Off-Grid NZE Mountain Cabin in Colorado

There’s some interesting history to this net-zero energy home in Lenado, Colorado.  Apparently, a “cranky,” gun-totting squatter named Jack Hogue, or “Lumber Jack,” built a cabin and bathhouse near the top of Woody Creek and took title by adverse possession in the 1990s, after 17 years.  Branden Cohen and Deva Shantay of True Nature Healing Arts bought the place from Lumber Jack and improved it, but at 8,650 feet in elevation, it turns out they needed, among other things, a bathroom *in* the home, not out.

So the owners hired Green Line Architects to design a new home – still off-grid and solar-powered like the previous one – to be more reliable, efficient, and comfortable. Eventually, the cabin and bathhouse were deconstructed and some things like cotton insulation, bronze door hardware, and CFL fixtures ended up in the new home.

Like The Power Haus, the NZE Mountain Cabin received a negative HERS, which in this case was -5, making it 105% more efficient than a home built to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. There is likely only one other home in the state with a lower HERS index, according to a statement by Green Line Architects, but this is indeed one of the most energy-efficient properties in the area.

Anticipating LEED-H Gold certification, the home was built with triple-pane windows (with a U-value of 0.117) and SIPs to have R40 walls and an R60 roof. Interior tests show 0.10 air changes per hour indicating an extremely airtight and sealed building shell. To keep the mountain cabin properly ventilated, there are two heat recovery ventilators, or HRVs, that deliver fresh air that is warmed in a heat exchanger by outgoing exhaust air.

To save energy on lighting, more than 90% of the interior lights are LEDs, while the remaining are compact and linear fluorescents. Also, the 2,000 square-foot home was finished in low toxicity and natural products and FSC-certified wood materials. Specifically, the interior has earthen clay plaster walls by Laura Bartels of GreenWeaver, Inc. and locally-made custom furniture by David Rasmussen Design.

The property already had two solar arrays on sun trackers, but one more was added to generate all necessary electricity, except for a backup generator that runs during extended periods of cloud, rain, or snow. Plus, a ground-mounted array of eight large solar hot water panels is connected to a storage tank and high-efficiency boiler for space heating and domestic hot water.

All in all, the NZE Mountain Cabin is traditionally detailed, smaller than the average American home, and produces the same amount of energy as it uses over the course of a year. The project team included Steven A. Novy of Green Line Architects, project manager Jeff Dahl (now with Carbondale Beerworks), project manager Dennis Powell (now with DK Architects), builder David Rasmussen Design, and all the other pros listed here.

I first learned about NZE Mountain Cabin through our new green home submission form.  If you have a great green home project or renovation, feel free to submit it to the editors for potential publication.

[+] More info about this off-grid home in Lenado, Colorado.

Photo credits: Green Line Architects, Brent Moss Photography (exteriors).


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  • Josh Wynne

    Beautiful home. Great job with an amazing HERS index. Well done.

  • http://www.stephensengineering.co.uk/ Automatic gearbox repairs

     A log home would make a great vacation house or home. I think it would
    be nice to live in one.

  • http://www.ajcroofing.com/products-services/ Galliena Gornet

    Wow! The cabin looks really great. I wouldn’t mind living on a cabin like this. But it’s still amazing how Jack was able to build this in the first place.

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