How One Aspen House Lives Up to LEED

By Allie Weiss / Published by Dwell

Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.

The Aspen residence of architects Sarah Broughton and John Rowland aims to leave the pristine local landscape intact. "Every drop of water that lands on the property finds its way to the bocce ball court, which is our storm-water filtration system," Rowland says. "By the time it leaves, and heads to the aquifer, it’s as pure as it can get."

Located in a historic mining neighborhood, the house is a modern take on the 19th-century cabins that dot the area. 

Photo by Brent Moss

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The couple’s house is LEED Gold certified, a rating they achieved by taking into account a number of considerations: They designed the structure so that a large tree in the front yard could be retained; construction was executed to minimize erosion and site impact; and the house itself has high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, among other features. Photovoltaic panels provide about 60 percent of the abode’s energy. 

Outdoor entertaining is made possible by a wall of pocket doors from Weiland."It really expanded the living room, because the doors just go away," Broughton says. The couple use the Savant system to play music—two speakers are installed in the ceiling of the covered porch, and there are more in the garden."The outdoor area rocks, literally," Rowland says.  

Photo by Brent Moss

The residents have wired their mechanical room and solar technology to a Savant home automation system, which they use to keep an eye on the home’s performance. They’ve configured the system’s app to deliver a breakdown of the dwelling’s energy usage in a pie chart. "Last spring, when we were starting to open the windows, I looked at it and said, ‘Oh my gosh, the humidifier is running full-time, and it’s the largest energy hog right now,’" Rowland says. "It was time to turn it off." He notes that they also closely monitor another culprit so it doesn’t run unnecessarily: The heat tape used in the gutters to prevent snow buildup is a big draw.

Having achieved LEED Gold certification for their Aspen property, Sarah Broughton and John Rowland use a Savant home automation system to monitor the house’s efficiency, adjusting any elements that take up too much energy.  

Photo by Brent Moss

The house is well-equipped for guests, with multiple sleeping areas. The main guest room features a custom reclaimed oak bed by BenchCraft and a Callan chair from Room & Board.  

Photo by Brent Moss

The house is optimized for gatherings. A guest apartment equipped with bunk beds sits under the garage, and a wall of sliding doors from Weiland enables indoor/outdoor functions—Broughton and Rowland once hosted a 25-person dinner party that seamlessly stretched from the dining room to the patio, thanks to tables set up in both places. Technology aids in the couple’s entertaining: Big music fans, they use the Savant system to stream audio across the property. Keyless door locks from Schlage hook up to the Savant setup, and the duo can assign visitors guest codes that will expire after they leave. But the couple purposely steered away from additional automation features—such as connected thermostats—to avoid confusing guests who aren’t familiar with the systems.

 In the living room, a custom chaise by Shimna and an Archibald Gran Comfort chair by Poltrona Frau surround a custom lacquer coffee table by BenchCraft.The lights, made from recycled cardboard, are by Seattle design studio Graypants.  

Photo by Brent Moss

For themselves, though, Broughton and Rowland value the ability to ensure that their house is living up to its green rating. "I wish more of our clients would use tech to understand their consumption," Rowland says. "A lot of people don’t even pay attention, and things are just running. As architects, we need to be in tune with that."

The materials are limited to white millwork and white oak. "When we come home, we want something serene," Broughton says.  

Photo by Brent Moss

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