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Colorado Springs Residential Architecture

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!

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

SPRINGS MAGAZINE: HOW HAVE YOU SEEN ARCHITECTURE CHANGE IN COLORADO SPRINGS DURING YOUR 35-YEAR CAREER? 

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.

SM: WHAT ARCHITECTURAL TIPS AND TRICKS CAN HOMEOWNERS USE?

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

SM: WHAT NOTEWORTHY TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING NOW?

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

SM: ANY DESIGN TIPS FOR SMALL SPACES?

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.

SM: WHAT DESIGN ELEMENT CAN BE INCORPORATED BY MOST ANYONE TO MAKE A MORE DYNAMIC LIVING SPACE?

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.

LGA_Studios_Building_Wildfire_Resilient_Homes.png

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.

APPENDIX K SPECIFICATIONS FOR IGNITION-RESISTANT BUILDINGS

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