The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is a “think-and-do” tank that works to improve energy efficiency in buildings, transportation, and industrial processes. One of their more well known projects is their involvement in the retrofit of the Empire State Building in NYC, which greatly improved energy usage. The company was originally run out of the founder’s home in Snowmass, CO. Built in the early 1980’s, the home is a showcase of passive design, and is open to the public for tours on Friday afternoons.
This sounded like a great way to spend the extra day in our schedule, so we packed up camp and were on the road at 8:30 to make the 150 mile trip west to Snowmass. The ride naturally involved yet another high mountain pass: Independence Pass tops out at just over 12000 ft.
The home has had several retrofits since its initial construction, to incorporate new technologies as they become available (such as LED lighting). Mostly, it showcases how a well considered, super-insulated tight building envelope can reduce, or in this case eliminate, the need for forced heating and cooling. The house uses passive solar heating, and has both solar hot water and photovoltaic systems. While the home is connected to the grid, it is a net exporter of energy.
The weather has made a habit lately of raining a bit every afternoon. As we were riding back east, the thunderstorms started to roll in. Time to stay inside tonight. Sort of. We looked for a cabin, but due to a mountain bike race in the area, almost all the hotel rooms and cabins were booked. We eventually found vacancy in a yurt near Buena Vista, and got our stuff inside just before the rain. So now we can say we’ve stayed in a yurt.
08/10/2012 – 232 miles. The RMI tour was worth the trip. I would definitely live in that house if I could.