Snowmass Club’s new look combines energy-efficient design with a style that reflects the surrounding Colorado ranchland.
Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) has always been a leader in creating resorts that are environmentally friendly. And with the new 10,000-square-foot clubhouse and redesigned golf course at ASC’s Snowmass Club (near Aspen, Colo.), it took “building green” to a whole new level.
Club: Snowmass Club
The new clubhouse has a geothermal heating and cooling system and was built with “sustainable” construction practices that don’t add to the stress on available natural resources. All of these features grew from ASC’s long-standing policy to “recognize that climate change is the issue of our time and a major threat to our industry, and that buildings are a large part of our ‘carbon footprint,’” according to Auden Schendler, Director of Envi-ronmental Affairs.
While construction required a two-year shutdown of the golf course, the club’s membership has raved about the end results. “Our members are interested in taking care of the Earth,” notes Director of Membership Kristen Everhardt. “They say it’s been well worth the wait.”
Planning for the new clubhouse began in 1999, in conjunction with the redesign of the golf course, which was suffering from irrigation problems. ASC wanted to make the course more challenging as well as more environmentally friendly, says Everhardt.
The new layout has 15 fewer irrigated acres. Where irrigation is needed, the system integrates with a weather station that controls water usage based on wind and rain levels.
Other environmentally friendly features include two ponds that act as sediment basins for Brush Creek, which flows through the course. “Monitoring reports show a 70 percent drop in suspended particulates in [the creek],” reports Don Schuster, ASC’s Vice President of Real Estate.
Home on the Range
Because the course redesign changed the position of the first hole, Snow-mass’ clubhouse had to be relocated. The new site was a wide meadow below the peaks of the Rockies that had been used for ranching.
“We wanted the design to be indicative of the region’s ranching heritage, but still be elegant,” says Everhardt.
“The golf course is on the valley floor of Snowmass,” says Doug Graybeal, the project’s principal architect. “Since it was sitting out in what used to be a field, we decided to make the clubhouse look like a barn, except with a twist.”
“It’s basically a beautiful barn,” adds project architect John Skank.
The site was selected not only because of the new routing for the course, but also because of the good solar access that it offered. Facing the south, the structure receives passive solar warmth throughout the winter, and lots of natural light in summer. In addition, the public areas of the clubhouse all have direct views of Mt. Daly, including the southward-facing dining room and outdoor dining area.
Power of the Pond
The clubhouse’s most unique feature, though, isn’t visible at all: heating and cooling by a ground-source heat pump. While most geo-thermal systems use loops buried in the ground, ASC decided to take advantage of the pond on nearby hole 18, and buried coils of pipe in its bed.
“Just like a ground source, a pond-source system magnifies the relative difference in temperature between the pond and the air to heat and cool the building,” Schendler explains.
For the same reasons that a basement can stay cool in the summer and relatively warm in winter, a system based in either the ground or a pond benefits from being housed in a relatively constant temperature. The pond-source heat pump, though, is actually more efficient, Schindler adds, “because water is a better heat-transfer medium.” The Snowmass system is also flexible, allowing for cooling in one part of the building and heating in another.
The geothermal technology will save the club $10,000 annually and pay for itself in about a decade, Schindler estimates (the golf clubhouse is not used year-round). What energy the new structure does use is provided by wind power. Last year, ASC announced it would offset all of its electricity usage with the purchase of renewable energy credits.
|The barn-like structure was designed to reflect a ranch motif, using rusted metal roofing, timber trusses, and old fencing and lattice work.|
Lighting the Way
Another key contributor to the clubhouse’s energy-efficient design is its southern exposure. “The south side of the structure happened to be the view side,” notes Graybeal, “so that’s where we put the dining room, bar, and pro shop.” Natural light fills all three spaces throughout the day, so members not only get to enjoy the scenery, they benefit from naturally warmed spaces.
The north side of the building, with the club’s service areas and locker rooms, also gets natural ambient lighting from high windows positioned over work spaces. “Every space in the building is naturally day-lit,” Skank says. “Every room has access to an exterior wall.”
The clubhouse design blends beautifully into its surrounding landscape, with cedar siding, cedar shingles on portions of the roof, and a steel alloy on flatter roof areas. The roof over the dining room is actually translucent fiberglass, allowing for additional penetration of natural light into a heavily used public space.
The clubhouse also features low-flow fixtures in all restrooms, including dual-flush commodes. Long, trough-style sinks in the restrooms continue the “barn look.” Even the commercial kitchen features an energy-efficient design, with a variable-speed fan on the oven hood.
Golf carts are stored on the lower level of the building, keeping them closer to where they’ll be used. The carts are charged during non-peak hours, to reduce the energy load on the local grid.
Nearly half of the wood used in the building is Forest Steward
ship Council-certified, which means no old-growth forest was cut for the lumber, nor was any forest clear-cut.
In the end, ASC’s efforts to build a “green” clubhouse have paid off financially, too. Of Snowmass’ current 800 golf members, many joined after the course redesign and clubhouse construction, says Everhardt.
The new clubhouse has been the talk of the town, she adds, largely because of the commitment it represents to more environmentally sound construction and maintenance practices. And with other barn-like features, such as a wire mesh wall between the entrance gallery and pro shop, and liquor storage in the bar using doors on a rope-and-pulley system, the clubhouse definitely has a whimsy that members appreciate, too.
“It has a fun, playful element,” notes Everhardt, “and beautiful views of the valley.”
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