Zola Windows designs European-style windows in Steamboat

Michael Schrantz
Ethan Smith, a service technician for Zola Windows, installs a display window in the company’s new showroom on Hilltop Parkway.
John F. Russell

If you go

What: Zola Windows open house

When: 3 p.m. Friday

Where: 1169 Hilltop Parkway

Ethan Smith, a service technician for Zola Windows, installs a display window in the company’s new showroom on Hilltop Parkway.
John F. Russell

— Designing a passive house is about creating an incredibly efficient building that takes little energy to cool or heat.

“Passive houses don’t have a bunch of electronic bells and whistles,” said German-born and Swiss-trained architect Florian Speier.

Ethan Smith, a service technician for Zola Windows, checks out an environmentally sound sliding door while installing a display window in the company’s new showroom on Hilltop Parkway.John F. RussellEthan Smith, a service technician for Zola Windows, installs a display window in the company’s new showroom on Hilltop Parkway.John F. Russell

The walls and floors are highly insulated, and the structure must be extremely airtight, Speier said.

That last requirement makes windows crucial to passive house design, and when Speier was working as an architect in California, he wasn’t satisfied with the selection the window market was offering.

Speier started a window-buying cooperative that eventually grew into a business designing European-style windows that work for passive houses.

Zola Windows is almost three years old but has been headquartered in Steamboat Springs only for a matter of months.

Zola is hosting an open house at 3 p.m. Friday at its new location at 1169 Hilltop Parkway in Fox Creek Park. Those involved in the building industry or those interested in super-insulated windows are invited to attend.

The Steamboat office has six staff members and two employees working in the field, helping clients properly install the windows. Zola also has representatives across the nation.

The European-style windows Zola designs differ from American standard windows in installation and the opening mechanism. Zola also designs the windows to be better insulated than what’s typically installed in homes and has a few signature products, such as its lift slide door.

The lift slide door has a 10-foot-wide glass pane that effortlessly lifts and moves, architectural consultant Josh Madsen said.

“You can have an entire 10-foot-wide window,” Madsen said. “You’ll be able to capture your views.”

Zola designs multiple styles of doors in addition to its windows with outswinging crank functions or tilt-and-turn systems. The tilt-and-turn windows can tip in from the top of the window to let a little air in or swing in on hinges to open wide.

Windows are a vulnerable part of the house when designing for maximum efficiency, Madsen said.

“If you don’t have windows that perform as well, it’s like having a hole in the bathtub,” he said.

The windows designed in Steamboat are manufactured in Poland and shipped directly to clients.

At first, the windows mainly were used in custom homes, Madsen said, but the attraction has grown to include apartments and some spec for new developments.

Near-passive houses — homes that don’t quite meet the standard but are striving toward it — are emerging as another trend that can capitalize on Zola Windows, Madsen said.

Passive house design comes in handy in colder climates where there’s a lot of temperature variability, Madsen said.

“It seems to me to give customers the best analysis on where to spend their money,” Speier said about passive house design.

Work is underway on the Zola Idea House, which Speier is building off Amethyst Drive partly as a show home for passive house design and his windows.

“Steamboat is obviously a challenging climate,” he said about designing a house with low energy needs. “The sun does bail us out a lot.”

Speier initially traveled through the Yampa Valley with his wife, Jessica Pfohl, who is president and head of business development for Zola.

“Actually, when we first drove through Colorado, Steamboat was the first overnight stop up at Steamboat Lake,” he said. “This was before the window business.”

Once Zola was up and running and became less dependent on proximity to the Denver market for business, the couple looked to relocate to Steamboat.

“It was a way-of-life choice and also for our employees,” Speier said about moving the business. “We moved some of our core employees up here.

“New employees were excited to move to Steamboat. We found great talent here.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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