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green design

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.

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