Green builders get creative with custom homes: Rocky Mountain Green

Custom homes are an opportunity to test the limits of what green builders can do
Custom homes give builders an opportunity to work with the higher costs of high-performance housing. (Photo: Pixabay)

The home was built with:

  • A double wall with cellulose insulation and 1-inch XPS
  • Passive solar, including on the chicken coop
  • ENERGY STAR windows and appliances (and a clothesline instead of a drier)
  • Insulated fiberglass doors
  • A GSHP with Airtap water heater
  • ERV
  • 10kw PV and all-electric power
  • Insulated PEX tubing
  • Compact water heating distances
  • Diverting system to direct water from the roof into a garden or a rainwater harvesting system
  • Beetle-kill soffits and trim. Rodwin warned that beetle-kill breaks down quickly in exterior applications, but is a beautiful, cheap material for interior finishes.
  • Permeable hardscapes

It’s a regenerative home with a HERS rating of -8. “These clients, for the last four years, have received a check on average every month of $120 from Xcel. And they power both their cars off this house,” Rodwin said.


The firm’s newest project is 3,000 square feet and was docked 14 points for its size in LEED Gold certification, Rodwin said. Still, he and his team are “delighted” with the project.

The home was built with:

  • Passive solar
  • Spectrally selective glazing on windows
  • Foam envelope
  • ENERGY STAR appliances and ENERGY STAR-“tuned” windows
  • All LED lighting
  • Ground source heat pump
  • Permeable surfaces
  • No formaldehyde or carpet inside
  • Partial living roof

Rodwin noted that in high-performance houses, it’s not uncommon for the homeowner to not “know how to drive” it, and they accidentally turn off the solar system or automatic lights.

“Going out and actually teaching our clients how to drive the vehicle, how to operate the house properly … is just as important as any other part of the design process,” Rodwin said. “Our services extend quite a bit beyond the normal design or construction of the house.”

[Related: Warranty woes for frustrated builders]

“When we’re talking about new technologies, who can actually afford to take the risk to investigate those?” Rodwin said. Like snowshoers breaking the snow for someone behind them, wealthy clients and their builders make it easier for the green builders coming behind them who want to adopt sustainable materials and practices but don’t have the resources to experiment on their own.

Danielle Andrus

Editor, Colorado Builder Magazine

Danielle Andrus has 146 posts and counting. See all posts by Danielle Andrus

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