Habitat for Humanity Ground Blessing

Habitat for Humanity Ground Blessing

Larry Gilland and Shannon Baumgartner from LGA Studios were honored to attend the “Ground Blessing” ceremony on November 28th of a new duplex project on East Dale Street that we’ve been working on with Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity.

Breaking ground on the E. Dale Street duplex with Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity

Breaking ground on the E. Dale Street duplex with Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity

Also present for the ceremony were the families that will be receiving the homes, as well as Mayor John Suthers, PPHFH Executive Director/CEO Kris Medina, Director of Homeowner Services Janet Risley, and others from Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity.

Thank you to Shannon Baumgartner, Dawn Nickels-Streb, Michelle Williams and our entire LGA Studios team for working on this wonderful project for a great organization, we can’t wait for the families to move in to their new homes!

Photos by Shannon Baumgartner

A Special LGA Studios Project - Through an Intern's Eyes

A Special LGA Studios Project - Through an Intern's Eyes

Shannon Baumgartner at the Habitat for Humanity Ground Blessing Ceremony next to the home elevation designed by LGA Studios

Shannon Baumgartner at the Habitat for Humanity Ground Blessing Ceremony next to the home elevation designed by LGA Studios

Over the past several months, LGA Studios has had the privilege of working on a project for Habitat for Humanity, a true honor for us. Shannon Baumgartner has been an intern with LGA since July and she has been extremely involved on this project. Just in time for the holidays, Shannon put together her take on the behind the scenes process, to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
A project for Habitat for Humanity

On the second day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the third day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Three red pens, two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the fourth day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Four families waiting, three red pens, two site plans
And a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the fifth day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Five golden shovels, four families waiting, three red pens
Two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the sixth day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Six changes needed, five golden shovels, four families waiting
Three red pens, two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the seventh day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Seven builders waiting, six changes needed, five golden shovels
Four families waiting, three red pens, two site plans
And a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the eighth day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Eight phone lines ringin’, seven builders waitin’
Six changes needed, five golden shovels, four families waiting, three red pens
Two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the ninth day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Nine board meetings, eight phone lines ringin’, seven builders waitin’
Six changes needed, five golden shovels, four families waiting, three red pens
Two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the tenth day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Ten companies collaboratin’, nine board meetings, eight phone lines ringin’
Seven builders waitin’, six changes needed, five golden shovels
Four families waiting, three red pens
Two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Eleven volunteers workin’, ten companies collaboratin’, nine board meetings
Eight phone lines ringin’, seven builders waitin’
Six changes needed, five golden shovels, four families waiting, three red pens
Two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the big boss gave to me
Twelve board members hummin’, eleven volunteers workin’, ten companies collaboratin’
Nine board meetings, eight phone lines ringin’, seven contractors waitin’
Six changes needed, five golden shovels, four families waiting, three red pens
Two site plans and a project for Habitat for Humanity

And she lived to tell about it! Shannon Baumgartner has been an intern with us since this summer and has now come on board as a part-time employee. Welcome Shannon!

Touring Denver's Sacred Spaces with the Historic Preservation Alliance

Touring Denver's Sacred Spaces with the Historic Preservation Alliance

Earlier this summer, Larry and Mary Gilland had the chance to go on the annual field trip with the Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs! This year took them to Denver to tour the best Sacred Spaces of the city. Architect and Architectural Historian Chuck Benson led this lively and informative tour, highlighting architectural treasures in our own backyard. We put together a quick summary of this excellent trip and encourage you to check out some of the other offerings and tours the HPA offers throughout the year—it’s a great group dedicated to architectural advocacy and education right here in Colorado Springs!

For centuries, sacred spaces have defined cities and nations worldwide, and it’s no different here in our local region. Before Colorado was even a territory, settlers passed through the Rocky Mountains searching for gold, and as soon as camps and settlements began to form, priests and ministers quickly followed to establish churches in the region. These early missions were founded in cabins and shops at the start, eventually gaining congregations and expanding into the larger, grander mosques, churches and cathedrals the HPA was able to tour.

Colorado Muslim Society

We were not able to take a full tour of the Colorado Muslim Society, because the space was being used for Ramadan at the time, but we enjoyed seeing the beautiful brick-clad building, which features a minaret and a central dome. 

The Colorado Muslim Society was incorporated in 1964, purchasing a building in a residential neighborhood in 1974 to establish the first mosque in Colorado. The current building was constructed over time, expanding to include the mosque which encompasses the main prayer hall for men and women, several classrooms for the Islamic school, a kitchen, offices, and separate ablution areas for men and women. The building offers many services for the local community, and is the only Islamic center in Denver with the appearance of a traditional mosque.

The Colorado Muslim Society is located at 2071 S. Parker Road, Aurora, CO


Trinity United Methodist Church was founded as the Aurora and Denver City Methodist Episcopal Mission in 1859, and by 1887, the congregation had grown many times over, enough to require a new permanent home. Robert S. Roeschlaub was hired as the architect, assisted by Frederick Albert Hale, and the resulting church is one of the finest examples of “Modern Arts & Crafts Gothic” architecture in the United States. 

Trinity was designed as an auditorium clothed in a Gothic shell, marrying the detailing and aesthetic of Rococo and Gothic styles with the latest technology being used in theaters of the late 19th century. Roeschlaub channeled the principles of the popular Arts & Crafts movement by looking to nature for inspiration and using local materials—most notably the sandstone trim and rhyolite facing that was quarried in Castle Rock—to show off the church’s Colorado roots. Beautiful woodwork and carpentry really take center stage here, in contrast to the use of marble or stone in many other churches.

Designing Trinity’s steeple was the pinnacle of Roeschlaub’s career as a church architect. Standing at nearly 184 feet, it was once one of the tallest stone towers in the United States. Because of it’s height, the usual cranes and scaffolding of the day could not be used, so Roeschlaub invented a cage-like mechanism that surrounded the spire, allowing workers and materials to be raised and lowered. Trinity was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Trinity United Methodist Church is located at 1820 Broadway Street, Denver, CO

Saint John's Episcopal cathedral

Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral is the seat of the bishop and is the Cathedral in the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. Founded by Denver City settlers as Saint John’s Church in the Wilderness in 1860, the original name truly does evoke the Wild West roots of many of the original sacred spaces in the Rocky Mountain region.

A fire in 1903 necessitated a new building at the current cathedral block location of 14th and Washington. The church conducted a national competition in 1908 to find the best design for the building, ultimately selecting Tracy & Swartwout, a prominent architectural firm out of New York. Saint John’s is a Gothic Cathedral, featuring tremendous arches and vaults and large expanses of stained glass. Gothic architecture blossomed from Romanesque roots, developing throughout Europe between 1150 and 1400. The style soars to the heavens, evoking a sense of lightness and majesty. 

The original plan for Saint John’s was deemed too expensive, with elaborate ornamentation and flying buttresses, though the Cathedral still impresses with pointed arches and height. The current building is limited to the nave and a temporary brick chancel, with plans to expand the building in the future into the traditional Cathedral shape of a cross.

Saint John's Episcopal Cathedral is located at 1350 Washington Street, Denver, CO

Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate conception

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Denver in the Roman Catholic Church. Located in the North Capitol Hill neighborhood of central Denver, the cathedral was designed in the French Gothic style and forms the shape of a Latin cross. The character of the cathedral was influenced by the 13th century Saint Nicholas Collegiate Church of Munster in Moselle, France, which was the birthplace of Bishop Nicholas Chrysostom Matz, who supervised the cathedral construction. 

The French Gothic building was designed by Leon Coquard of Detroit and completed by Denver architects Aaron Gove and Thomas Walsh in 1911. The foundation is made of granite from Gunnison, Colorado with Indiana limestone making up the exterior walls. The interior is filled with marble from Marble, Colorado, with the finest Carrara marble from Italy used for the altars, pedestals, statues, pulpit, bishop’s throne, and communion rail. 

The cathedral measures 195 feet in length by 116 feet in width, and a vaulted ceiling rises 68 feet above the slightly sloping nave. Two grand spires soar to 210 feet high to frame the main facade and house the church bells. When opened, the cathedral could accommodate 1,000 worshippers, however, following significant alterations in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, the church now accommodates 800.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is located at 1530 Logan Street, Denver, CO

The HPA group also toured the lovely Holy Theophany Orthodox Church in Colorado Springs, located at 2770 N. Chestnut Street.

Sacred spaces of all religions are always worthwhile to explore, as you can learn so much about architecture and humanity throughout history. These buildings at once represent beautiful expressions of ancient traditions and symbology while at the same time showcase innovations in construction methods and experimentation with architectural styles, allowing the designers and builders who construct them an opportunity to soar into the heavens.

Many of us make a point to tour the great cathedrals and mosques when we travel internationally, but we may not always think to do the same in our own backyard. The summer months are often when we take trips to see beautiful architecture in cities beyond Colorado, but we were happy we had the opportunity to spend time touring the sites right here in the Rocky Mountains this year. It’s always fun to explore your city through architecture, and the HPA provides excellent opportunities to do just that!

You can learn more about the Historic Preservation Alliance through their website: http://hpasprings.org/.

2018 AIBD ARDA Awards - Best Conceptual Design

2018 AIBD ARDA Awards - Best Conceptual Design

LGA Studios was honored to receive an award for Best Conceptual Design at the American Institute of Building Design's Annual Meeting in Philadelphia last week!

The American Residential Design Awards (ARDA) is the AIBD’s premier award program exhibiting design excellence in the residential building industry. It spotlights the most creative and innovative residential designers, builders, remodelers, architects, developers, land planners and interior designers in the nation and recognizes exceptional design.

LGA Studios won an ARDA for Best Conceptual Design for this Modern Prairie style home, shown below. 


This home was designed for a close-knit active family. Between morning hockey practices, dance lessons, and gymnastics, these clients are always on the move, and they needed a home that fit their lifestyle and allowed them to make the most of their time together.

The site is located above an exclusive golf community, and this home backs up to the course. It’s one of only a handful of sites where the existing mature pine trees act as a privacy shield, enhancing the surroundings of this home by providing lovely forest views. The natural setting nestled amongst the trees really allows the outdoor living spaces to shine—which was important to our clients—and this home features several courtyards and an expansive deck, providing space both for entertaining as well as play.

Entering through a nestled and naturally landscaped courtyard allows guests their first glimpse into the uniqueness of this home, and an open floor plan invites family and friends to gather in the gourmet kitchen or relax by the fire in the great room.

A modern and open staircase helps to connect yet buffer the family spaces from the living areas while providing a view of the golf course greenscape beyond. This space also provides a display area for the owners’ art collection. The sprawling master suite and three additional bedrooms plus a study loft are ideal for the family to have privacy and retreat space, and the lower level provides plenty of space for a media center and fun and games.

This home has room to spread out and relax, using Prairie and Modern architectural touches to provide the perfect landing pad for this active family, and an ideal blend of indoor and outdoor living spaces.

We always have a great time at the annual AIBD Conferences--we love the chance to connect with colleagues and we always come back home feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. We'll have more on our East Coast summer travels coming soon to the blog, so stay tuned! To learn more about the AIBD, visit: https://aibd.org/

LGA Studios Interview with Springs Magazine

LGA Studios Interview with Springs Magazine

LGA Studios was proud to be featured in the Spring issue of SPRINGS Magazine in an article by Cameron Moix all about current home style trends and how to make your space more inspired. We were also excited that the magazine chose to photograph a fabulous custom home LGA Studios designed in the Broadmoor Bluffs area to feature in the pages of the article, a stunning contemporary home that was a joy to design.

Check out the interview with Larry Gilland, below: 

LGA Studios Contemporary Custom Home Broadmoor

“The beauty of Colorado inspires design; the homes we create shape our lives,” Larry Gilland says. Natural materials, forms, and light blend to root this Broadmoor Bluffs home to its natural environment and give it warmth.

Photo by Joel Strayer


Larry Gilland: When I first started in the industry, there was a demand for more rapid suburban growth. We’re now seeing a shift away from the suburbs back into the city centers and older neighborhoods, and many people—from Boomers to Millennials—are looking for homes that fit that engaged lifestyle. The homes may be smaller, but they are low maintenance, energy efficient, and connected to the community. There was some interest in solar homes when I first started, and I’ve been happy to see that interest in green building grow and become more prevalent as we develop new strategies and material innovations to make our homes more environmentally friendly.


LG: Websites like Houzz and Pinterest are great visual tools to help each client communicate their ideas into images. In our business of design, a picture communicates a thousand words. Take the time to find the style—or combination of styles—that speaks to you, whether that be Craftsman, Contemporary, Modern Farmhouse, or French Country. Your home should feel authentic to who you are.  

Home shapes life. Find or build a home that aligns with your priorities and lifestyle.
— Larry Gilland


LG: We live in such a stunning state, so integrating the natural beauty of Colorado is always going to be on trend here. Currently, we’re seeing an increasing interest in modern and contemporary architectural styles, both locally and across the country. We enjoy putting our own Colorado Contemporary spin on that—using organic lines and local, natural materials, paired with plenty of glass to bring in the sunlight and Rocky Mountain views. Lifestyle drives trends as well—right now we’re working with quite a few Boomers looking toward slowing down or retirement, many of whom want to transition to smaller one-level homes where they can age in place seamlessly. Many new buyers also love the older central neighborhoods, where they can add an accessory dwelling unit or a “granny flat” over the garage, giving them space for guests, aging parents, or to rent out on Airbnb.

LGA Studios Custom Home Broadmoor Bluffs

Windows and expansive glass were a major focus in designing this contemporary custom home. Gilland makes sure to spend time considering how to best situate each home on the chosen lot to both preserve native flora and take advantage of the views specific to each site.

Photo by Joel Strayer


LG: Look for ways to make the space feel twice as large. Use windows and mirrors to draw in the outside while expanding the visual space. Open the area by using half-walls, or openings to adjacent spaces. Raise the ceilings in proportion to the space and add clerestory or upper windows to expand the visual eye.


LG: Always look for ways to bring as much flow and openness as you can. A great way to do that is to incorporate outdoor living space if you are able to. A patio that can be an extension of your family room for entertaining, a courtyard that can used for evening meals, a tiny deck with a single chair for reading, even a window that you turn into a focal point with your room arrangement.

You can check out the rest of the interviews with local experts including Doug Osinski with Picasso Homes, Matt Hiner with Hiner Landscapes, and Robin Paisley with Robin Paisley Designs in the Spring issue of SPRINGS Magazine.

SPRINGS Magazine celebrates the people, places, and culture of Colorado Springs. Be sure to subscribe to stay in the know about the latest restaurant and brewery openings, the hottest art shows, and the coolest trails.

Building With Wildfire Resilience in Mind

Building With Wildfire Resilience in Mind

There’s so much to think about when building your home, but structural stability is one of the most critical considerations. Fortunately, this is also an area of continuous advancement in the building industry, the result of lessons sometimes learned the hard way through natural disasters, whether they be fires, flooding, wind, or earthquakes. In our Rocky Mountain region, the most common trial has been wildfires. 

Given the hot, dry summers and occasional gusty high winds—capable of carrying embers for miles in the right conditions—many states including Colorado and California remain in constant danger of home-threatening wildfires. 

Because the annual threat of wildfires isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s worth it to look at ways to mitigate risks and to rebuild smarter, making use of hard-fought knowledge and new technology.

In this blog, we take a look at how our local Colorado Springs community has been learning and improving our city’s code following a series of devastating wildfires.


In 2002, the Hayman Fire destroyed 133 homes outside of Colorado Springs, rapidly covering 19 miles in just one day out of a three week burn period. After that fire, the city banned wood-shake roofs for all new homes and re-roofs, a major step forward in making home construction more resilient. But dense vegetation can be a major concern as well, particularly underbrush and trees with low limbs that aren’t pruned back, and with the amount of flying embers a fire can produce, limiting or regularly clearing dense, dry vegetation can provide critical defensible space and prevent fires from spreading to engulf blocks of homes.

The Waldo Canyon fire in 2012 ravaged 346 Colorado Springs homes in mere hours, completely destroying entire neighborhoods in the Mountain Shadows area. Only a year later, in 2013, Colorado Springs was hit by yet another wildfire—the Black Forest fire—which burned 500 structures.

Immediately after the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire was contained, Colorado Springs Fire Marshal Brett Lacey assembled a task force of builders and homeowners to amend the city’s fire code, resulting in “Appendix K,” an amendment specifically aimed at keeping communities and first responders safer. This included requiring “Firewise” vegetation management techniques in the burn area, as well as increasing the number of fire-resistant construction details in rebuilt homes. 

Concrete decks, stucco and stone finishes, and minimal, well-maintained vegetation all contribute to wildfire resilience.

In terms of style and curb appeal, fire-resistant finishes have long been favored in Colorado, with many clients already opting for the low-maintenance appeal of stucco and stone. Colorado also has notoriously awful hailstorms, meaning fiberglass shingles and concrete tile have been used over less durable wood shakes for many years now. 

When designing your home, think about ways to make it more resilient, more eco-friendly and lower-maintenance. More often than not, these traits will go hand in hand and will complement each other, giving you a home you can enjoy for many years to come.


These specifications come from Colorado Springs’s Appendix K, summarized expertly in Ted Cushman’s article “Living with Wildfire” in the September 2017 issue of The Journal of Light Construction. Larry Gilland worked extensively with many homeowners who lost their homes in Mountain Shadows and Black Forest, designing homes that are up to the new code. One of the home building contractors LGA Studios works with is Andy Stauffer, who was interviewed in the article. For more about the homes that were rebuilt after the fires, check out some of our featured projects: Kissing Camels Contemporary, Colorado Springs Rising, and a LEED Platinum Certified Home in Mountain Shadows. Andy Stauffer's website also features some great personal stories of the rebuilding process following the wildfires.

ROOFS: Appendix K requires Class A roof systems. The Class A rating is based on laboratory testing of roof assemblies, in which a large criss-cross lattice of burning wood is placed on the roof covering and allowed to burn out. The material passes if the sheathing is not ignited. Clay tile, concrete tile, slate, and metal roofing typically comply, as do most fiberglass asphalt shingles.

ATTIC VENTS: Roof vents have to be screened with wire mesh or hardware cloth, with openings no larger than 1/8 inch. The 1/8-inch opening size is typical of all the well-known wildland-urban interface codes. According to wildfire expert Steven Quarles, who helped craft California’s wildfire code before joining the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety (IBHS), an insurance industry think tank, 1/8 inch is a compromise. While the mesh may let small sparks through, it will hold out the bigger embers that carry the most heat. At the same time, the holes are big enough that they’re less likely than finer mesh to become plugged with paint or dirt over many years in service.

EAVES AND SOFFITS: Soffits and fascia should be built with ignition-resistant material such as fiber cement or metal. Decorative features like false rafter tails are allowed to be made of wood or other combustible materials, but the fire service strongly urges builders to choose ignition-resistant options whenever possible.

GUTTERS: The big risk posed by gutters isn’t the gutters themselves, but the flammable materials, such as leaves and pine needles, that accumulate in them and that can readily catch fire when windblown embers land there. When that happens, vinyl gutters typically melt and fall off, posing a risk of ignition at the base of the house. Metal gutters stay in place, which allows burning debris to ignite the exposed edges of roof sheathing.

Appendix K doesn’t require debris screens over gutters, but the fire service cautions homeowners that gutters should be kept clear of combustible materials. Appendix K does require roof sheathing and framing to be protected against ignition by metal flashing at the roof’s edge that extends down into the gutter. In the case of vinyl gutters, the rule requires noncombustible ground covering, such as stone, at the base of the wall where flaming gutters might fall.

CLADDING AND SIDING: Exterior cladding in the wildfire-prone area must be ignition-resistant. Approved materials include fiber cement, stucco, masonry, and manufactured stone. Natural wood, hardboard, and vinyl are prohibited.

OVERHANGS AND PROJECTIONS: The exposed undersides of building projections such as bay windows are vulnerable to ignition from burning vegetation or accumulating embers. Appendix K requires these surfaces to be protected with the same type of material that is approved for wall cladding.

EXTERIOR DOORS: Appendix K requires doors to be noncombustible or, if wood, to have solid cores at least 1 3/4 inches thick. Any glass in the door must be either tempered safety glass or multilayered glazing, with one exception: Front entry doors are allowed to incorporate decorative single-pane glass.

WINDOWS: Windows must be dual-pane. Research has shown that dual-glazed windows can survive intense radiant heat in a wildfire (typically, outer panes crack and break while inner panes survive). Tempered glass has proven to be the best performer in practice, as well as in laboratory testing. Wildfire expert Steven Quarles points out that even before wildfire codes began to take effect, code has required tempered glass for certain windows, such as windows close to the floor or next to stairs. So most window companies have had no difficulty making dual-glazed tempered options available where needed to make a home ignition-resistant.

DECKS: Brush and trees near a deck can readily set it on fire, as can combustible material such as firewood stored under a deck. Windblown embers can also ignite a deck, but in the Waldo Canyon fire and other fires, composite decking proved less likely to ignite than wood decking, which tends to split and crack and catch hot embers. Appendix K requires ignition-resistant or noncombustible material for decking, but allows wood framing for the deck structure.

BASE OF WALLS: Embers piling up against a house can set the exposed bottom edge of wall sheathing on fire, even if the cladding is noncombustible. Appendix K requires wall bases to be protected with fire caulking (or 1/8-inch wire hardware cloth, if weep holes are needed). Full-scale laboratory research at IBHS has shown that a 6-inch separation between combustible siding and the ground is enough clearance to sharply reduce the risk of fire from embers at the base of the wall.

For more on wildfire resilience, see Living With Wildfire, from The Journal of Light Construction.

For further inspiration, you can also learn about the specific materials chosen and steps taken at the Getty Center in Los Angeles that ensured the priceless art held there remained perfectly safe as the recent Skirball Fire raged less than a mile away: Why the Getty Center's Art Stayed Put as Fires Raged Nearby, from The New York Times.

Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash

LGA Studios-Designed Home in Colorado Springs Earns LEED Platinum Certification

LGA Studios-Designed Home in Colorado Springs Earns LEED Platinum Certification

LGA Studios could not be more proud to be part of the project featured in this post: a stunning modern home in Mountain Shadows that was just awarded LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system, developed by USGBC, is the foremost program for buildings, homes, and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained, and operated for improved environmental and human health performance. A home can achieve LEED certification under the LEED homes program after undergoing a technically rigorous process, including the incorporation of green strategies to achieve efficiency and healthy indoor environments. The sound design and operation of the home is tested and measured using tools like a home energy (HERS) rating and onsite inspections. 

LEED is the foremost program for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings, and this project joins the 121,900+ certified LEED for Homes residential units across 165 countries and territories.

The green housing market is growing. LEED-certified homes are healthier places to live, produce lower utility bills, have better air quality and leave a smaller environmental footprint behind.
— Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO, USGBC

Sustainable design has long been a passion for us at LGA Studios, with several of our associates going through the additional training to become LEED Accredited Professionals, and it is a hallmark of our business to continually educate ourselves and our clients so that we can design homes that are both beautiful and efficient.

Dawn Streb has been with LGA Studios for over 25 years and served as Team Leader for this project. For her, the reasons for pursuing the challenge of LEED certification are clear: “it’s better for resale value and better for our planet—we’re preserving our resources for the kids down the line.” She went on to say, “the key part is the efficiencies. Using our resources responsibly. They don’t last forever, there’s only so much water, only so many trees. We need to think about that when we’re building to make sure the practice is sustainable.”

In order for a residential project to be LEED-certified, it must meet or exceed rigorous standards in a variety of categories, from Water Efficiency and Energy & Atmosphere, to Sustainable Sites and Innovation in Design. Projects are scored based on a point system and must be monitored and inspected at every stage. This home is Platinum certified—the highest possible level—meaning it had to score between 90-136 points. Phil Drotar of EnergyLogic was the Green Rater for this home, and he was instrumental in bringing new ideas and streamlining the process. 

In the Colorado Springs market, Dawn reports that there are typically a handful of people every year who come into LGA Studios interested in the LEED process, but “they often get scared off by what they perceive as cost issues. Some things do cost more upfront,” she continues, “but it’s kind of a tradeoff. For example, a lot of contractors are still doing an 80% furnace. For LEED, you want to be around 95% or so, and the cost may be a little bit more, but if you say to yourself, I’m going to own this house for 10, 15, or 25 years, the cost of that goes down over time and it will pay off.”

Our client for this project, Damon Winters, knew he wanted to pursue LEED-certification from the start. As the owner of Winters Electric, Damon brought a tremendous amount of his own expertise on energy efficiency, and he knew he would be able to accrue points using innovative options like solar energy and a thoughtful mechanical design.

Damon pulled triple duty on this project, serving as the homeowner, contractor, and electrician. This meant shouldering much of the responsibility for installing efficient wiring and maintaining the integrity of the construction site, all the way down to his vigilant monitoring of the waste bins to make sure nothing that could be recycled was going to the landfill.

Smaller homes score better points on the certification scale, as they require fewer resources. This project is a bit larger and more spacious, making it more of a challenge, but it made up for that in many other ways.

This home was built on a site in the Parkside neighborhood of Mountain Shadows where the previous home had been destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012. This allowed us to score a few points in the Sustainable Sites category, as it was a smaller lot in a higher density area, and also because it was an existing infrastructure site. The site was not as favorable from a connectibility standpoint, however, as there are not as many walkable community amenities in that area. 

Figuring out where a project can score best is a complicated process unique to each home and requires strategy. Based on Damon’s expertise in the field, “the solar and mechanical design really helped with the points for the Energy & Atmosphere category in this specific case, but each project must at least meet a basic standard in many categories,” said Dawn. “For example, Water Efficiency needs a minimum of 3 points, so if a project can’t meet that, you may as well not go for LEED.” This ensures balance and forward-thinking across all categories, as you can’t overcompensate in one area, and you also can’t double up on points. Dawn explained how you may have doors that are both made of sustainable wood and reused from another project, but you can’t use them in two categories. “It really is a challenge.”

Meeting the standards required for LEED-certification can be complex, but often in the most rewarding way. Because the standards are so strenuous and stretch across a project from beginning to end, the process works best when the entire team can collaborate and work together. This means sitting down with the owner, the architect, the contractor, the project manager, the HVAC and landscaping designers, the LEED certification team, etc. and coming up with ways to solve problems creatively and push for responsible and innovative solutions at every level. 

Sustainable design sacrifices nothing to style, as it suits any floor plan type or architectural design. Hard materials are preferable because they don’t trap contaminants the way carpets do, so LEED favors hardwoods and tile for flooring. Better doors and double-paned windows are also key, along with high-quality insulation that is correctly installed. “The good thing about green design,” Dawn explains, is that “a lot of it is inherent to good building practices. Weatherproofing, flashing details, keeping water out of the house, that’s just responsible building.”

Educating the trades is also central to the mission of USGBC, and they are changing the industry, slowly but surely. “Insulation is a good example of how LEED is teaching better practices,” Dawn says, “because if you scrunch the insulation or stuff it in carelessly behind wires, you’re losing the value of it.” Another example of an improvement is seen in something as simple as paint. “Low VOC paint used to be something you could get points for in LEED, and it used to be that no one had access or no one wanted it, but now it’s available everywhere and has become pretty standard, so you no longer get points for that.” 

The key part is the efficiencies. Using our resources responsibly. They don’t last forever, there’s only so much water, only so many trees. We need to think about that when we’re building to make sure the practice is sustainable.
— Dawn Streb, LGA Studios

The innovative thinking and conscious and responsible design methods continue to push our standards even further, though for any client wishing to pursue LEED certification, Dawn advises patience above anything else. “It’s a long process, and for this project especially I felt it took longer because I was inexperienced, so that had some extra lag. I’ve heard it typically takes about a year or two, though this one took longer. The process of the paperwork is long, and everything has to be verified, from the initial framing through the final landscaping, so that does take a few seasons, at least in Colorado.”

For Dawn, despite the time this project took, it’s been rewarding to be so entrenched in deeply sustainable design, and also to be able to witness the shift in general awareness. “We have more and more clients who are interested in LEED-oriented ideas,” she says. “They like solar, for example, or want to make sure their mechanical plan is efficient, so they pick and choose, and at least they’re thinking about it. To me, I’m just as happy when I hear a client say ‘I want to make sure my house is insulated properly and I’m not wasting materials.’ That’s the best part about learning these principles.”

For more information about USGBC and LEED-certification, visit http://www.usgbc.org/leed

LGA Studios at the AIBD Summer Conference

LGA Studios at the AIBD Summer Conference

In August, most of our team — Larry Gilland, Mary Gilland, Dawn Streb, Michelle Williams, Levi Regalado, and Abby Smith — attended the annual AIBD (American Institute of Building Design) Summer Conference that was held in Denver this year.  

We all attended informative sessions from “Showing your Work in a Better Light”, to an Art Sketching workshop by Mike Lin, to “The Business of Design – Contracts and Corporate Structure”, to “60 Design Ideas in 60 Minutes”. Michael Brightman conducted a session using Sketch-up, and our own colleague Ben Tabolt of CDG Project Studio presented a session on using 3-d BIM software for residential design.


Ben Tabolt CDG AIBD

On Saturday night at the American Residential Design Awards dinner at the Governor’s residence, Larry was honored to be inducted into AIBD’s College of Fellows, the highest honor for the organization, which he has been a member of for several years.

Larry Gilland LGA Studios AIBD Fellow

It was a pleasure having our great team of people attend this with us.

Design Boards: A Visual Communication

Design Boards: A Visual Communication

As I signed the necessary papers to enter into the Interior Design program in college, I had no clear picture in my head of the future I was about to create for myself. Was I going to be choosing paint colors for the rest of my career, measuring rooms to fit the largest sofa, or collaborating with architects to create floor plans? Up to this point, I hadn’t even considered the role marketing and visual graphics play in the architectural realm. As I finished my degree and entered into an engineering firm and later an architectural firm, I have carried with me the realization that design cannot exist without a visual impact. Isn’t this exactly what we do as designers? We communicate through design: we listen as a client verbally communicates their vision and it is our job to bring that vision to life.

After a proposed building design is drawn and printed, the next step is to then present these lines on paper to the client. As the designer, we need to be able to present our designs well – allow the client to understand what the proposed building will look like, what it will feel like, and how it will impact their life. Most of the time, staring at a floor plan will not generate this understanding for a client. They need more, they need a visual impact.


In order to create this impact, we need to dig a little into some visual marketing concepts and ideas. There is a relationship between an object (in this case a proposed building plan), the context it is placed in, and its relevant image. This is the focus of a design board. A design board encompasses how images and text can be used to communicate a design concept. The concept and its visual communication become linked and inseparable. This newly formed grouped concept is what reaches out to people and defines their choices. These boards are a means to turn concepts and intangible things into something more concrete for the client.

Image Credit:  http://www.graphicdesign.com/article/working-with-grid-systems/

Image Credit: http://www.graphicdesign.com/article/working-with-grid-systems/

Laying out a design board can be a daunting task. Sifting through each component of a project and deciding what to include can be the most difficult part. It helps to imagine that I am viewing a project for the first time. What do I need to see in order to understand it? What am I trying to convey? What are my key elements in the design? Some basics to include are floor plans, elevations, perspective renderings, and text describing the project.

Once I have collected the information, it’s easier to visualize what will be on the board. I can then start planning the structure. Consider using a grid to help organize the visual elements on the board. This can be a simple or more complex grid system.

As images are being arranged and sized, I make sure to keep some elements viewable from a distance and some viewable up close. This helps to create hierarchy. Keeping the font and font sizes readable is also important. 

Photoshop or InDesign are great layout programs; however, if I am short on time, Microsoft Word or PowerPoint can still be useful.

These two in-process design boards help to show a few differences in the layout construction of a board. In board 1, the rendered image of the townhouse is the focal point of the page. The photo especially stands out and can be seen from a distance; however, all other information pales in comparison to the photo. This board would work well for a client who is more interested in seeing the general idea of the proposed townhome and less interested in seeing the specifics of the floor plan or details. In board 2, the rendered photograph is no longer the focal point of the board, but shares size ratios with the elevation and floor plans of each floor level. This board would work well for a client is more interested in the specifics of the project.

We as designers have a gift of visionary creativity. We can see and visualize abstract thoughts and ideas in a way not everyone else is able to. Using mediums like design boards enable us to communicate our ideas and visions to the client in an effective and impactful way. 

The Rio Grande Townhomes

The Rio Grande Townhomes

LGA Studios is thrilled to be working on the Rio Grande Townhomes, along with CDG Project Studio and John Olson of Altitude Land Consultants, Inc. This project will comprise 18 chic new townhomes in Colorado Springs's New South End, and is one of the first new housing developments in nearly a decade in the Lowell redevelopment area, which is also where our office is located and an area we love. 

We at LGA are passionate about urban renewal and the spark it brings to our communities. This neighborhood is walking distance from all the exciting amenities of Downtown Colorado Springs, and is ripe with potential, with a possible hotel and additional housing complexes in the works. 

For more about the townhomes and their developer, Earl Robertson, check out the article in yesterday's Gazette.