One of the most energy-efficient buildings of its kind, the new Innovation Center for the Rocky Mountain Institute was designed to harness the heat of the sun, in a climate where the average nighttime low hovers around 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Rocky Mountain Institute is a visionary energy efficiency think tank that works with companies to reduce their reliance on natural resources. When the nonprofit was looking to build a new green HQ, there was no question the new building would need to practice what the organization preached.
Designed by ZGF Architects, the 15,600-square-foot Center rests on a snowy hillside beside a river in Basalt, Colorado. At an elevation of 6,600 feet, the climate is definitely cold, but it's also sunny. Basalt sees an average of 242 sunny days a year.
The design of the new building takes advantage of these cloud-free skies to maximize the simplest and cheapest way to heat a building: solar gain. A super-insulated roof and quad-paned glass windows (filled with krypton gas) help trap the sun's heat, while concrete floors contribute to the building's thermal mass.
The floors also contain a radiant heating system, though most of the workers prefer to use smaller electric mats beneath the carpet to heat individual work spaces.
These conversation-minded design concepts add up. The Institute uses 74 percent less energy than comparable offices in the same climate, according to Architect Magazine.
The Rocky Mountain Institute's New HQ Has No Central Heat [Architect Magazine]