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Peak Efficiency: A Sustainable Rocky Mountain Office Heated Mostly by the Sun

This snow-bound building is a masterpiece of energy-efficient design

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.

This Super-Efficient Building High in the Rocky Mountains Has No Central Heat [Gizmodo]

The Rocky Mountain Institute's New HQ Has No Central Heat [Architect Magazine]

957 Acres of John Denver's CO Conservation Land Sells [Curbed Ski]