HG: SustainAbility Column Januatry 31, 2009

Marc Maurer, licensed architect and president of Genesis Designs Architecture and Planning, waxes philosophical when talking about his passion: sustainable architecture and design.

“We use an indigenous architectural approach to create energy-efficient and ecologically sound residential, commercial and institutional structures that are beautifully integrated with their surroundings,” Maurer said.

Growing up in the Colorado mountain community of Lake City, Maurer always appreciated nature. As a middle school student, he was involved in a hands-on program to find a way to grow tomatoes during the winter.

The group built a solar greenhouse on the south side of the school. This was his first experience with responsible building.

Fast forward to the late 1980s, when Maurer was in graduate school at Arizona State University. Maurer was one of three American students who opted for a specialized course of study in energy efficient buildings. The 27 other students in the program were from developing countries where energy efficiency was already important.

When Maurer opened Genesis Designs in 1991, few people knew about sustainable
architecture. Times change and “things have picked up speed in the last two or three years” as green has become more fashionable.

By the way, Arizona State now offers a doctorate in sustainable design, Maurer said.

Maurer educates his clients and works with them to include the best practices acceptable within a budget. He can design structures anywhere on the green spectrum. Light green may only incorporate a few techniques, while dark green would be completely off the grid.

Genesis works on system design and Maurer uses the environment as a model to take advantage of natural forms of heating, cooling and airflow. He incorporates a number of factors into each design.

The psychological aspect of lighting influences the design because people need sunlight. Daylighting is a technique used to maximize natural lighting with a boost from technology, building orientation and layout.

Natural ventilation includes windows that open, cross ventilation from good design and assistance from gentle fans. This also helps ensure clean indoor air quality.

A good thermal envelope is an important factor, as is renewable energy such as active solar systems or geothermal exchange.

Energy efficient equipment is used for appliances and to heat and cool the structure. It is also important to use recycled materials such as blown in cellulose for insulation.

Maurer prides himself on creating livable environments and a sense of community in developments. He looks at the social aspects to envision multi-generational, mixed-use neighborhoods with open space and walking trails.

Bonnie Brook Vineyards is one example of a livable environment. Located on 160 acres in East Orchard Mesa, the Genesis design allowed 120 of those acres to remain in a conservation easement, wildlife habitat and walking trails.

Building pads were identified for 15 homes on the remaining land. All of those sites have been sold, and building is under way.

Another project, Partridge Farm on 24 Road, started with an abandoned pear orchard and was converted into a housing area with a center park, buffer areas and ponds for irrigation.

Perhaps the most well known Genesis project is Redlands Mesa. The company was involved in establishing design review and the overall architectural theme for the community. It also designed a number of the homes. One of the homes used insulated concrete forms for walls and another combined the forms with structural insulated panels.

Genesis is a small enterprise. Maurer works with Harry Middlemas, the project manager, who is working on his architect’s license. Middlemas is also becoming certified with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Locally, the company is an Energy Star Partner and member of Green Guides of the Grand Valley.

Although the economy has put a dent in business, Genesis is involved with a Better Energy Advocates program to “Recession Proof Your Home.” This program assists people in saving money, reducing utility costs and increasing the value of a new or existing home.

To learn more about Genesis, go to genesisarchitect.com or call 245-6093.

Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 


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