriented parallel to lot lines, so that it can accommodate a parking garage and maximize solar gain."

The development would be built on a tight 7,000-square-foot parcel on the northeast corner of Fourth and Oak streets. The existing duplex homes on the property were not deemed historically significant by the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, Keenan said. The property is zoned "commercial neighborhood," meaning it is intended for a mix of low-intensity commercial uses, limited retail and residential dwelling units.

Keenan said the project as proposed would require approval by the Planning Commission and Steamboat Springs City Council of several variances from the community development code. Those include a 34 percent increase in the allowable ratio of floor space to lot area.

It also needs a variance to overall building height and building setbacks on three sides.

Keenan also raises questions about how the buildings met design standards that call for them to respect traditional settlement patterns of the Oak Street area and develop open space that promotes pedestrian activity.

Through the course of almost a year of discussions among planning staff members and the development team, Keenan said they reached enough compromises that staff was able to recommend approval of the project, which he said meets many of the objectives of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan.

"We met in the middle," Keenan said. "During the review process, we reduced the amount and the severity of the variances. They've shown a commitment to high-performance building and sustainability, but they still need to meet the criteria (in the development code)."

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