Mountain Modern Showcases Tough Elegance
The VISION House at Mariposa Meadows, the latest in Green Builder Media’s VISION House Series, is a stunning net zero compound high in the Southern Colorado mountains.
Mariposa Meadows, a high-alpine paradise, finishes up at 10,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains in the remote Gunnison National Forest. This off-grid, net-zero compound will demonstrate the art of the possible with respect to small-footprint, cost-effective, resilient, healthy, high-performance building.
According to Ron Jones, president of Green Builder Media, and owner and builder of VISION House at Mariposa Meadows, it all started with the land. Mariposa Meadows is defined by a high alpine meadow surrounded by aspen and spruce forests.
“Since the property is so majestically wild and pristine, we have been extremely careful to leave as much as possible untouched,” Jones asserts. “There is nothing that we could do to improve upon Mother Nature’s work.” Each building in the compound is deliberately designed to leave as light of a footprint on the ecosystem as possible.
The VISION House at Mariposa Meadows demonstrates the benefits of net zero, small footprint, resilient, healthy, and high-performance building.
“To execute a successful project, one capable of matching the sometimes extreme conditions there, our design approach and product selections are of paramount importance,” Jones asserts.
Jones and his team selected products that were market-available and could showcase the long-term economic value of sustainable design and building.
“Some of the high-performance materials we selected had a higher upfront cost than conventional products,” Jones says, “but if we’re just using the lowest upfront cost as our valuation metric, we’re missing the point.”
Everything featured at Mariposa Meadows has been intentionally chosen to optimize the energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, intelligence, and resiliency of the compound. This will not only enhance the performance and comfort of the structures but also yield substantial cost savings over time, Jones notes.
“Part of our goal at Mariposa is to bust the outdated myth that green buildings are unattainable for average American families and only for the wealthy,” Jones adds. “That may have been a valid argument years ago, but it’s just not true anymore.”
Jones insists that if he can build ultra-green homes in the most-remote county in the lower 48 at 10,400 feet elevation, they can be built in any urban, suburban, or rural setting.
Mariposa Meadows utilizes a solar array, battery storage system and backup generator to meet its electrical needs.
Foundation Construction Facts
The project’s three structures—Aspen Cabin, Atrium Duet, and Iris Studio—feature foundations constructed from insulated concrete forms (ICFs), and walls and roofs made from structural insulated panels (SIPs) placed on a carefully prepared site. These durable building envelope systems offer extreme energy efficiency and durability.
Jones opted for James Hardie fiber cement siding and trim. The vertical board-and-batten product is fire resistant and durable, while its solid color qualities and dimensional stability eliminates cracking or peeling. James Hardie offers the siding prefinished with ColorPlus technology, giving Jones 25 colors to choose from and the promise of low maintenance even with the project’s high elevation, severe weather, and intense ultraviolet rays.
For the roof, a standing seam metal roof from Fabral provided the best benefits for the project. It was chosen for its wildfire risk mitigation, resiliency, and durability properties. Jones designed the project so that there would be no penetrations in the roof, thereby optimizing energy efficiency.
Salvage lumber is used throughout the house to create a unique dining room table, nightstands, bed frames and more.
The masonry veneer wainscoting by Creative Mines uses natural pumice pozzolan in its 70 percent post-industrial recycled content, replacing smokestack-produced fly ash.
Grundfos pumps will efficiently deliver hot and cold water to and from the homes. The combination of submersible pumps, UPS 26-99 and UPS 15-58 are three-speed circulator pumps designed for heating and air conditioning systems.
Off-Grid Energy Efficiency
Since Mariposa Meadows’ closest grid infrastructure is nearly 20 miles away, self-sufficiency is necessary. Therefore, the electrical needs of the structures will be provided by an impressive array of JinkoSolar bifacial solar photovoltaic panels, along with a Blue Planet Energy battery storage system with Schneider Electric inverters. To complement the solar and storage system, Kohler is providing a generator for backup power.
An extra-durable Caesarstone countertop, attractive Kohler satin nickel faucet and energy-efficient Whirlpool appliances help create a kitchen that will remain stylish for years to come.
Jones says he sought out Euroline Windows products because they allow for large expanses of glass without sacrificing overall energy performance, and the tilt-and-turn hardware allows for controlled ventilation. “We have triple glazed R-10 efficiency, and the stability of inside temps is amazing,” he boasts. “Also, they cut out almost all noise from outside.”
Similarly, Jones specifically chose a Clopay garage door for added energy efficiency and resiliency from the weather. The door is insulated with Intellicore insulation technology and operates to keep the heat inside. The durable garage door ensures protection against 100-mile-per-hour winds.
For energy demand minimization, all appliances are from Whirlpool, a leader in energy and resource-efficient appliances and corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG). Jones has confidence that products such as ranges, dishwashers, and refrigerators will perform without overloading the solar array and battery system.
Regarding the heat source, Uponor’s in-floor radiant heating system efficiently warms the buildings when the outside temperature can plunge below negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The serpentine tubing runs under the foundation circulating hot water throughout the thermal mass, preserving heat and energy.
Uponor is also providing the AquaSAFE fire suppression system. The combined plumbing and fire sprinkler unit is heat activated to provide extra time when a smoke detector isn’t enough to wake up inhabitants at night.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is top of mind due to COVID-19 and the rampant wildfires in the West. The VISION House at Mariposa Meadows will utilize Panasonic’s WhisperGreen ventilation fans and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) to ensure energy-efficient spot ventilation, as well as whole-building fresh air exchange.
Natural Home Details
The unique finishes and bold grain of Aronson Woodworks furniture will add to the natural aesthetic of VISION House at Mariposa Meadows. The company upcycles millions of ash trees cut down due to the infestation of the emerald ash borer beetle.
The hand-finished pieces with contrasting paints and centuries-old wood joinery techniques are sealed and preserved by the low-VOC glaze. This finishing technique helps Aronson Woodworks' furniture stand the test of time.
Similarly, Deadwood Revival’s mission is to salvage urban lumber and create exquisite furniture. Beds, nightstands and dining room tables are handcrafted using lumber destined for the landfill. These masterpieces celebrate each tree’s unique character while storing carbon and giving a second life to quality lumber.
Lee Industries will round out the furniture at the homes, providing non-toxic furniture meant to last. The company uses water-based finishes and a barrier fabric for smolder-promoting properties instead of harsh chemicals, which both help to increase IAQ. They are also dedicated to reducing carbon emissions and supporting local economies.
The beautiful window sills and wide panel wood floors are from Delta Millworks. The colors at VISION House at Mariposa Meadows range from light brown to blue. The company is committed to a sustainable supply chain, waste reduction, and the use of reclaimed wood.
Interior finishing touches
Fresco Harmony’s gypsum-based wall finishes elevate the design and create a fresh atmosphere. The product infuses color into drywall clay, minimizing the emissions generated during the transportation process. This solution is a cost-effective way to achieve custom walls. At VISION House at Mariposa Meadows, the light blue accent walls open up the space, and create depth and movement.
The VISION House at Mariposa Meadows boasts an incredible 1,400-square-foot deck by Trex, which includes a stunning pergola and artistic railing. The deck extends the living space into the outdoors, creating a deeper connection to nature. The expansive deck is a composite material, a mixture of wood and plastic, to create an impenetrably durable surface to be enjoyed for generations to come.
TruStile doors bring a unique touch to the homes, with accents like leather, glass and copper inserts. The company is dedicated to including high recycled content with its products, and also sources FSC-certified lumber and specifies low-VOC glues for assembly, for a healthy indoor environment.
The newest upgrade to the project has been the long-awaited Caesarstone countertops. Caesarstone’s raw quartz countertops are molded with resin and pigments to create a uniquely natural design. These nonporous, stain-resistant, heat-resistant, scratch-resistant, and easy-to-clean countertops are ideal for this multi-use retreat.
Crossville Tile has been used for bathroom flooring at VISION House Mariposa Meadows. These beautiful porcelain tile floors have a subtle texture and are impervious to moisture and resistant to tread wear and slip. Crossville Tile also has a porcelain tile recycling program and includes recycled content in their products.
After the countertops were installed, Kohler’s plumbing fixtures finished out the kitchens, bath, and laundry to perfection. The satin nickel faucets, showerheads and accessories used throughout the structures are sleek and elegant, and the large single-basin apron sinks are functional and beautiful.
The toilets include a dual flush system to reduce unnecessary water use. Shower wall set and sliding doors, shower heads with arm and flange, and grab bars make the bathrooms at Mariposa Meadows accessible and safe. The vanities, utility sinks and convenient accessories round out the stylish Kohler offering.