Luxuriously green |

Luxuriously green

Marabou strives to show multi-million dollar homes can be sustainable

Marabou river keeper Pat Stefanek explains to a visiting group from Economic Summit 2007 on Thursday how the project's developers have spent almost two years on efforts to improve trout habitat.
Tom Ross

Marabou's practices

A sampling of green building, sustainable and conservation practices employed at Marabou includes:

- Preservation of a sharptail grouse lek

- Community buildings sided with wood recycled from miles of aging snow fences in Wyoming

- Grazing cattle kept away from the river corridor to allow the recruitment of young cottonwood trees

- Use of solar panels and wind energy certificates to generate electricity for community buildings

- Construction of a settling pond so silt from man-made streams doesn't return to the Elk River

- Introducing limestone boulders to the river, streams and trout ponds to increase alkalinity, which supports the health of aquatic invertebrates

- Seasonal trail closure to protect elk calving areas

- Orienting buildings to make the most of passive solar opportunities

- Use of internal gravel pits to provide all of the road base for roads, reducing the number of truck trips needed to build the subdivision

- Insisting contractor utilize small pieces trimmed from lumber - kept estimated 14,000 pounds of construction waste out of landfill

- Attention to interior air quality in community buildings - no carpets that give off toxic gases

- Design guidelines requiring all homes to use exterior lighting that conforms to dark skies standard

— The log rail fence stretching along the hay and wheat fields on County Road 42 is brand new, but it already has been modified. It was too tall to allow elk to cross it during their seasonal migrations.

“We’re taking off the top rail along the county road,” Jeff Temple said this week. “That gets it down to 42 inches, where the elk can get over it. We’re not perfect, but we’re learning more every day. We want the wildlife habitat to be better next year than it is this year.”

Temple is a principal – along with Mark Hall and Jeff Jepson – in Due West Land and Elk River Partners, the development entities creating a sprawling “ranch preservation subdivision” called Marabou just west of Steamboat Springs.

Marabou will offer 55 multimillion-dollar, single-family home lots clustered on 1,800 acres west of Steamboat Springs.

When complete, Marabou will comprise 1,325 acres of open space along the lower Elk River.

Temple and his partners are determined to set new standards in the Yampa Valley for green building. So it wasn’t surprising they reserved a booth this week to tell their story at Economic Summit 2007, where the theme was “The Economics of Sustainability.”

Several clusters of community buildings that will be enjoyed by the owners are nearing completion within sight of the river this spring. Temple said his company has spent $940,000 in improvements over and above the building code to construct the community barn, recreation buildings, children’s adventure center, outing center and several guest cabins to green standards.

Joe Jones, project manager for general contractor TCD, said Marabou’s developers urged him from the beginning to score as many green points as he possibly could in the construction of the community buildings.

“What we’re most proud of,” Jones said, “is that from the foundations up through the finished roof, we’ve used a lot of recycled and manmade material. There’s 8 linear miles of interior trim in the buildings and 90 percent of it is reclaimed or rescued wood.”

The buildings have passed every test for their insulating properties, he said.

“We built these buildings almost too tight,” he said. “They almost failed the air transfer test.”

Marabou’s efforts recently won it a spot on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Green Power Partners.

Marabou is spending more money to improve wildlife habitat, rebuild agricultural fences and improve the grazing for the grass-fed cattle that will be reared on the ranch.

Unlike homeowners who might expect to gradually recoup the expense of energy-saving features over time, Temple said as builders of a subdivision, he and his partners don’t have that opportunity.

“Here’s the dilemma for a developer,” Temple said. “We won’t enjoy the payback over time. Still, I look at it as a good business decision. We expect the home sites to sell more quickly and for a higher price.”

The people who will build luxurious second or third homes at Marabou, except for a handful, will be limited to houses that are no larger than 10,000 square feet. A few others will be larger, mostly because they will be built on secluded lots that are out of view. Others will win an exception because they agreed to install costly geothermal heating systems that further offset their carbon footprints, Temple said.

Almost by definition, homes that reach 10,000 square feet represent conspicuous consumption.

How does Temple reconcile the size of the homes his buyers may build with his determination to achieve a green subdivision?

“It’s about, how do you do the best job you can?” he said. “How do you mitigate it? It’s all about the future.”

Steamboat contractor Mike Roberts, who sat on a panel with Temple at Environment 2007, said the size of buildings clearly is an issue in green building.

“The first consideration is size, regardless of what else you do,” said Roberts, who is the owner of Habitat Design and Construction.

“You can use all of the salvaged lumber and recycled glass tile there is, but that’s not necessarily a green house,” Roberts said. “The success has to be based strictly on its carbon footprint. The bigger the house is, the more greenhouse emissions that are typically associated with it.”

Temple said Marabou is taking an extra step to give homeowners an incentive to build green. If they score sufficient green building points, he said, his company will write them a check for $10,000 when their home is complete and green building practices have been verified.

The design guidelines for Marabou require all homes to score at least 50 “sustainability points.” However, homes in the 10,000-square-foot range will need to collect another 50 points to score the $10,000 premium.

They can earn points through a variety of means, including installing low-flow showerheads and water-efficient clothes and dish washers, using pine beetle-impacted salvage wood harvested in Colorado, installing insulated concrete forms on foundations and utilizing pre-cut wall studs to reduce waste.

Roberts said Marabou’s land practices are commendable and acknowledges there was a time in his building career when he built large homes.

“I wrestle with that,” he said. “I’ve been in this business for 30 years and I feel like I’ve been hypocritical like so many of us have been.”

However, he believes there may come a day when the market shifts and smaller, green-built homes will appraise higher and be more desirable than 10,000-square-foot homes.

Temple said he hopes Marabou’s sustainability will be judged on all of the programs at place on the ranch, from the restoration of a breeding trout population, to the creation of “bio islands” in the midst of hayfield for songbirds, the establishment of a grass-fed beef program and the construction of buildings that are highly energy efficient.

He promises to openly share the strategies employed at Marabou with other resort developers who want to follow in its path.

“My hope is that we get on the radar screen of the development community,” Temple said. “When we convince them this has paid off and that it’s the right thing to do, we’ll have been successful.”

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