Carlos Luna caulks around the window of a home being renovated by PureBuilt Inc. near Fish Creek Falls. The home is being completely redone, and its owners are looking into ways to make the home more efficient and sustainable for the future.

Photo by John F. Russell

Carlos Luna caulks around the window of a home being renovated by PureBuilt Inc. near Fish Creek Falls. The home is being completely redone, and its owners are looking into ways to make the home more efficient and sustainable for the future.

Denver speaker shows how sustainability can drive economic benefits

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Harry Larson cuts sections of beetle-kill wood that will be used for the soffit of a home being renovated by PureBuilt Inc. in the Fish Creek area. PureBuilt is updating the home as part of the renovation to make it more sustainable in the future.

— An expert in energy-efficient building retrofits that return cash to their owners told an audience of community leaders Wednesday how those same projects can succeed as job creators.

Ravi Malhotra, founder and president of the Denver nonprofit iCast, said his organization is focused on creating community-based sustainability programs that have the potential to bolster employment and channel money back into the local economy. And instead of new structures, iCast is focused on existing homes, commercial buildings, government facilities and schools.

“The Holy Grail is retrofitting what we already have,” Malhotra said.

The economic development benefits come in the form of savings in energy costs that provide individual homeowners and governments with more available cash. The expectation is that for every $1 million invested in a community, annual savings of $150,000 to $250,000 will be available to be spent for a period of 25 to 30 years.

And in terms of jobs, Malhotra said, research shows that every $1 million spent on energy retrofits supports 12 direct jobs and 19 indirect jobs.

He was speaking to an audience at the Yampa Valley Electric Association building that included representatives of the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Colorado Mountain College, YVEA, Routt County Extension office, energy efficiency professionals and members of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, who hosted the event.

Malhotra said the retrofit of an existing building allows a level of flexibility that facilitates the goal of returning immediate cash flow to the property owner that more than offsets the loan payment.

“With energy efficiency, you get a menu of things you could do (from installing more efficient windows to a new gas-fired boiler) and that give you the payback you are looking for,” he said.

His organization accomplishes its goals by acting as a form of clearinghouse. ICast initiates an energy audit of the building, provides property owners with contacts for qualified contractors, arranges for long-term financing that spreads out the amortization of capital costs and qualifies and audits local contractors.

A modest upfront fee helps to underwrite iCast’s cost of establishing a community program, Malhotra said. The organization had about $1.8 million in revenues in 2010, according to its annual report.

Chamber CEO Tom Kern asked Malhotra if iCast works with local chambers.

He replied that in virtually every community where it has worked, including Golden and Telluride/San Miguel County, iCast has collaborated with the local chamber of commerce. However, the role of any consortium of community sponsors is solely to provide the sustainable retrofit program with outreach to its own constituents.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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